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Alif Semiconductor Unveils BLE and Matter Microcontroller with Neural Co-Processor

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The new Balletto family of wireless MCUs is based on Alif Semiconductor’s advanced MCU architecture. This architecture features DSP acceleration and a dedicated NPU for fast, low-power execution of AI/ML workloads.

Alif Semiconductor®, a leading global supplier of secure, connected, power-efficient Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) microcontrollers (MCUs) and fusion processors, today announced the launch of the BallettoTM family, the world’s first Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) wireless microcontroller to feature hardware optimization for AI/ML workloads.

Supplied in an ultra-small WLCSP package, the Balletto MCU allows manufacturers to implement sophisticated AI/ML functions such as speech recognition, adaptive noise cancellation, vocal targeting, and beam forming in true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds and sensor fusion in lifestyle wristbands and other types of space-constrained devices.

The Balletto family offers particularly strong audio and sensor function performance thanks to its excellent DSP and AI/ML capabilities and large on-die memory. The device’s Arm® Cortex®-M55 core, which achieves an EEMBC CoreMark® score of 704 at 160MHz, includes the Arm Helium TM M-profile vector extension (MVE), providing a 500% improvement in DSP performance.

Alongside the Cortex-M55 CPU, Balletto includes an Arm Ethos™-U55 Neural Processing Unit (NPU), which can perform up to 46 GOPS and is backed by a large 2MB tightly coupled memory (TCM), extends the audio capabilities with hardware acceleration of AI/ML models. Neural network processing performance is up to 15x better than a Cortex-M4 processor can achieve. This produces outstanding results in audio encoding/decoding functions, including for the high-bit-rate, low-latency LC3 codec, which underpins the BLE Auracast TM broadcast audio technology.

Ultra-low Power Wireless

Balletto features Alif Semiconductor’s aiPMTM technology, which can dynamically power only the logic and associated memory used at any given time, thus achieving the lowest overall system power consumption. The aiPM power management unit implements four system level power modes, including a Stop mode which draws just 700nA.

Thanks to its own separate processor and memory, Balletto’s radio supports concurrent Bluetooth LE 5.3 and Thread operations via a single on-chip antenna, making it ideal for use in home automation networks and systems that support the Matter protocol. In addition, exceptional receive sensitivity of -101dBm and advanced algorithms help with interference avoidance from other devices, and coexistence with the other protocols sharing the 2.4GHz frequency band.

Also Read: Explained: Graph Neural Networks (GNNs)

Balletto also has a dual-PA architecture: a high-power amplifier (HPA) provides a +10dBm output for maximum range and signal strength; via the low-power amplifier (LPA), output is +4dBm for optimized power consumption.

Balletto includes the state-of-the-art multi-layered security fabric first introduced in Alif Semiconductors’ Ensemble family of MCUs and fusion processors. It is governed by an advanced secure enclave with its own dedicated processor and memory providing hardware root of trust and chain of custody.

Other key features of Balletto are:

  • Digital interfaces including I3C, USB-HS (480Mbps), and twin CAN-FD channels
  • Analog Front End with high-precision ADCs, including a 24-bit Sigma-Delta, DAC
  • Up to 2MB of high-speed MRAM and 2MB of zero-wait state SRAM
  • Octal SPI interface
  • Up to 77 GPIOs including I/Os for audio input/output
  • Camera interface
  • MIPI display interface
  • 2D GPU
  • Sensor hub functionality

“Device makers and developers require more on-device intelligence if they are to deliver on the promise of edge AI across consumer, enterprise and industrial markets,” said Paul Williamson, Senior Vice President and General Manager, IoT Line of Business at Arm. “Alif’s new range of Arm-powered SoCs provide a significant performance uplift in ML applications enabling smaller, cost-sensitive devices to be smarter and more capable.”

“Alif Semiconductor’s Balletto family is targeting BLE challenges faced by the wireless audio and smart home industry today with a platform adapted to high bit-rate audio and the Matter ecosystem,” said Reza Kazerounian, President and Co-Founder of Alif Semiconductor. “With the launch of multiprotocol support, coupled with our industry leading AI/ML powered MCU, it has never been easier to build battery life-friendly connected intelligent edge devices.”

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