Low-power memory chip startup Adesto Technologies is launching an improved version of its chips that can cut energy consumption as much as 100 times.
Adesto is launching a new non-volatile serial memory chip that operates at 1.2 volts, using a third less voltage than other chips on the market. The chips can be used in a new class of sensors, wearable devices, and sterilized medical devices that will be part of the Internet-of-things (or connected everyday gadgets).
After seven years of work, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Adesto aims to compete with rival technologies such as flash memory with something that Adesto calls Conductive Bridging Random Access Memory (CBRAM). These are programmable memory devices that can serve as standalone chips or be embedded inside other chips. Dubbed “resistive memory,” the Adesto technology could disrupt other forms of memory such as flash, which is ubiquitous in mobile devices. It can use a lot less energy without sacrificing performance.
“All of these advantages are possible because we operate on low power and fast technology,” said Narbeh Derhacobian, CEO of Adesto, in an interview with VentureBeat. “When you combine that, you get very low energy. We’re very excited about this announcement.”
The CBRAM technology is non-volatile, which means that, like flash memory, it can store data without the power turned on. But unlike flash, it can withstand threshold levels of gamma and electron beam sterilization treatments without any measurable loss or corruption of data. That means it can be used inside a surgery room in a hospital, even after sterilizing.
That, in turn, will enable a series of intelligent medical devices that can be used in sterile environments, said Derhacobian. Under the same sterilization procedures, flash memory would become inoperable. Medical devices will be able to store critical data and operate under ultra-low energy conditions if they use CBRAM, he said.
CBRAM’s energy requirements for reading and writing data into memory are 10 to 100 times lower than flash. It works with Bluetooth Low Energy and other Wi-Fi platforms, and it has performance similar to dynamic random access memory (DRAM), which serves as the main memory of most computing and mobile devices. It can write data into memory using 0.6 volts, compared to about 10 volts for flash. It stores just 1 megabit of data, which is far less than many computing applications. But that is plenty of storage for Internet-of-things sensors.
Derhacobian said the company is providing samples of its chips to three leading medical technology companies. Back in June, Adesto shipped the one millionth unit of its first-generation CBRAM chip. It has 200 customers for the earlier chips. Those chips are going into devices such as fitness counters and Internet-of-things devices. Adesto is strong in industrial products, such as smart lighting and smart metering. No single customer is more than 10 percent of Adesto’s business.
Now it’s ready to ship an improved 1.2-volt version, and it expects to have more chips coming in the future. The new 1.2-volt chips will be available in sample quantities in the first half of 2015, with production beginning later in 2015.
Adesto said it holds more than 100 patents and has dozens more patent applications in the works. The company employs about 90 people and has raised almost $70 million to date. Derhacobian said the company is generating mid-$40 million in revenue and is not looking for more funding.