Ingenic Semiconductor, a leading Chinese embedded CPU maker, has released a reference design for a small processor board aimed at the smart devices market including wearables, biometrics, security and other consumer electronic devices. The board, known as the Ingenic Newton, integrates a CPU and RAM with flash memory, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, and various sensors in a design that is around the size of a SD card.
The CPU at the heart of the Ingenic Newton is a MIPS based XBurst processor. One of the great things about Android is that it runs on multiple system architectures. Not only does it run on ARM based CPUs but it also runs on Intel chips and on MIPS based processors. Of the three only Intel actually design the chips and build them, whereas ARM and MIPS create the designs and license the intellectual property and rights to other chip makers. The XBurst range of CPUs use Imagination’s design to create an ultra-low power CPU which has already shipped in more than 40 million devices, including tablets, e-book readers, multimedia players and wearables.
The Ingenic JZ4775 processor features a 1GHz XBurst CPU along with a 2D GPU and hardware video decoding. The chip can handle MPEG2, MPEG4 and H.264 at 30fps for resolutions up to 720p. The board can handle up to 3GB of memory and includes a wide range of connectivity and sensor options. Along side the support for Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n at 2.4/5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC are a range of sensors including a 3-axis gyroscope, an accelerometer, and a magnetometer. There are also pressure, humidity and temperature sensors.
In terms of power consumption the Ingenic Newton looks quite impressive. Its standby power is a minuscule 4mW, playing an MP3 takes around to 100mW and its peak power consumption is around 260mW. The board supports Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box and the drivers for the board are all open source.
The boards design is modular which means that if an OEM doesn’t need one of the blocks it can remove the unneeded components and lower the overall cost.
Google is pushing Android into the wearables space with its upcoming release of Android Wear. Imagination was the only CPU IP supplier announced by Google as a launch partner. With ARM, Intel and now Imagination all lining up to take a piece of the pie. The key question is, which processors will dominate in this next generation of ultra-portable, low power products?