Ambiq Scoops BIG Award with Sub-threshold Power-optimized Technology Platform
The Business Intelligence Group's (BIG) Innovation Awards event is kicking off awards in 2022 for innovative technology. Let's take a look at one highlight, Ambiq, with its sub-threshold microcontroller (MCU) technology.
In the tech industry, awards and events consistently roll out throughout the year. One of this year's first award events to pop up is the BIG Innovation Awards event hosted by the Business Intelligence Group.
This event saw company executives, industry leaders, and their products win awards for their strides and efforts in pushing forward innovation across a wide range of sectors, including technology, real estate, healthcare, and more.
A leading provider of ultra-low-power processor solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT) applications, Ambiq also got an award for its innovation and products developed based on the sub-threshold power-optimized technology (SPOT) platform.
One example award went to Ambiq, whose technology can be employed in an array of IoT endpoint devices: Image used courtesy of Ambiq
With Ambiq's sub-threshold technology in mind, this article will take a deeper look at what that technology is on a basic level, and then delve into Ambiq's specific creation.
Sub-threshold Transistor Technology
A transistor is in the "on" state when it reaches or surpasses its threshold voltage. The traditional transistor circuits are designed for super-threshold operations; however, this can lead to high power consumption.
Compared to a traditional super-threshold transistor circuit operating at 1.8 V, a transistor circuit using its sub-threshold region could be operated at 0.3 V.
This lower voltage not only saves the cost of design complexity but also reduces the static and dynamic power consumption.
Close-up view of the Apollo3 Blue Plus based on the sub-threshold power-optimized technology platform. Image used courtesy of Ambiq
Designing systems made up of transistor circuits operating at the sub-threshold voltage comes with some arduous challenges.
These challenges can include:
- Logic swings
- Current changes
- Temperature variations
Logic swings and noise most times affect the operation of the circuits.
As voltages change, the currents change exponentially, but these current changes are minimal and quite difficult to detect.
Furthermore, temperature variations could affect the operations of a sub-threshold circuit as the temperature affects the threshold voltage (Vth) of a transistor.
When a sub-threshold circuit is operated at a high temperature, the OFF state current could be similar in value to the ON state current at a low temperature for an uncompensated circuit.
Over the years, designers at Ambiq have been making tremendous efforts to solve the challenges associated with sub-threshold technology.
The Chairman and CEO of Ambiq, Fumihide Esaka, remarked that the company has consistently delivered record-low-power technology platforms and processor solutions for IoT.
The company's sub-threshold circuit solution—SPOT—not only attempts to bring cost-effective products to the market but also provides energy-efficient, ultra-low-power MCU and system-on-chip (SoC) devices.
Ambiq’s Sub-threshold Power-optimized Technology Solutions
The proprietary SPOT platform claims to provide energy-efficient solutions for consumer wearables, IoT, battery-powered, and other wirelessly connected applications and devices.
The Apollo family of microprocessors based on the SPOT platform features robust components that allow designers to run applications in data storage, sensing, security, communications, and so on.
A block diagram for the Apollo2 Thin microprocessor, which features a power management unit that provides optimized active and sleep mode power for the device. Image used courtesy of Ambiq
The microcontrollers have a clock speed that ranges from 24 MHz to 96 MHz, with 32-bit Arm Cortex- M4F running in their processing core.
With MCU power efficiency as low as 6 μA/MHz, the microprocessors promise to meet the most battery-constrained processing needs.
One of the products based on the SPOT platform, Apollo2 Thin, can also be comfortably operated from a voltage supply that ranges from 1.755 V to 3.63 V.
With the sub-threshold power-optimized technology platform, Ambiq hopes to introduce energy-efficient products and robust solutions with improved performance in battery-powered IoT endpoint devices.
Interested in other recent MCU ventures? Find out more in the articles down below.