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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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The First Million-Transistor Chip: the Engineers’ Story

Intel’s i860 RISC chip was a graphics powerhouse

21 min read
Twenty people crowd into a cubicle, the man in the center seated holding a silicon wafer full of chips

Intel's million-transistor chip development team

In San Francisco on Feb. 27, 1989, Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., startled the world of high technology by presenting the first ever 1-million-transistor microprocessor, which was also the company’s first such chip to use a reduced instruction set.

The number of transistors alone marks a huge leap upward: Intel’s previous microprocessor, the 80386, has only 275,000 of them. But this long-deferred move into the booming market in reduced-instruction-set computing (RISC) was more of a shock, in part because it broke with Intel’s tradition of compatibility with earlier processors—and not least because after three well-guarded years in development the chip came as a complete surprise. Now designated the i860, it entered development in 1986 about the same time as the 80486, the yet-to-be-introduced successor to Intel’s highly regarded 80286 and 80386. The two chips have about the same area and use the same 1-micrometer CMOS technology then under development at the company’s systems production and manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Ore. But with the i860, then code-named the N10, the company planned a revolution.

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