Altair Semiconductor recently revealed more details about two new 4G LTE chips during the 2015 Imagination Summit in Santa Clara.

The FourGee-1150 (Cat 0) and FourGee-1160 (Cat 1) SoCs each combine several MIPS M5150 MCUs on a single chip, creating a compelling offering for many IoT applications such as security alarms, electricity meters, wearables and many others.

FourGee-1150_6401 Altair FourGee-1150 is a MIPS-based Cat 0 LTE chip

Key features and benefits of the new MIPS-based chipsets include:

  • An embedded MIPS MCU subsystem with a virtualized, customizable application layer and a robust security framework
  • A flexible SDR (software defined radio) architecture, software upgradeable to support 3GPP Release 13 features
  • A miniature footprint, available in both BGA package and as bumped dies
  • Extremely low power consumption enabling between weeks and years of operation, depending on various use case scenarios
  • Highly integrated chipset with embedded power management and direct battery connection
  • A rich set of host, peripheral and sensor interfaces used for IoT and M2M applications
  • VoLTE and OTDOA positioning support and seamless integration with industry standard GPS and A-GNSS chipsets

By delivering 4G performance at 2G price points, the company expects to create a disruption in the M2M market, attracting a sizeable investment by the industry which would prompt LTE to emerge as one of the leading connectivity standards for Internet of Things devices.

Altair-IoT-4G perf at 2G priceAltair is bringing 4G technologies to small devices

LTE and the Internet of Things

“Our modem chipsets are smashing the barriers of performance and breaking the constraints of cost, size and power consumption. We are bringing the compelling advantages of LTE to the most demanding use cases, from ultra-low power IoT connections to bandwidth-hungry broadband services.” Eran Eshed, co-founder and VP of marketing for Altair told Summit attendees in Santa Clara.

4G technologies were originally created for mobile devices such as phones and tablets. Many IoT systems however are not designed to incorporate large, 3000mAh+ batteries and therefore struggle to support standard LTE solutions.

Altair optimized its new chipsets for the small form factor and very low power consumption characteristics that are typical of IoT devices; according to the company, the new FourGee chips offer up to 10 times better energy efficiency and half the connectivity cost of the standard LTE technologies being used today.

IoT-heterogeneous connectivityIoT requires heterogeneous connectivity

For example, an LTE-powered smart meter can run for up to 10 years with Altair’s chipset using several standard AA-type batteries.

OmniShield-based security for IoT applications

The new FourGee chips from Altair are built around an ultra-secure, low-power MCU subsystem that integrates several MIPS M5150 CPUs from Imagination.

The MIPS M5150 CPU supports our recently announced OmniShield security framework that creates multiple different security domains (up to eight in the M-class CPUs), separately protecting and isolating applications and other software from each other.

MIPS M-class CPU - secure hypervisorOmniShield protects IoT edge nodes from security threats

OmniShield is an extremely relevant technology for IoT applications where new services and software upgrades are constantly deployed across many devices. MIPS M5150 also provides class-leading DSP performance in a very small footprint and supports a range of Linux distributions and associated software, giving FourGee a competitive edge in IoT connectivity.

You can read more about the underlying OmniShield architecture here and find out about the wide variety of market-specific use cases here.

Conclusion

Imagination’s MIPS Warrior CPUs enabled Altair to develop highly differentiated, best-in-class IoT-optimized LTE chipsets, accelerating deployment and enabling new services over cellular networks.

Picking the right processor architecture is a key decision involving careful analysis of performance, cost and time-to-market objectives in a product. This is why we’ve made sure that the MIPS Warrior family covers every possible market segment, scaling from M-class cores for MCU applications and I-class processors for mid-range devices to P-class CPUs for use cases where ultimate performance is desired.

IoT is the next frontier for semiconductor growth and the MIPS architecture will play a pivotal role as a secure and highly scalable processor technology.

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About the author: Alex Voica

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Before deciding to pursue his dream of working in technology marketing, Alexandru held various engineering roles at leading semiconductor companies in Europe. His background also includes research in computer graphics and VR at the School of Advanced Studies Sant'Anna in Pisa. You can follow him on Twitter @alexvoica.

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