LONDON A group of former Ericsson engineers and executives have set up a digital signal processing company, Freehand Communication AB, that will offer semiconductor intellectual property (IP) for voice communications applications.
FreeHand (Sundbyberg, Sweden) will develop an application-specific, 13-bit data-word programmable DSP core and processors based on that core. The processors will be designed to implement software algorithms for adaptive filtering and echo cancellation while consuming little power, the company said.
"You can use a general-purpose DSP for a lot of these functions, but it's not very power efficient," said Harald Bergh, chief executive officer and founder of FreeHand. "We think there are many applications for our DSP in the wireless space. Noise cancellation is the next step."
Bergh said that full voice recognition is a natural goal for a DSP company in the wireless commun ications market with a name like FreeHand. Bergh said, however, that the company would not tackle voice recognition immediately.
Bergh argued that Texas Instruments, the leading provider of general-purpose DSPs, would face increasing competition from numerous developers of DSP cores. Such cores will be well-tailored to specific applications, but will still offer software programmability.
"There is a big need for application-specific DSPs because it's the best way to get the power consumption down," said Bergh.
Founded in November 1999, FreeHand has already collected firm data on its DSP, which it says is good for convolution calculations and updating DSP coefficients on-the-fly to provide adaptive processing. The chip's RISC core features a 16-bit instruction-set architecture and 66 instructions. At 16 MHz, it has an 8-MHz sample rate and has been simulated to consume 8 milliwatts in a 2.5-volt, 0.25-micron process.
"Our plan is to do an FPGA first to verify the logic. We expect to have th at ready in the summer," said Bergh.
The company will follow a conventional IP business model and will offer its IP as soft or hard cores based on licenses and royalties, Bergh said.
"We can integrate our IP into an ASIC or develop the complete ASIC upon customer request," said Bergh. The company will not get sidetracked by assuming too many IC integration projects, "because we are still only small," he said.
Backed by Swedish venture capital, FreeHand has sold a 5 percent stake to KonfTel AB (Ulmea, Sweden), which sells teleconferencing equipment for which echo-cancellation and hands-free operation is important. "With the new low-consumption processor, we will be able to increase our lead within full-duplex technology," said Ted Samuelsson, managing director of KonfTel.