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Startup raises $16.5M for self-powering IoT systems

Posted: 29 Dec 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:PsiKick? IoT? wireless sensor? Cortex? MCU?

U.S.-based startup PsiKick Inc., which focuses on developing sub-threshold voltage operation wireless circuits, has raised $16.5 million in Series B financing led by Osage University Partners and joined by existing investors.

The company was founded by professors at University of Virginia and the University of Michigan in 2012 and raised a Series A round of finance in 2014 reported to be worth $5.25 million. This brings total funding raised by the company to more than $22 million.

The startup has designed a proof-of-concept wireless sensor node system-chip using conventional EDA tools and a 130nm mixed-signal CMOS that operates with sub-threshold voltages and opening up the prospect of self-powering Internet of Things (IoT) systems. The company has claimed that its proof-of-concept chip design would consume between 100 and 1000 times less than any comparable chip.

The latest tranche of funding will be used for expansion of engineering and developing battery-less systems based on the sub-threshold technology, the company said.

"Prior to Series B, PsiKick created a platform of fundamental technologies for wireless devices that are entirely self-powered," said Brendan Richardson, CEO of PsiKick. "Those building blocks include the world's most efficient wireless connectivity, robust node computation and energy harvesting to enable a highly scalable battery-less IoT," he added.

Marc Singer, managing partner of Osage University Partners, is set to join PsiKick's board of directors as part of the Series B financing deal.

As part of its proof of concept progress PsiKick is working on systems that can scavenge energy from multiple sources including indoor light, RF rectification, thermal gradient and piezoelectric vibration. One such system is a battery-less electrocardiogram (EKG) sensor that supports a 1Mb/s data rate over 10m.

Other companies working on sub- and near-threshold operation of ICs include fabless startup Ambiq Micro Inc. and ARM Holdings plc. Ambiq has launched the Apollo line of Cortex-M4F based MCUs claiming they offer a 10x reduction compared with other MCUs and ARM has been working in R&D on a processor core optimised for operation close to the threshold voltage of CMOS transistors and at clock frequencies of the order of tens of kilohertz.

Leading foundry TSMC has developed a series of processes characterised down to near threshold voltages, such as 0.6V. The ULP family for ultra-low power are processes, introduced at the 55nm, 45nm and 28nm planar CMOS and the 16nm FinFET nodes.

- Peter Clarke
??EE Times Europe

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