Smartphones with integrated sensors have really helped drive down the cost and power consumption of sensor-based solutions. Lower cost and lower power sensor-based solutions have, in turn, enabled the “Internet of Things” (IoT) market to become established. However, IoT applications are different than smartphone applications in many ways.
One of the most important is how power is managed by the user. In the case of smartphones, the user expects that their device will need to be recharged on a regular basis (often daily) and behaves accordingly. In the case of IoT solutions, however, the user expects that their device (or devices) will operate for extended periods of time (months or years) before needing to be recharged. Thus designers of IoT solutions have particularly challenging power consumption targets to meet.
One vision for IoT is a sensor/actuator enabled environment that responds to your needs when you are present, and acts on your behalf when you are not present. Voice is a natural way to express our desires when we are present, so voice will be an important part of implementing this vision.
Delivering voice capabilities when connected to the cloud has never been easier, but the power required for communication makes cloud voice solutions unsuitable for the ultra-low power requirements of most IoT solutions. Local voice processing, also known as embedded voice processing, has significantly better power characteristics, but even so still not low enough for most IoT solutions.
For example, conventional MCU-based voice processing results in power consumption levels that can be as much as five times the levels needed to operate from a pair of AA batteries for a year. The solution to this power consumption issue lies in a sophisticated mixture of computational hierarchy, context sensitivity and a mixture of software and hardware co-processing.
At QuickLogic we’ve focused our energy on developing just such “holistic” system-level approaches to dramatically reduce power, starting with ultra-low power sensor processing SoC platforms. In future blog articles we’ll discuss some of the specific additional steps needed to create IoT applications which can run for a year or longer on one or two standard AA batteries. Stay tuned…