NanoWatt Design™ Completes Phase I of National Science Foundation Grant to Improve Energy Efficiency of Vision Processor
Digital circuit design innovations focused on extending battery life and reducing heat build-up in vision processors for wearable computers.
Fayetteville, Arkansas — January 29, 2014
NanoWatt Design, Inc. recently completed Phase I of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) grant awarded in 2013. This grant supported the company's ongoing efforts to develop and commercialize asynchronous integrated circuit technologies that promise better ways to manage battery life and heat dissipation in electronic devices. The Phase I project, which commenced July 1st, was concentrated on proving NanoWatt’s solutions in a multi-core, image processor design. Efforts are targeted at the rapidly growing demand for image processing associated with wearable computers. For example, heads-up displays (HUD)s allow projected information supplied by a computer to be viewed on a transparent display by an observer, such as a pilot, without having to alter his angle of vision. Another example of growing HUD applications is a motorcycle helmet that allows the rider to see at any time a projected image captured by a rear-view camera. HUDs expend lots of energy in acquiring images that might be sent by Bluetooth from a camera or a user’s cell phone, then displaying these images on special optical surfaces. Each of these applications rely on computation-intensive image processing, and several processor cores are needed to keep pace. Reducing energy consumption is critical for battery life, but eliminating heat is also a concern for user comfort. For example, it is not practical to include a fan in wearable glasses. The best approach is to design for maximum efficiency, which is the focus of NanoWatt Design’s innovative solutions.
During the Phase I project, a $5B defense-aerospace partner company provided access to the design details of their state-of-the-art 16-core processor used in the company’s research. It was shown that NanoWatt’s proprietary solutions reduce energy per core by 27% for the already efficient image processor studied. NanoWatt Design anticipates beginning a Phase II project in July of this year. This project will be concentrated on refining the multi-core processor and developing software to allow such processors to be rapidly customized for different image processing applications, such as HUDs and night vision goggles.
NanoWatt currently has three issued patents, five patents pending, and plans to file two additional patents based on inventions that arose during the Phase I project.
NanoWatt Design has received support from several Arkansas institutions. These include investment and assistance from the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority, the Arkansas Risk Capital Matching Fund, and the Arkansas Research and Development Tax Credit program. NanoWatt Design received private equity investment in 2012, and completed an additional equity round in December 2013. This new investment will provide flexibility for the company as it continues to contact customers to gain feedback and further refine its energy-saving solutions.