Imagination tunes IP for low-power, integrated-wireless IoT connectivity ICs

April 16, 2015 // By Graham Prophet
SoC designers of low-power connected devices can select a modular implementation of wireless LAN (Wi-Fi 802.11n), Bluetooth Smart, or both, on their chip, using Imagination Technology’s Ensigma Whisper Cores. The family of cores and peripherals has been shaped for lowest power consumption connectivity IP for wearables and IoT.

Imagination designed the Ensigma Whisper flexible connectivity IP family (first release: September 2014) to enable the integration of ultra-low power communications in SoCs that will require extended battery life and low cost points. Designating them as radio processing units (RPUs), Imagination based these Whisper RPUs on its ultra-low power Ensigma Whisper Series5 architecture, to add to the Ensigma Explorer RPU family, which is focused on enabling high-performance on-chip communications. There are three distinct IP implementations in this release. With built-in processors and a high level of configurability, Ensigma RPUs are flexible and can support multiple standards.

Imagination contends that connectivity IP must be built from the ground up for these new applications, with a focus on low power consumption and compact area, “Repurposing mobile or other existing connectivity chips or IP won’t work for wearables and other ultra-low power IoT devices,” the company says, supporting what it sees as industry trends to integrate connectivity on to the main application processor.

The company sees the market moving towards cognitive radio, in the sense of connectivity solutions that adaptively use whichever standards they find in their local environment, and that there will be increasing need for multi-standard solutions. The RF therefore needs to be flexible, over the range of 600 MHz to 6 GHz.

To further accelerate customers’ time to market, Ensigma Whisper RPUs are provided as a complete communications solution including certifications. A range of customisable RF and analogue front-ends are available from Imagination and partners if needed. Imagination is initially offering the Whisper RPUs in three versions:

C5400: Wi-Fi 802.11n IP for low-power devices capable of audio/video streaming; enables designers to achieve Wi-Fi connectivity at the power levels of Bluetooth Classic while claiming better performance per MHz. This is a new WiFi module re-designed for low power.

C5300: Bluetooth Smart IP for ultra-low power, short range connectivity providing control functionality in devices including sensor hubs, wearables and home automation