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DSP extends battery life in wearables and wearables

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Cadence Design Systems has launched a new generation of digital signal processor aimed at small battery devices such as TWS earbuds, hearing aids, Bluetooth headsets, smart watches and other wearables.

The low battery consumption of the Tensilica HiFi 1 DSP extends the duration of voice communication and music playback, allowing always listening to voice commands with minimal impact to battery life. This enables small form factor, low-cost consumer and mobile devices, as well as automotive and industrial devices, to offer increased functionality with low energy consumption.

Hearables and wearables are increasingly adopting the Low Complexity Communications Codec (LC3) standardized by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) in 2020, and HiFi1 has been optimised for the new codec.

It adds additional instructions including arithmetic coding for LC3 encode and decode to improve the energy efficiency, with instructions for ITU-T3GPP-standardized 2019 BASOPs to accelerate speech codecs and increase talk time. Neural network instructions and load/store accelerate keyword spotting and other machine learning workloads help to reduce energy consumption, while memory access-optimized ISA reduces improves performance with small cache sizes.

An optional, low-latency vector floating point unit (VFPU) delivers higher FP throughput with lower energy consumption while a vector bool register improves energy efficiency for conditional code.

In addition, consumer preference for hands-free and touch-free control is driving demand for always-on, or always-listening, devices that respond to voice wake-up commands, and appliances are even adopting these capabilities. Finally, to enable these devices and applications, a small form factor and longer battery life are crucial.

“The Low Complexity Communication Codecs (LC3 and LC3plus) co-invented by Fraunhofer help minimize energy consumption for battery-constrained Bluetooth devices. Fraunhofer and Cadence have a long history partnering on various codecs including LC3/LC3plus, which Cadence has optimized on its Tensilica HiFi DSPs,” said Manfred Lutzky, Head of Audio for Communications department at Fraunhofer IIS. “We’re pleased to see them building upon that experience with the new HiFi 1 DSP that is energy- and cycle-optimized for LC3 and LC3plus. The HiFi 1 DSP embodies the codec’s unprecedented ultra-low energy levels, which should bring relief to small battery hearable and wearable devices with added features and help accelerate the widespread adoption of LC3 and LC3plus.”

Compared to the HiFi 3 DSP, the most popular audio DSP in the industry for the target applications, the HiFi 1 DSP offers 11 to 16 percent lower area, 60 to 73 percent greater cycle and energy efficiency for ML-based “OK Google” keyword spotting and person detect applications and greater than 18% cycle efficiency and 14 percent energy efficiency for LC3 decoding says Cadence.

“The HiFi 1 DSP from Cadence significantly lowers the energy required to run the always-on class of AI applications, such as the TensorFlow Lite Micro (TFLM) networks, speech wake word and person detect, enabling battery-constrained devices to run for longer lengths of time,” said Pete Warden, technical lead of TFLM at Google. “Cadence and Google have long collaborated on TFLM, and we are excited to continue the collaboration as Cadence pushes the boundaries of energy and performance further.”

“Intelligent context-aware, always-on processing is becoming key for next-generation hearables to offer users a better auditory experience with greater utility and convenience,” said Mike Demler, senior analyst at The Linley Group. “A blend of machine learning and traditional DSP algorithms is pervading these applications, yet battery life and form factor cannot be compromised. Cadence has established a strong leadership position with its widely adopted and supported Tensilica HiFi DSPs for audio, voice and speech applications. The new HiFi 1 DSP goes a step further by enabling these emerging target applications in a compact design—deftly melding AI, codec and DSP performance at ultra-low energy levels for energy-conscious designs.”

“HiFi DSPs enjoy wide adoption in current-generation TWS earbuds and Bluetooth headsets,” said David Glasco, vice president of research and development for Tensilica IP at Cadence. “The advent of LC3 and wider market trends set the stage for next-generation hearables to offer a superior user experience and longer battery life. With many speech and voice algorithms migrating towards AI, we’re also seeing vastly expanding use cases for analytics and better sound quality in TWS earbuds. The compact HiFi 1 DSP enables these new use cases with ultra-low energy consumption, bringing to the mass market always-on and always-listening capabilities that were until now the privilege of premium products.”

The HiFI1 DSP is in general availability now as part of the Cadence Intelligent System Design strategy

www.cadence.com/go/HiFi-1

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