The Great Las Vegas Invasion: Techworks Clients Attend CES 2020

Between January 7-10, four Techworks Asia clients attended this mammoth event: CEVA Inc.; Navitas Semiconductor; Nordic Semiconductor; and Silicon Mitus. If you couldn’t manage to see them on the show floor, here’s what you missed.

Whether you experience only fear and loathing in Las Vegas or love this somehow comfortable city that could adopt only Frank Sinatra as its spiritual father, Nevada’s paradise for high rollers is the annual home of CES®, originally a trade show intended only for the exploding consumer electronics scene, but no longer. Like some giant condor hovering over the Nevada desert, CES has managed to swallow anything with a semiconductor chip or battery inside, whole. CES 2020 the numbers: over 20,000 debut products; more than 4,400 exhibiting companies; some 170,000 attendees across more than 2.9 million square feet of exhibit space.


CEVA: The power of the IP model

CEVA Inc., a leading exponent of the IP business model, showcased its portfolio of smart sensing and wireless connectivity platforms at CES 2020. Collectively, these have a compelling capability to fuse data from cameras, microphones and inertial sensors, analyse the datasets with on-device AI, and connect them wirelessly with either Bluetooth® or Wi-Fi or cellular IoT protocols.


These platforms include deep learning and computer vision, emphasising the possibilities of 360-degree cameras and camera-enabled applications in smartphones, UAVs, and more. CEVA also showed how sensor fusion can enable complete contextual perception in robotics, and in augmented and virtual reality. As well, CEVA showcased speech-recognition.


The connectivity platforms included Bluetooth® 5.1, Wi-Fi, and 5G cellular. Interactive demos at the CEVA booth showed how these technologies might be deployed in real-world scenarios.


Leading the charge with GanFast™ chargers

A specialist in gallium nitride (GaN) power ICs, the Califonia-based Navitas Semiconductor is very aware that consumers are frustrated by the limitations of batteries for mobile devices, and by the weight, bulkiness and slow charging times of most chargers.


Navitas’ message for consumers at CES 2020 was loud and clear – the company’s GaN technology enables a sweeping improvement in charging efficiency, resulting in chargers that are 3X faster at half the size and weight. The industry is getting the message: on display at the Navitas booth were more than 25 leading-edge mobile chargers and adapters featuring the company’s GaNFast™ power ICs.


Putting a generous twist on the trade-show freebie, rather than a free pen visitors to the Navitas booth had three possible ways to win one of over 1,000 GaNFast chargers in a give-away worth $50,000. The power ratings of the free GaNFast chargers ranged from 27W to 65W, with USB-C and USB-A interface options available, to cover a variety of smartphones, tablets and laptops. Old chargers collected by Navitas would be recycled, a timely reminder at this huge show that e-waste isn’t e-cofriendly.


Nordic demos the power of low power

Nordic Semiconductor, a leader in ultra-low-power (ULP) wireless, which it integrates into SoC (system-on-chip) devices, travelled all the way from its Norwegian base to exhibit in Las Vegas. On show at the booth were the company’s latest solutions, in the nRF91 series, supporting the cellular IoT (LTE-M and NB-IoT). Then there were the company’s SoC offerings for Bluetooth Low Energy, Bluetooth mesh, and the Thread and ZigBee protocols. Nordic also had development kits and a variety of customer products on display, with the latter the subject of some intriguing demos.


With the arrival of Bluetooth LE 5.1 came exciting new possibilities in location services, urgently needed for precise asset tracking and other applications since GPS is unreliable in the dense environments known as “urban canyons”. At CES 2020, Nordic hosted Finnish company Quuppa at the booth, where the company demoed its Quuppa Intelligent Location System, which incorporates Nordic’s nRF52 Series.


Silicon Mitus: Speaker and mic not required

Silicon Mitus, a South Korea-based specialist in PMICs and audio solutions, focused on the audio side of the business at CES 2020, with minimalist smartphone design a stated goal. Silicon Mitus calls this “three-free” phone design – no bezel, no notch cutting into the display area, and no interface ports. A tall order, you might think, but Silicon Mitus offers audio technology that doesn’t require a speaker or mic, the company’s Display Sound. This approach saves precious space within the phone while delivering a gorgeously sleek appearance on the outside.


A core enabler of this technological miracle is the company’s SMA6201 piezo driver chip, which can be used in a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and notebook and desktop PCs. Simply put, SMA6201 causes the display panel to vibrate slightly and emit sound.


In addition to demonstrating the wonders of its Display Sound at CES 2020, Silicon Mitus also showcased high-end audio digital-to-analogue converters (DACs), speakers that incorporate artificial intelligence (AI), soundbars, smartphones, and audio power amplifiers (PA).