80/20 Inc.

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During a demonstration at the International Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, Conexant showed off a new chip — designed for a set-top or a TV — that lets consumers speak a pre-defined command to turn a TV on or off, even in a noisy room.  Included in Conexant voice input/control technology are a suite of algorithms, including acoustic echo cancellation, noise reduction, beam forming as well as pre- and post-processing. 

Of course, the self-generated noise created by air conditioners or vacuum cleaners make it tough for automatic speech recognition engines to decode voice trigger and user-control commands.

YPRH1205-101M_Datasheet PDF

The Conexant CEO explained that his company’s engineering team gained significant experience by working closely with smart TV lead customers, especially in understanding microphone positioning, microphone enclosure design and cost-effective solutions. The technology is now ready to go beyond smart TVs, into broader applications, he noted.   In automatic speech recognition, there’s nothing more challenging than the automobile environment.

A car is surrounded by a constantly changing variety of noise sources, both inside and outside. Showing his confidence in this field, Chiddippedi said that Conexant is already closely working with one of the Japanese automotive manufacturers” to bring far-field voice input and control technology to cars. Conexant’s selective source pickup algorithm can actually separate one talker from another, or from the environmental noise using only two microphones,” according to the company.   Asked why it’s important to apply voice control technology to cars or even home appliances at a time when consumers can easily turn a system on and off by touch, Chiddippedi emphasized the sheer speed and ease of hands-free voice triggering.

The sound of a voice can wake” up the system instantly and automatically push any buttons that need pushing. Acknowledging that a majority of in-car voice control system are using cloud services (i.e. Find me a restaurant”), an on-board voice control system is still important as its subset, said Chiddippedi, since it gets the job done well and faster.”   Among other potential revenue-producing products Conexant is pushing hard is a 4-channel serial digital interface receiver for HD video surveillance digital video recorders.  Currently sampled on the market, Conexant claims it as the most highly integrated, cost effective quad channel SDI receiver.” It’s integrated with four cable equalizers, clock data recover blocks, deserializers, auto extraction modules, ancillary data extraction modules and motion detection support, according to Conexant.   By leveraging its imaging expertise, Conexant is also eager to lead the printer SoC market. Conexant competes with ASSPs developed by other chip suppliers such as Zoran and Marvell Technology, in addition to ASICs internally developed by printer OEMs themselves.

YPRH1205-101M_Datasheet PDF

Previously, printer OEMs were more reluctant to use printer SoCs designed by external chip vendors, since system OEMs’ printer software is proprietary and directly linked to each OEM’s ink cartridges. But as the price for printer hardware goes down to $99, $69 or even less, OEMs can no longer afford the internal development of an expensive ASIC for each of their printers,” observed the Conexant CEO. They’re looking for printer SoC firmware that can drive various printers ranging from entry level to enterprise-class products,” he noted.

While Conexant’s printer SoCs are already used by three leading printer customers, Chiddippedi said that his company is adding to its SoC lineup a new version based on a dual-core ARM A9, powerful enough to process 50 color copies per minute.   While the company was going through the Chapter 11 process, the most important goal for Conexant has been not to lose our customers,” said Chiddippedi. Big customers look at your financials and worry about your interest payments and debt level.” Fortunately, our customers and suppliers have been very supportive of us,” said the CEO.

YPRH1205-101M_Datasheet PDF

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The company has revised guidance for sales in the second quarter ending June 30 up to between $270 million and $278 million, an increase of between 43 and 47 percent over the first quarter.

This compares with previous guidance for 2Q13 of between $220 million to $228 million representing a guidance midpoint uplift of 22 percent.

Back in March Leo Li, Chairman and CEO of Spreadtrum (Shanghai, China), told EE Times that the company was struggling to keep up with growing smartphone demand.

In the guidance note Li said: We are increasing our revenue guidance due to the continuing strong demand throughout the quarter for low-cost smartphones.” He added: We are at the start of a multi-year cycle in China and emerging markets, of subscribers transitioning from 2.5G feature phones to smartphones, and are also benefiting from the continuing expansion of our smartphone portfolio.”

Spreadtrum supports 2G, 3G and 4G wireless communications standards with chipsets, customizable software and reference designs in turnkey platforms.

However, the net profit was £6.2 million (about $9.7 million) compared with £20.5 million (about $32 million) for the preceding year. Although Imagination acquired MIPS Technologies Inc. during the year only £2.7 million (about $4.2 million) was attributed to acquisition costs. The biggest factor in Imagination's reduced profit was the increase in R&D expenses. These were recorded as £84 million (about $130 million) in 2013 compared with £60 million (about $95 million) in the previous year.

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