Chip maker NXP unveiled a few new members of its i.MX 8 family this week, with the new i.MX 8ULP designed for ultra low power applications, while the i.MX 8ULP-CS is designed for use with Microsoft’s Azure Sphere cloud security.
But the company is also starting to talk about next-gen NXP i.MX 9 series processors, which will bring several key changes.
NXP positions its new i.MX chips as solutions for edge computing in internet of things technologies that enable things like “smart home” and “smart cities” hardware, but the chips are also popular with developers of smaller-scale open source projects thanks to NXP’s habit of making ample documentation available.
- These will be manufactured using 16nm and 12nm FinFET technology, down from the 28nm process using for i.MX 8.
- NXP’s i.MX 9 chips will be the company’s first to feature an Arm Ethos U-65 microNPU (neural processing unit) for hardware-accelerated, on-device, low-power artificial intelligence tasks.
- The company’s new EdgeLock secure enclave, a security subsystem that can handle things like root of trust, secure boot, key management and cryptographic services.
- NXP Energy Flex architecture for improved efficiency.
Those first two bullet points are exclusive to the new i.MX 9 chips, while the EdgeLock and Energy Flex features will also be included in the new i.MX 8ULPprocessors.
NXP says Energy Flex uses a combination of “design techniques” and “heterogenous domain processing” to reduce power consumption. For example, when a system is playing audio, only the hardware required for audio playback is powered up, while everything else on the chip can be shut off.