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Abee Adds AI to Wearables Processor

April 3, 2018

Author: Linley Gwennap

Fresh off a successful IPO, the company that shipped the most wearable devices last year is preparing to sample its first custom processor. No, it isn’t Apple or Fitbit but rather Huami (pronounced “wha-me”), maker of the popular Mi Band. Until recently, few people outside of China have heard of Huami, which is a supplier to Xiaomi, a top Chinese phone vendor that sells the Mi Band. Huami in turn has created a subsidiary, Abee Semiconductor, to develop custom processors for its wearable devices.

The subsidiary’s first chip, simply called the Abee1, targets fitness bands and midrange smartwatches. It features a scalar RISC-V CPU along with a simple AI accelerator that the company says produces a 23x power savings when running common neural networks. The 55nm SoC also includes basic microcontroller peripherals and on-chip SRAM, although it requires external flash memory. The tiny chip consumes just 41mW at 280MHz and less than 0.03mW when monitoring sensors.

Abee Semiconductor was founded in June 2016 by CEO/CTO Nhon Quach, formerly an SoC architect at Intel, Microsoft (Xbox), and Qualcomm. It’s currently funded solely by Huami, which provided an initial $6 million stake with a $20 million total commitment, although it hopes to attract outside investors. Abee has only seven employees, with its headquarters in Silicon Valley and the engineering staff in Taiwan. To develop an SoC using such a small team, it contracted with Faraday for ASIC-design services and recently taped out the chip in UMC’s 55nm process. The startup plans to sell the chip to other customers in addition to Huami, subject to the parent’s approval.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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