Edge Voice Startup Syntiant Ships Its Millionth High-Efficiency "Neural Decision Processor"

Company closes $35M funding round to keep developing its high-efficiency chips for always-on voice interfaces in low-power devices.

Deep learning startup Syntiant, which boasts of a "Neural Decision Processor" design it claims is 100 times more efficient than current edge processing alternatives, has announced two major milestones that could make its devices a more common sight: The shipment over over a million processors, and the closure of a $35M funding round.

As Adam Benzion wrote earlier this year, machine learning at the edge is a hot topic. Syntiant's designs capitalize on that with a novel type of chip which combines memory and processing in one — known, unsurprisingly as "in-memory processing" — and makes impressive claims for the result: Processors which can run neural network sat the edge with a 10-fold boost in throughput and 100-times boost in power efficiency compared to existing microcontroller-based alternatives and at half the die size.

Syntiant sells its Neural Decision Processors (NDPs) with a focus on at-the-edge always-on voice (AOV) interfaces — positioning them for everything from voice-controlled drones and security systems to low-power devices like smartwatches and even hearing aids. The key, however, is getting the hardware out into the market for both developers and end users — and that's why the company's announcement of over a million NDPs shipped is a major milestone.

At the same time, Syntiant has closed a funding round with $35M in investment to keep development going. "It is a tremendous honor to know that some of the world’s leading tech investors are supporting our growth stage as we deliver our deep learning voice solution to customers across the globe," says Kurt Busch, Syntiant's chief executive. "We are especially thrilled that production volumes of applications using our neural decision processors are increasing and expect orders to ramp even higher throughout the remainder of 2020, as our NDPs continue to set the standard for always on voice as the new interface."

"Syntiant’s class leading power performance is making an ambient fabric of neural network-powered intelligence at the tiny edge a reality," adds Samir Kumar, managing director of investment round leader M12. "We are now seeing Syntiant deliver on its execution strategy, setting new benchmarks that are unprecedented for a young AI chip company with the volume of products already shipped, and new customers coming on board."

More information on the company's technology can be found on the official website, while it is actively canvassing developers through a two-minute survey over on our events portal — with prizes including a MacBook Air and an Oculus Quest up for grabs.

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