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Syntiant NDP120 Sharpens Its Hearing

April 13, 2021

Author: Mike Demler

Syntiant’s NDP120 is an ultra-low-power edge-AI processor that can deliver up to 25x greater neural-network throughput than its predecessor, the NDP10x. Although the new chip is mainly for speech recognition, its second-generation DLA can handle simple object-detection networks as well. In always-on mode, the NDP120 typically consumes less than 500 microwatts. It also adds a Cadence Tensilica HiFi 3 DSP that supports echo cancellation, near- and far-field audio processing, and other conventional audio-filtering tasks.

By introducing the NDP120, Syntiant aims to build on the popularity of its first product. In the two years since it brought the NDP10x to production, the startup has shipped nearly 20 million units, mostly in mobile phones. It withheld customer names, but it says the NDP10x has also won designs in earbuds and laptop PCs. That success attracted new investors to its $35 million Series C funding round, which closed in 3Q20. Microsoft led the round, joined by Applied Materials and several venture-capital firms, bringing Syntiant’s total investment to about $65 million. Previous rounds included strategic investments from Amazon, Bosch, and Intel. The four-year-old startup now has about 80 employees.

Syntiant is sampling the NDP120 and plans to start production later this quarter at a list price of $6. An evaluation kit combines Infineon MEMS microphones, the new Syntiant processor, and a Raspberry Pi 3 single-board computer (SBC). The new chip targets IoT, mobile, security, smart home, smart speakers, and wearables. UMC manufactures it in 40nm ULP technology. The processor ships in a tiny 3.1mm x 2.5mm WLBGA or a 5mm QFN package.

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