Startup Atmosic Develops Ultra-Low Power Bluetooth Chip

Article By : Rick Merritt

Aiming to capitalize on a market due to more than double until 2021

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Startup Atmosic Technologies is sampling a Bluetooth 5 chip it claims lowers power consumption up to 10x its nearest rival. A new beaconing scheme it promotes lowers power even further, and a built-in RF energy harvester opens a door to operation without a battery.

The company, led by a team of Atheros founders, initially targets a handful of markets such as keyboards and mice, remote controls and wearables. It aims to ride a Bluetooth market expected to more than double from 680 million units last year to 1.54 billion in 2021, according to ABI Research.

Atmosic was founded by two of the original members of the Atheros engineering team. They brought others from the crew on board including Teresa Meng and John Hennessey as advisors.

The startup took a fresh look at how to design a modern Bluetooth chip resulting in claims of 5-10x power reductions. “Every single block was revisited—the LNAs, data converters, everything down to the I/Os,” said chief executive David Su, declining to provide any specifics.

To take power even lower, Atmosic devised an approach to let transmitters sleep as often as possible. Rather than transmit beacons at a cost of a milliwatt, they let receivers listen for activity.

Host systems need to enable the approach with software the startup developed. “We’re talking to potential customers to get it launched, and we have a lot of interest because the power savings are dramatic,” he said.

When the new system is enabled, the chip can be run on just a few milliamps of power which its embedded RF energy harvester can generate.

The harvester converts incoming RF energy from the antenna to DC power with a 30-50% efficiency. It supports a range of bands from 900 MHz to 1.4 GHz with 50dB path loss, “so harvesting single-digit milliwatts is realistic,” and enough to run the chip indefinitely, he said.

The startup has raised $21 million, enough to fund its initial estimated production and operations cost for the next year. The company’s single chip uses an undisclosed standard CMOS process that isn’t expected to require a price premium.

The Atmosic chip uses a ground-up redesign of a Bluetooth 5.0 chip and includes an RF energy harvester. (Image: Atmosic)
The Atmosic chip uses a ground-up redesign of a Bluetooth 5.0 chip and includes an RF energy harvester. (Image: Atmosic)

— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times

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