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CEO Interview: Gireesh Rajendran CEO of Steradian Semiconductors

CEO Interview: Gireesh Rajendran CEO of Steradian Semiconductors
by Daniel Nenni on 09-17-2021 at 6:00 am

Gireesh Rajendran Steradian SemiconductorsGireesh Rajendran is a 2010 MIT TR35 winner from India. He holds 44 issued US patents in RF products and circuit techniques and co-authored 3 ISSCC papers. He completed his B Tech in Electronics from College of Engineering, Trivandrum, India in 2000 and joined Texas Instruments. During his 13 years tenure in TI, he architected and designed several radio products including the 1st integrated low noise GPS receiver. Gireesh was also instrumental in creating the WLAN product family, WiLink-8 of Texas Instruments with Integrated abg/n Power Amplifier and switch. From 2013 onwards, Gireesh Rajendran was with Qualcomm as the Chip Lead for the mass market LTE-A transceiver used with Snapdragon 6xx and 4xx chipset family. He has defined and executed products which have sold over a billion units.

Please tell us about Steradian Semiconductors and its product offering.

Steradian is a product based vertically integrated company focusing on 4D Imaging Radars. The product encompasses a state-of-the-art Transceiver with FMCW modulation capability in TSMC 28nm CMOS process and a proprietary radar signal processing software stack to generate readily integrable point cloud and tracked objects for sensor fusion.

Steradian has developed the World’s most compact 28nm CMOS Milli-meter wave Imaging Radar chips (SVR4410 and SVR4414) to power their 4D Sensors. The Milli-meter wave antenna and radar processing software from Steradian, when combined with this radar IC enables a complete high performance imaging radar solution. Applications for our products are in Automotive and Industrial sensing, while the radar semiconductor can also be used for Drones and Surveillance.

The Imaging Radar module from Steradian is an all-integrated unit which is used for applications like Traffic monitoring and enforcement to help save lives on the road. Precision parking or smart docking in ports and airports that hitherto required manual guidance can now be automated using our Imaging Radar, thereby improving parking efficiency at a lower cost. Consumer applications like Gesture recognition bring the power of Radar to consumer products as well.

Steradian has filed 14 patents (9 granted) covering various aspects of this product. The company has grown steadily and significantly over the last few years. With its strong team of more than 30 Engineers, Steradian is bracing to support customers for volume production now.

What makes Steradian products unique?

Being a vertically integrated Company, Steradian has a focus on improving the product technology as well as the end application. This helps the customer to keep a view of the entire solution. Steradian Imaging Radar solution has better performance (link budget and noise) and lower power consumption as compared to competition.  The enhancements in FMCW techniques through fast-chirping, high sampling data converters, high speed data communications channels (14.4Gbps per chip) have brought in unprecedented specification changes to the conventional Radar. Steradian’s 1-degree angular resolution is validated by customers as the USP of our solution. The improvements in angular and range resolution enable a much denser point cloud output from the sensor. This enables the Radar sensor to migrate from a warning-only sensor to a 4D Imaging Radar which provides information about the size/shape of the objects around the sensor. The proprietary signal processing enables a real-time reconstruction of the surrounding, paving a path for higher levels of autonomy.  The precise size, shape of objects as reconstructed through the Imaging radar helps alleviate on-field false alarm challenges such as – a soda can on-road causing the vehicle to stop, whilst not compromising on vulnerable road user (VRU) detection, and putting safety at the centre of the solution. The high elevation resolution allows detection of bridges, vehicle-under-the-bridge scenario and manholes that is not possible with a conventional radar. The high dynamic range of the Radar Front-end and the software stack allows detection of VRU by-the-side of heavy metallic objects (like trucks, fences, and grills) and urban driving scenarios. The commonly faced issues with conventional Radars like metal poles on the road swamping the entire scene are issues of the past now with high dynamic range Steradian Imaging Radar.

How can Steradian help AV/ADAS pursuit?

Reliability and Safety are the heart of Automotive world. While keeping the reliability of conventional radars intact and adding the new dimensions of high-resolution point cloud, Steradian has brought the Radar sensors back to the focus and delivered on “Enhancing vision through Imaging Radar” for AV/ADAS pursuit.

With its high fidelity and near-zero false alarm rates, the Imaging Radar solution is suitable for sensor fusion suites required for higher levels of autonomy. The high-density point cloud provides easy handle for full-stack players to enhance the sensor fusion outputs with an all-weather reliable sensor. The strategic partners ecosystem with established companies in Automotive sector helps Steradian to design and manufacture to the required safety standard.

To bring the technology to a commercially acceptable point, Steradian innovated on the silicon design. Multiple patents on the Radar Front End architecture helped achieve a solution that is scalable across various levels of autonomy. The same platform can be used to design a high-resolution point cloud Imaging Radar for higher levels of autonomy or an economical smart sensor application. The Radar Front End is really processor agnostic. Steradian’s Radar signal processing software stack is conducive to such requirements.  This has been a long-standing issue for the full-stack and OEMs – the ability to change the hardware vs software partition and use the available compute in a flexible manner across the Edge and Central processing. Steradian is supporting a 14.4Gbps high speed data link per IC to interface with the available processors.

What do you mean when you say Steradian Radar IC is processor agnostic?

Our radar signal processing software stack is architected to make use of the available compute platform in the best possible manner, in terms of frames-per-second (fps) and power consumption. The conventional techniques of MIMO Radars (including 4D FFT) require several TFLOPS and are quite impractical with commercially viable off the shelf processors for achieving 1 degree and better angular resolution.

Steradian Radar Signal processing provides an elegant, scalable solution to this problem with proprietary techniques. Our patented techniques enable the use of available GPU or DSP platforms (off-the-shelf) for Imaging Radar application while providing >10K points in a single frame. This enables true elevation, size/shape of the objects in a real-time with low false alarm rates. The algorithms are tightly knit with the on-PCB antenna arrangement (microstrip) and together deliver the best trade-off for hardware and software at a viable commercial point.

This architecture also opens newer possibilities in the data processing engine following the point cloud generation. For some applications, the system demands the point cloud to be clustered, tracked, bifurcate static and dynamic objects and even classify the objects. All these requirements are handled much better by the open-processor approach that we have adopted. Customers are much free to adopt available processors and run the SW stack for various approaches to sensor fusion. Also, this approach can give impetus to the transition of automotive radar sensors to newer high data rates architectures (like A-Phy).

Which markets is Steradian targeting?

In the automotive space, Steradian is conducting trails with Tier1’s/ OEM’s for their next generation platform. Qualification and volume ramp up is expected to be beyond 2023.

Our Solution is finding swift adoption in Industrial sensing and Road-safety applications as well. With its ability to isolate closely spaced objects, precise speed, and position detection our Imaging Radar is a suitable sensor for precision parking and Traffic monitoring/enforcement applications. With the migration from 24GHz to 77GHz mandated across the globe, demand for our solution is on the rise. With the rise in contactless applications and privacy concerns with Camera based solutions, the world is embracing Radar technology. More than a million lives are lost on the road due to traffic accidents and a vast majority of them can be attributed to human error. Smart traffic monitoring and enforcement systems can help create safer roads and reduce traffic congestion. Worldwide, under smart city projects, Radars alongside Cameras are providing effective measures to streamline the traffic and thereby saving productive hours. Steradian is ramping up production of radars for these applications.

Final thoughts on the role of Imaging Radars in fully Autonomous vehicles?

The recent announcements from full-stack players and OEMs validate the fact that conventional Radars are not suitable for higher levels of autonomy. The false alarms, ghost objects and missing dimensions in the conventional Radars have been constant pain-points. Imaging Radars are quickly evolving to demonstrate an all-weather, real-time reconstruction of the world around us at a much lower cost point. The road to fully autonomous vehicles might be long but there are no shortcuts for safety and reliability. The post Covid world will prefer contactless technologies. The advancements in Drones, Robots will require sensors that they can rely on to provide high resolution reconstruction of the surroundings under all weather and light conditions. Imaging Radars are placed right to take this spot.

Steradian Semi

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