Alif Semiconductor unveils Balletto family of MCUs for AI/ML workloads

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Alif Semiconductor, a supplier of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) microcontrollers (MCUs) and fusion processors, has launched the Balletto family.

Credit: Alif Semiconductor

These devices are the world’s first Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless microcontrollers to feature hardware optimisation for AI/ML workloads.

Supplied in an ultra-small WLCSP package, these MCUs give manufacturers the opportunity to implement sophisticated 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 a broad range of space-constrained devices.

The Balletto family is suited for audio and sensor functions due 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 also includes an Arm Ethos-U55 Neural Processing Unit (NPU), which can perform up to 46 GOPS and is backed by a large 2MB tightly coupled memory (TCM), extending the audio capabilities with hardware acceleration of AI/ML models.

Neural network processing performance is said to be up to 15x better than a Cortex-M4 processor can achieve. This produces outstanding results in audio encoding/decoding functions, including for the high-bit rate, low-latency LC3 codec which underpins the BLE Auracast broadcast audio technology.

Balletto features Alif Semiconductor’s aiPM technology, which can dynamically power only the logic and associated memory that are in use at any given time, thus achieving the lowest 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 own separate processor and memory, Balletto’s radio supports concurrent Bluetooth LE 5.3 and Thread operations via a single on-chip antenna, making it suitable for use in home automation networks and systems that support the Matter protocol. In addition, a 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), output is +4dBm for optimized power consumption.

The Balletto family of devices also includes state-of-the-art multi-layered security fabric that was first introduced in Alif Semiconductors’ Ensemble family of MCUs and fusion processors. It is governed by an advanced secure enclave with its own 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
  • Analogue 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

“Alif Semiconductor’s Balletto family is targeting BLE challenges faced by the wireless audio and smart home industry today with a platform adapted to high bit-rate audio and the Matter ecosystem,” said Reza Kazerounian, President and Co-Founder of Alif Semiconductor. “With the launch of multiprotocol support, coupled with our industry leading AI/ML powered MCU, it has never been easier to build battery life-friendly connected intelligent edge devices.”