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QuickLogic betting big on sensor hubs

QuickLogic betting big on sensor hubs
by Majeed Ahmad on 01-05-2015 at 12:00 pm

QuickLogic Corp.—the former FPGA maker that reinvented itself through configurable design for consumer electronics (CE) products—is taking its sensor hub arsenal to high pitch at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Sensor hub, a companion to application processor, offloads data from sensors and processes it to boost overall performance while saving power for the main processor. Sensor hubs serve always-on, always-aware sensor-based applications for smartphone and wearable products.


S2 Sensor Hub Block Diagram

The Sunnyvale, California–based company is demonstrating its latest sensor hub solution—the ArcticLink 3 S2—along with reference designs and evaluations kits at the MP25452 booth in South Hall 2, Las Vegas Convention Center. QuickLogic is also participating in a MEMS Industry Group panel at the CES.

QuickLogic engineers call their sensor hub chips customer specific standard products (CSSPs) and claim that they have an edge over competing solutions that are either based on MCUs or ASSPs. They point to the fact that the MCU-centric approach is entirely based on software that uses more power than hardware. The company spokesman asserted that QuickLogic’s ArcticLink 3 S2 chip consumes 95 percent less active power than typical MCU-based sensor hub solutions.

On the other hand, alternatives like ASSPs, while they are power savvy, they don’t have the inherent flexibility to adapt sensor hubs to emerging applications like gesture and context awareness. QuickLogic engineers say that their hardware-based solution offers greater power efficiency, and its programmable fabric enables greater flexibility to add upcoming features and adapt to design changes.

Furthermore, QuickLogic engineers maintain that the fact that ArcticLink 3 S2 sensor hub consumes only 150µW, which makes it ideal for the always-on, always-aware smartphone and wearable applications. The company has also joined hands with Bluetooth Smart chipmaker Nordic Semiconductor, and the collaboration of the two semiconductor firms has led to the creation of TAG-N wearable sensor hub evaluation kit.


Nordic nRF51822 Development Kit

“The kit incorporates QuickLogic’s ultra-low power sensor hub, related algorithms, and a direct connection to a Nordic Semiconductor multiprotocol development kit for its nRF51822 SoC,” said Frank Shemansky, Senior Director of Product Management at QuickLogic. “The resulting wearable reference designs are suitable for quick prototyping, demonstration and testing of monitoring, context and gesture algorithms.”

Context and gesture solutions
QuickLogic spokesman said that the TAG-N development kit aided by pedometer, gesture and context algorithms could help OEMs significantly accelerate product development cycles. He added that QuickLogic’s context, gesture, and transport algorithm library includes pedometer accuracy, context awareness, and more.


S2 Sensor Hub Context and Gesture Solution

QuickLogic President and CEO Andy Pease said, “The context and gesture solutions available through sensor hub will enable a wide variety of apps ranging from motion detection to enhanced pedometer.” Take pedometer functions, for instance, which are the foundation of witness and wellness apps. A pedometer helps the application processor determine if a user is walking or running and does the step count for each condition.

Gesture requires no verbal communication while context is the state of being that doesn’t need an immediate response. And both gesture and context need to be accurate. QuickLogic has developed sensor algorithms for activity, gesture, location and transport contexts. These algorithms work as a baseline along with third-party and OEM-developed algorithms in an integrated development environment that provides software engineers with an easy-to-use way for deploying algorithms to hardware.

Image credit: QuickLogic Corp.

Majeed Ahmad is author of books Smartphone: Mobile Revolution at the Crossroads of Communications, Computing and Consumer Electronicsand The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices: Mobile Internet’s Past, Present and Future.