DSP, Micros & Memory


ST integrates brains into sensors to launch ‘Onlife Era’

28 February 2022 DSP, Micros & Memory Analogue, Mixed Signal, LSI

STMicroelectronics announced the launch of the seminal Intelligent Sensor Processing Unit (ISPU) that combines a digital signal processor (DSP) suited to run artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms and a micro electro-mechanical system (MEMS) sensor on the same silicon.

In addition to reducing size over system-in-package devices and cutting power by up to 80%, merging sensor and AI brings electronic decision-making in the application edge. Here, it facilitates what ST calls the ‘Onlife Era’ where innovative products enabled by smart sensors are able to sense, process and take actions, creating a fusion of technology and the physical world.

The Onlife Era acknowledges living with continuous assistance from connected technologies, enjoying natural, transparent interactions and seamless transitions with no discernible distinction between online and offline. With the ISPU, ST is looking to enable this by helping to migrate intelligent processing into sensors that support the fabric of life: no longer ‘at’ the edge but ‘in’ the edge.

The company says its ISPU provides substantial benefits in the four Ps: power consumption, packaging, performance and price. The proprietary ultra-low-power DSP can be programmed in C, familiar to many engineers and also allows quantised AI sensors to support full- to single-bit-precision neural networks. This ensures cutting-edge accuracy and efficiency in tasks such as activity recognition and anomaly detection by analysing inertial data.

“While technically challenging, integrating ST’s sensors on the same piece of silicon with our ISPU does improve sensor-based systems from an online experience to an Onlife one. It advances the sensor’s features to speed decision-making by reducing data transfers, enhancing privacy by keeping data local, while reducing size and power consumption, which cuts costs,” said Andrea Onetti, executive vice president, MEMS sub-group, STMicroelectronics. “Moreover, the ISPU is easily programmable with commercial AI models and can ultimately operate with all of the leading AI tools.”

ST’s proprietary, C-programmable DSP is an enhanced 32-bit RISC machine. It is extensible (in the chip-design phase) for dedicated instructions and hardware components. The processor offers a full-precision floating-point unit, uses a fast four-stage pipeline, operates from 16-bit variable-length instructions and includes a single-cycle 16-bit multiplier. Interrupt response is a spritely four cycles. ST’s sensors with ISPUs will be packaged in standard 3 x 2,5 x 0,83 mm packages and will be pin-compatible with its predecessors, allowing quick upgrades.

By combining the sensor and ISPU, ST’s calculations show a 5-6 times power saving over system-in-package approaches in sensor fusion applications. They also show a 2-3 times power saving in run mode.

For more information visit www.st.com/ispu


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