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Knowles IA8508 Hears Voices

November 28, 2017

Author: Mike Demler

The new Knowles IA8508 processor integrates three custom Tensilica DSPs to handle near- and far-field audio/speech processing in audio headsets, digital assistants, smart speakers, voice-activated remote controls, and similar products. It complements the DSPs with a Cortex-M4 CPU, which offers additional signal-processing capabilities that are useful for sensor-hub tasks and for handling control and communications, such as running a Wi-Fi protocol stack.

The company used the Tensilica Instruction Extension (TIE) language to add custom instructions to the DSP cores, optimizing each core for its particular workload. The Delta-Max (DMX) core delivers high performance. It uses a four-way SIMD floating-point architecture, running instructions optimized for tasks such as acoustic echo cancellation (AEC), dynamic beam forming, acoustic steering, sound classification, and noise suppression. These custom instructions support the recurrent-neural-network algorithms in voice-recognition systems.

The second DSP is the Hemi-Delta (HMD) core, which enables low-power always-on operation. It employs neural-network machine learning to recognize wakeup keywords. The third DSP is the single-sample processor (SSP), which the company optimized for low-latency real-time processing. The SSP uses dedicated hardware to measure and compensate for input-signal timing variations, allowing synchronization of multiple microphones.

The IA8508 is a versatile companion to the Knowles MEMS-based smart microphones. The combination gives designers a platform that’s well suited to building a plethora of voice-activated devices. The chip is currently sampling to lead customers and slated to reach production in 1H18.

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