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Vayyar’s 72-Transceiver Radar Chip Sees Just Enough But Not Too Much

Key applications include privacy-preserving home monitoring

2 min read
Close up of Vayyar Sensor Chip
Photo: Vayyar

Last week, Israeli radar chip startup Vayyar Imaging released a new, higher resolution 3D imaging radar chip it expects will appear in applications as broad as home security, infotainment, and elder care. The resolution is higher, because it packs an unprecedented 72 transceivers on a chip that has its own digital signal processing circuitry. But the image it creates is nothing like a visible light camera’s, and that’s the key, according the company’s CEO and cofounder Raviv Melamed.

“One of the biggest problems, if you want to monitor people in their home, is privacy,” says Melamed. “Obviously, the best thing to have is a camera, but nobody really wants a camera in the house, especially when people can hack in.” He thinks Vayyar’s chip, which forms images at radar frequencies between 3 GHz to 81 GHz, can provide all the information needed for a home security system without any of the identifying data that impinges on people’s privacy.

Because some of these wavelengths let it see through walls, a single chip can cover a whole apartment. The 72-transceiver system can tell people and pets from everything else in an apartment, but it can’t identify them as individuals. It can determine their rough location and body position (standing, sitting, prone) but not the details of what they’re doing.

“If you have a sensor able to monitor movements—say if somebody fell down, or breathing rates—without putting anything on you, and without compromising your privacy, then you have a very interesting device,” Melamed says. “It’s just like a camera, but without the privacy issues.”

The number of transmitters and receivers—72 each—was a trade-off between chip size, and therefore cost, and capability, the company says. But it would be possible to make even higher resolution chips. And some applications would require multiple chips, Melamed says. One example would be a system to detect non-metal weapons on people at airports, because the chip’s radiation can penetrate clothing to find such items.

The chip also includes a built-in digital signal processing system. The aim here is to preprocess some of the image data, so the amount that has to be transmitted from an IoT device to the cloud is reduced.

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3 Ways 3D Chip Tech Is Upending Computing

AMD, Graphcore, and Intel show why the industry’s leading edge is going vertical

8 min read
A stack of 3 images.  One of a chip, another is a group of chips and a single grey chip.
Intel; Graphcore; AMD

A crop of high-performance processors is showing that the new direction for continuing Moore’s Law is all about up. Each generation of processor needs to perform better than the last, and, at its most basic, that means integrating more logic onto the silicon. But there are two problems: One is that our ability to shrink transistors and the logic and memory blocks they make up is slowing down. The other is that chips have reached their size limits. Photolithography tools can pattern only an area of about 850 square millimeters, which is about the size of a top-of-the-line Nvidia GPU.

For a few years now, developers of systems-on-chips have begun to break up their ever-larger designs into smaller chiplets and link them together inside the same package to effectively increase the silicon area, among other advantages. In CPUs, these links have mostly been so-called 2.5D, where the chiplets are set beside each other and connected using short, dense interconnects. Momentum for this type of integration will likely only grow now that most of the major manufacturers have agreed on a 2.5D chiplet-to-chiplet communications standard.

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