Silicon Labs unveils Series 3 for edge IoT

Silicon Labs CEO Matt Johnson kicked off the company’s fourth annual developer conference on Tuesday with an overview of its next Series 3 platform for IoT devices built around a 22nm process node.

Its predecessor, Series 2, was built on a 40nm process node, and the newer version is touted as offering 100 times that processing capability.  The platform will include integrated AI/ML accelerators, which Johnson said will eliminate MCUs that take up space and add cost to their systems.  He didn’t divulge much about the accelerators other than to tell reporters they are a “unique proprietary invention” of Silicon Labs.

“Machine learning is becoming real at the edge,” he added. “We’re starting to see it deployed. Every year that will be much more impactful on a much greater scale. It’s happening and becoming more real every year.”

Security is also beefed up with Secure Vault technology and power efficiency that brings battery life to “new level and better than any out there or announced,” he said.  It will enable an IoT device to operate seven to 10 years on a coin-sized battery, he claimed.  The security tools will include those in Series 2, but Johnson demurred when asked for specifics about what’s being added, saying more details are coming.

Series 3 will also be the only multi-radio IoT platform with a common code base for more than 30 products across major wireless protocols including Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi, Wi-SUN, 15.4 and more. It will also support external flash for greater memory potential.  Johnson even mentioned what has been a sore point for many developer shops facing the chip supply chain crunch, saying the Series 3 will rely on multiple fabs across multiple geographies.

Overall, not many specifics were announced for Series 3, with Johnson saying in a keynote it will released early next year with quarterly updates on its features.  “It couldn’t be more exciting…It’s a watershed moment for Silicon Labs.” In a call with analysts and reporters, he added, “It’s a massive step for us.”

A company press release said Series 3 devices will answer demand for “more processing power at the far-edge devices across all IoT applications in key areas including… smart cities and civil infrastructure, commercial buildings, retail and warehouses, smart factories and Industry 4.0, smart homes, personal and clinical healthcare, and the demand for increasingly portable, secure, compute-intensive applications.”

The Austin, Texas,-based Silicon Labs has recently employed nearly 2,000 workers and is on course for $1 billion in annual revenues. Q2 revenues reached nearly $245 million, with earnings per share at 59 cents, which was 6 cents below an earlier estimate.

The Series 3 will be backwards compatible with Series 2. “Series 3 is a complement to Series 2, not a replacement,” Johnson told reporters.  Series 2 has “thousands” of customers and will be supported by Silicon Labs for the next decade, he added. “Series 2 is having a remarkable impact in the market and we’re still early in that cycle.”

Developers also learned about Simplicity Studio 6, an upgrade to allow developers to use their favorite IDEs, since the company has decoupled IDE from integration and analysis tools. Studio 6 goes into early beta in 2024 and will include an extension for Microsoft Visual Studio Code.

Silicon Labs also announced two SoCs optimized for Amazon Sidewalk, the SG23 and SG28.

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