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Knowles Adds AI to IA8201

June 25, 2019

Author: Linley Gwennap

Knowles expanded its AISonic family of smart audio processors with the new midrange IA8201. The family, which includes the high-end IA8508, can bring advanced audio processing and voice recognition to smart speakers, TVs, appliances, earbuds, smartphones, and other edge devices. The chips handle multi-microphone processing and can reduce background noise to increase keyword-recognition accuracy. They can also run neural networks for speech recognition, all while consuming as little as 2mW in always-on mode. The company is sampling the IA8201 and plans to begin production in 3Q19.

The year-old IA8508 combines a Cortex-M4 CPU, three custom Tensilica DSP cores, and 5.7MB of SRAM. To reduce cost and power, the new chip eliminates the CPU and one DSP while reducing the SRAM size to 1.44MB. The two remaining DSPs are the always-on core, which the company calls HemiDelta, and the high-performance core, DeltaMax. Although the 8201 uses the same 28nm manufacturing process as the 8508, Knowles performed additional tuning to raise the clock speed from 150MHz (originally 122MHz) in the 8508 to 175MHz.

The 8201’s SRAM divides into two logical blocks: 1.0MB of user memory and 0.44MB of system memory. The smaller partition restricts the new chip’s capabilities relative to the 8508, which has 4.0MB of user memory, but it can still recognize a limited vocabulary of voice commands appropriate to an appliance or other dedicated device. The 8201 supports up to four digital (PDM) microphones, making it suitable for basic far-field voice recognition and noise reduction. It also contains two PDM audio outputs and multiple serial interfaces.

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