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Audience Is Always On

April 8, 2014

Author: Linley Gwennap

Voice recognition has become a central function of high-end smartphones, and some new models can listen and respond without the user touching the phone to wake it up. Other devices continually monitor sensor data to recognize gestures, count steps, and even analyze sleep patterns. Using a smartphone processor to listen and monitor sensors can quickly drain the battery, however.

To ameliorate this problem, the ES700 series from Audience can act as a sensor hub. The company’s original noise-suppression technology is built on a low-power DSP core that can also be programmed to listen for key words and even to monitor accelerometers and other sensors. This core uses a tiny fraction of the power of a typical application processor; the ES700 draws only 0.6mA from the battery when in “listen” mode, meaning this feature will reduce the battery life of an average phone by an unnoticeable 15 seconds.

Samsung introduced a sensor hub in its Galaxy S4 last year, and Apple followed with the “M7” chip in its iPhone 5s. The Moto X, which popularized the “always on” concept, offloads the listening function from the main processor. As more phones add always-on capability, the demand for sensor hubs will grow.

Another new feature in some ES700 models is mixed-signal audio-codec functions. The chip also integrates Audience’s fourth-generation audio-processing technology (called earSmart), which adds new capabilities such as wind-noise reduction and three-microphone noise suppression. This technology has helped the company gain design wins in all of Samsung’s flagship phones as well as in phones from Huawei, Lenovo, Motorola, NEC, Sony, Xiaomi, ZTE, and others.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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