Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MINIMA (Introducing the next computing power revolution: Minima microprocessor technology to reduce the energy need of digital computing by 20 times.)
Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-05-31
The general objective of the MINIMA Phase 2 project was to disrupt the IoT market with a fundamentally new microprocessor technology that provides up to 20x energy savings in digital computing.
The specific objectives of MINIMA Phase 2 project were the following:
Final Minima hardware and software development to reduce the integration time of Minima technology for our customers from 1 year to 1 month;
Minima hardware design flow has been improved and documented. Compatibility of Minima hardware design flow with commercial EDA tools has been verified during the project. Software process has been defined and in use. DevOps methodology together with different kind of development environments (emulator, FPGA, asic) ensures effective development and integration of Minima SW to various processors and operating systems. Both hardware design flow and SW process are currently in use but both of them are continuously improved to reach 1 month target.
Implementing next generation audio/video analysis and deep learning techniques to enable delivering our technology and IP to a variety of lead markets (see p. 11 for details);
Minima demonstrator provides voice trigger solution which demonstrates the use of Minima IP in typical always on solution. In listening mode CPU is running on low performance (low voltage and low clock frequency) mode. When keyword is recognised it will trigger the high-performance mode to increase processing power.
Running 3 commercial pilots to fully validate the market readiness of Minima core technology, and to minimise market barriers and enable fast uptake of our solution: one with a leading low-power semiconductor company Nordic Semiconductor, and in two IoT applications with Oura (Finnish wearable health-tech company) and Puzzlephone (Finnish company developing a modular smartphone solution). Their Letters of Intent are added to section 4;
Commercial pilot has been made together with semiconductor company. Design flow and simulation results have been validated with the company. Actual power measurements on real hardware will happen next autumn.
Conducting pre-sales activities and product demonstrations towards companies in targeted IoT application segments to prepare for wide scale commercialisation of Minima technology.
Minima’s technology has been implemented in evaluation chip. Chip has been assembled on PCB with Minima software. This demonstrator has been shown on MWC2018, Embedded World and CDNLive conferences. It has been demonstrated also to several customers privately.
Minima hardware design flow has been improved and documented. Compatibility of Minima HW design flow with commercial EDA tools has been verified during the project. SW process has been defined and in use. DevOps methodology together with different kind of development environments (emulator, FPGA, asic) ensures effective development and integration of Minima SW to various processors and operating systems. Both HW design flow and SW process are currently in use but both of them are continuously improved to reach 1 month target. Minima technology was integrated to Rocket based RISC-V CPU core. Minima SW components have been optimized to consume as few clock cycles as possible. This ensures that Minima SW can be integrated to very small IoT designs. Compatibility with several operating systems has been implemented and verified. Also, bare metal solution e.g. Without operating system is supported. DFT (Design for testing) has been implemented to make customer’s production testing easier. Additionally, a new fully on-chip DC-DC converter was designed. Compared to off-chip realizations, the loop is c. 10x faster which will translate to well over 20% performance savings.
Achievements towards specific objective 2:
We have generated the first truly vertical audio analysis solution which allows for hierarchical algorithms. Minima Kosmos test chip is an Integrated wireless connectivity chip with incorporated Minima Technology. Speech recognition solution was made in co-operation with Rubidium. Minima demonstrator provides voice trigger solution which demonstrates the use of Minima IP in typical always on solution. Analysis capability was verified with demonstrator. Measurements pointed out that the expected energy saving was achieved when TEP Xtensa core is running in listening mode compared to Vanilla Xtensa performing the same task. The deep learning solution is based on Key Word Spotting (KWS) algorithm developed by Arm.
Achievements towards specific objective 3:
Design flow and simulation results have been validated with a semiconductor company. Minima Processor co-operated with a Finland-based health technology company focusing on small wellbeing monitors in this project. As a result of this task, we have finalised and validated our technology specifications for a challenging wellbeing use-case.
Achievements towards specific objective 4:
We were demonstrating our test silicon including Tensilica Hifi Mini core optimized with Minima dynamic margining technology. The chip is manufactured in TSMC 40LP technology and mounted on PCB. Various SW applications developed by Minima can be demonstrated using this board. That then leads to a deeper technical evaluation phase with the customer including several rounds of technical Q&A, conf calls and customers visits.
R&D capabilities have improved remarkably. During this project Minima has already now been able to improve both SW and HW processes as well as verification capability. Requirement and change management have also been established. These are essential capabilities in product development and productization of technology. As an R&D organisation Minima is now on good level and can answer the quality and reliability challenges coming from customers.
Commercial pilot and demonstrators shown to customer have provided Minima very good connections with industry players. Market and customer understanding has increased, and Minima has now better picture where Minima’s low power technology suits best.
During the SMEI project, our Go-to-Market strategy has focused on preparing our technology and our sales/marketing team for the market launch. We have worked with strengthening our current market presence in international markets and engaged potential partners and stakeholders through our industry networks and relevant fairs.
There are five groups of key stakeholders who impact the commercial exploitation of our technology. We have engaged key companies in these groups in testing our solution, communicated the added value of radical energy savings that we deliver, and promoted Minima as the next generation standard for the industry.
As an outcome of this project Minima Processor has remarkably improved the commercialization of Minima technology: technical maturity, R&D capability and market and customer understanding are clearly on different level compared to the beginning of the project.