Ambiq Launches Ultra-Low-Power Apollo4, Apollo4 Blue SoCs for Always-On Edge Voice Processing

With power draw as low as 3μA/MHz, a 192MHz peak clock, and Bluetooth Low Energy support, the Apollo4 range ticks a lot of boxes.

Ambiq has announced a new family of system-on-chip (SoC) parts designed for ultra-low-power, always-on voice recognition projects: the Apollo4 range.

"As the market is shifting towards adding billions of smart devices at endpoints in the coming years, the need for energy efficiency is beyond critical to sustaining the realization of an IoT world where everything stays connected 24/7," says Ambiq's vice president for architecture and product planning Dan Cermak. "Building on the advanced technologies from Arm and TSMC, our Apollo4 SoC family presents the perfect combination of increased system capability with significantly reduced power consumption for all battery-powered endpoint devices."

Built on TSMC's 22nm ULL process node, the Apollo4 SoC range features an Arm Cortex-M4 processor with floating-point unit (FPU) coprocessor, Arm's Artisan physical IP, and a click frequency of up to 192MHz using Ambiq's Turbo Sub-threshold Power Optimized Technology (TurboSPOT) technology — while keeping, the company claims, power draw as low as 3μA/MHz when executing code from static RAM (SRAM) or magnetoresistive RAM (MRAM) with cache.

Exact specifications depend on model, with parts available offering up to 2MB of non-volatile MRAM and up to 1.8MB of low-power SRAM. All models include a 12-bit analog-to-digital converter (ADC) with 11 input channels operating at up to 2.8MS/s, three 2/4/8-bit SPI primary interfaces, eight I2C/SPI primaries, one SPI secondary, four UARTs with flow control, a USB 2.0 High Speed/Full Speed device controller, SDIO, eMMC, two-lane MIPI DSI 1.2, and a 2/2.5D graphics accelerator with alpha blending, texture and frame-buffer compression.

The company is also making much of the chips' capabilities for processing voice at the edge, courtesy an audio subsystem which includes one stereo low-power analog microphone input, four stereo digital microphones, and two full-duplex I2S ports with asynchronous sample rate conversion (ASRC). The Apollo4 Blue variant, meanwhile, adds in a Bluetooth 5.0 Low Energy radio with angle-of-arrival (AOA) and angle-of-departure (AOD) processing.

Full details of the parts are available on the Ambiq website, along with ordering links for a development board which breaks out the chips' functions into easily-accessible headers.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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