Hear here: Atlazo shows chips with edge AI for hearing aids, other battery-powered audio uses

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Atlazo, a small San Diego-based company, is offering a chip design that it says will enable new voice and audio-powered applications in ultra-low power devices such as hearing aids, health monitoring, virtual assistants and other biometric applications requiring voice and audio monitoring.

Like a number of other early-stage chip companies, Atlazo has specifically designed a processor that includes the ability to perform AI processing on the edge device rather than relying on cloud servers. Atlazo is seeking to distinguish itself in a specific market for wearable devices where ultra-low power consumption is required — no easy task when including the data crunching requirements of AI and ML models.

One of the main target markets for the chips are “smart hearables,” including hearing aids. The hearing aids market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 4 percent during the period 2020 to 2026 to reach $7.5 billion according to research firm Arizton Advisory & Intelligence. The report notes that introduction of wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, electromagnetic compatibility (telecoil), automatic functionality, and frequency modulation features has led to the emergence of connected and interactive smart hearing aids — the type of application Atlazo is aiming at.

Atlazo’s “hyper-low-power” AZ-N1 is a system-on-a-chip (SoC) design, meaning that it also includes multiple functions such as a low-power codec supporting up to 4 microphones, battery charger, power regulators, and Bluetooth connectivity. Combining the functions together also helps the chip designer optimize the use of different functions together for low power consumption.

The company noted that customer applications currently being developed with the AZ-N1 AI SoC include smart wireless earbuds, hearing aids, Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs), and fitness and health monitoring devices.

Atlazo’s founders have a background in wireless devices worth noting. CEO Karim Arabi is the former vice president of research and development at Qualcomm and also served as vice president of engineering with the chip company. Rudy Beraha, Atlazo’s CTO, is a former senior director of engineering at Qualcomm.

The AZ-N1 AI SoC is sampling to select customers now with a complete hardware and software development kit and key AI algorithms.

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