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
C5401: For applications such as wearables, this IP combines Bluetooth Smart for control applications and Wi-Fi 802.11n for streaming; capable of operating concurrently
Ensigma Whisper RPUs feature highly optimised, configurable hardware along with Imagination’s PowerGearing for Ensigma that optimises both static and dynamic power consumption in the cores. The MAC and back-end architectures in the three IPs are common. Elements of this approach include design explicitly for “listen mode”, with lower frequency of operation, faster wake-up and sleep times, and “rapid sync convergence”.
Whisper architecture cores have tightly coupled modem and MIPS processor, a configuration that Imagination says enables lower connected standby power compared to other connectivity solutions; IoT and wearable devices awaken more quickly and consume less power in the wake-up process. With its MIPS core, Whisper can act as a host.
The tightly-coupled modem/processor in Ensigma Whisper RPUs means that for sensor applications, customers can choose to eliminate the host processor or alleviate its load, leading to the smallest embedded system size and lowest power consumption.
Whisper licensees can also make use of Imagination’s FlowCloud IoT device-to-cloud technology, which connects devices to the internet and each other, enabling easy product registration and updates as well as access to a growing portfolio of services from Imagination and its partners.
Whisper, the company adds, has been designed to ensure tht designers can hit their aggressive power and area targets for IoT, wearables and other low-power, low-cost devices, “With Whisper and Explorer RPUs, we are enabling customers to integrate a broad spectrum of communications capabilities onto SoCs. The complementary MIPS and FlowCloud technologies in the Connected Processor IP Platform add even more value, enabling a unique end-to-end connectivity solution.”