Alif Semiconductor Announces BLE and Matter Wireless Microcontroller With Neural Co-Processor for AI/ML Workloads

By Tiera Oliver

Associate Editor

Embedded Computing Design

April 10, 2024


Alif Semiconductor Announces BLE and Matter Wireless Microcontroller With Neural Co-Processor for AI/ML Workloads

PLEASANTON, California – Alif Semiconductor announced the launch of the Balletto family, a 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 advanced 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 consumer wearables and other space-constrained devices.

Per the company, the Balletto family supports performance capability in audio and sensor functions thanks to its 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™ 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), designed to perform up to 46 GOPS and backed by a 2MB tightly coupled memory (TCM), extends the audio capabilities with hardware acceleration of AI/ML models. According to the company, neural network processing performance is up to 15x better than a Cortex-M4 processor can achieve, producing ideal results in audio encoding/decoding functions, including the high-bit-rate, low-latency LC3 codec that underpins the BLE Auracast TM broadcast audio technology.

Balletto features Alif Semiconductor’s aiPMTM technology, which can dynamically power only the logic and associated memory that are in use at any given time, thus achieving low 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 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.

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), the output is +4dBm for optimized power consumption.

Balletto includes a 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 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

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Tiera Oliver, Associate Editor for Embedded Computing Design, is responsible for web content edits, product news, and constructing stories. She also assists with newsletter updates as well as contributing and editing content for ECD podcasts and the ECD YouTube channel. Before working at ECD, Tiera graduated from Northern Arizona University where she received her B.S. in journalism and political science and worked as a news reporter for the university’s student led newspaper, The Lumberjack.

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