Digital RF Power Aims for Dramatic Improvement in Battery Life

July 26, 2019 by Paul Shepard

Theobroma Systems is working with InnoPhase's Talaria TWO wireless platform to develop the lowest power Wi-Fi module for embedded solutions. Pictured above is the Talaria-TWO wireless platform evaluation board from InnoPhase.

Theobroma Systems' compact wireless module is targeted at demanding battery-based wireless applications at the edge of the network. The new product will support high-performance 802.11b/g/n operation at DTIM power levels as low as 62uA - which is two to ten times lower than any other low power Wi-Fi module in the market today. In addition, the Talaria TWO wireless radio enables the module to provide full support for BLE 5.0 operation.

Digital RF Power Technology

InnoPhase was founded on the premise of creating a totally new, extremely efficient and digitally-dominant radio architecture that would finally enable wireless solutions to take full advantage of the significant low power, size, integration and cost advantages that advanced semiconductor process technology can bring to the market.

Over the last several years a team of wireless solution researchers, RF experts, mathematicians, and semiconductor chip designers have been diligently working behind the scenes in stealth R&D centers located around the world (San Diego and Stockholm) developing an innovative technology that will change the way that popular wireless solutions process RF signals. They have now succeeded in moving semiconductor radio signal processing from a predominantly power-hungry analog solution into highly efficient, extremely low power digital circuits.

PolaRFusion™ Digital Radio Architecture

InnoPhase has coined the term "PolaRFusion" to describe this major advance in the way RF signals are processed in the radio. The key InnoPhase differentiator is how the RF waveform is encoded and decoded using polar coordinates, amplitude and phase, in place of traditional Cartesian/IQ coordinates, in-phase and quadrature, that are used in traditional analog-based radios.

To maximize energy efficiency, InnoPhase has developed a purpose-built, low power "polar coordinate processing" architecture with an optimized instruction set based on advanced nonlinear mathematics for manipulating these now digitally-represented polar coordinates. In addition, as the radio signal travels through the PolaRFusion transceiver it can now be accurately processed using software algorithms.

Entire portions of the radio hardware that used to be dominated by analog processing have been moved into digital circuits. The unique and patented flexLNA (flexible low noise amplifier) and DPA (digital power amplifier) are also implemented in digital CMOS circuits and major portions of the RF signal is processed using flexible, programmable software algorithms.

Overall radio power reductions associated with using the digital PolaRFusion architecture are startling. For example, compared to the lowest power Wi-Fi wireless IQ architecture solutions in use in the market today, batteries in low power IoT applications last 2X to 8X longer. InnoPhase designed radios using the PolaRFusion architecture drastically reduces analog circuit power consumption by up to 65% compared to the lowest power IQ radios in use in the market today.

Another key advantage of the digital PolaRFusion architecture is that protocols are implemented not in hardware as in traditional IQ radios, but as software personalities. The same hardware that executes the Wi-Fi software-based protocol can dynamically switch personalities by loading a new software protocol module and becoming a BLE radio and then switch back to Wi-Fi all in a matter of microseconds based on the wireless communication demands.

The InnoPhase team has now fully developed and proven the PolaRFusion Architecture. With the new RF architecture solidly in place, the company is building a complete extreme low power wireless solution platform that takes full advantage of the new architecture with outstanding overall RF performance specifications and extremely low power consumption.

Theobroma Systems' low-power wireless module

Theobroma Systems' compact wireless module

Theobroma Systems' low-power wireless module can run standalone or integrated into embedded computing platforms such as the upcoming high-efficiency quad-core ARM Cortex-A35 based PX30-uQ7 system-on-module (SoM), or it can be connected to other popular embedded compute platforms. In addition, it is developing an entire Linux-based software interface environment designed to make it simple for developers to create complex applications that take full advantage of the wide range of "on-module" sensor I/O interfaces and the advanced system power management capabilities of the new Talaria TWO radio platform.

The integration of the wireless module into the PX30-uQ7 SoM engineers a powerful development platform for building advanced applications on top of the connectivity provided by Talaria TWO, by incorporating a wide range of peripherals including camera-input and display-output.

"We chose the Talaria TWO wireless chipset from InnoPhase because it offers the lowest-power Wi-Fi solution with a direct cloud connection, eliminating expensive gateway devices," said Dr. Philipp Tomsich, CTO of Theobroma Systems. "The collaboration with InnoPhase enables us to deliver the absolute lowest power Wi-Fi solutions to our customers."