Wolfson Microelectronics plc is integrating digital signal processing on the same die as its MEMs microphones and moving production to 8in (200mm) wafers in the first to make the move.
The boom in audio-enabled devices for noise cancellation and voice control is driving more microphones in devices, says Allan Hughes, chief operating officer of the Edinburgh mixed signal silicon designer. This is driving integration and higher volumes.
“One of the things we feel quietly confident about is integrating the separate transducer and the ASIC,” he said. “We can combine these two chips (left) into a single chip microphone and today we know of no one else that can do that.”
“We still have to productionize it but we think it will be 50 % the size and 25% of the power,” said Hughes. “We are not overly concerned about capacity and production will be in the hundreds of millions of units. We get thousands of die per wafer already but we are transitioning from 6in to 8in [with a 180nm process],” he said.
The higher volume is driven by the increase in microphones in mobile phones and tablets, up from an average of two to three today. “Next year’s phones have four to six microphones in them so there’s multiple microphones per product,” said Hughes.
Wolfson supplies microphones for Samsung’s Galaxy phones, tablets and cameras as well as its smart phones.
The boom is also driven by changes in the way the microphones are used. Wolfson is using local voice recognition in the DSP alongside the microphone to wake up the applications processor and the phone modem via a code phrase, providing voice control at a much lower power consumption.
“I believe that this will transform the man machine interface,” said Hughes. “A few years back it was the keyboard, the last few years have been touch but the most natural communications tool will be voice and that will be a big change,” he said.
This article originally appeared on EE Times Europe.