After nearly 18 months of development, Swindon, UK-based fabless start-up Air Semiconductor is revealing its core technology to the world. The nascent company has developed a monolithic solution for continuously tracking the user’s location and consequently can also provide instant location updates, all with negligible power drain. Labeled Airwave-1, this system-on-a-chip (SoC) solution is capable of delivering instant and continuous positioning information to battery-operated devices, according to its cofounder Stephen Graham. Because Airwave-1 requires as little as 1% of the power required by current GPS solutions and consumes only 1mA when continuously tracking, the developers believe that it will open up a whole new range of location-based applications.

However, engineering samples are planned for summer. As seen in the block diagram, the chip integrates RF, DSP, microprocessor, and power management on a single die. It also includes sufficient RAM and ROM, along with passives (not shown in the diagram). While the microprocessor, which runs the algorithm and calculates the co-ordinates, has been licensed from another source, RF and DSP is proprietary to Air Semiconductor. It outputs location data in a format that enables simple integration into consumer devices, said the manufacturer. Further details were not available. The chip will be fabricated in 0.13 µm CMOS by TSMC.

First target application is geotagging in digital cameras. According to the developers, its technology will enable cameras to automatically geotag images and mobile handsets to run a new generation of autonomous location sensitive applications. Hence, it will enable mobile handset designers to specify instant location functionality without significant impact on power budgets. Furthermore, there is a commercial opportunity in mobile handsets for proactive location-dependent services, where the users’ location triggers a service such as an alarm, a reminder or a promotional message, stated Graham.

By providing continuous location tracking, it eliminates time-to-first-fix (TT) problem. It uses an adaptive technology which maintains a constant watch on its location but can almost instantly focus to provide a pin-point fix, noted Graham.