LONDON — Integrated Device Technology (IDT) has announced a strategic partnership with Bangalore, India-based startup Steradian Semiconductor to deliver its first ultra-high-resolution 4D mmWave imaging radar chip for industrial, security, medical, and autonomous vehicle markets.

The chip is developed by a team of ex-Qualcomm and Texas Instruments alumni based in India who have over 50 patents between them ranging from GPS to LTE-Advanced.

The five of them co-founded fabless semiconductor company Steradian Semiconductor two years ago and have just received $1 million in funding from Indian early-stage venture capital firm Endiya Partners, a VC firm that has backed a number of other emerging Indian tech companies, including one developing an AI processor co-founded by Vinod Dham and another using AI and CMOS image sensors for intelligent medical screening.

Through the partnership, IDT will offer the SenseVerse SVR4410 IC, a multi-channel high-resolution MIMO radar device that operates in the 76- to 81-GHz frequency band offering what the company says is superior interference performance and the highest number of channels per device in the industry (however, there is no data sheet on the website at the time of this writing to substantiate numbers). With integrated beamforming and support for multi-device aggregation, the SVR4410 provides best-in-class angular resolution, range, and power consumption in a very small form factor. The two companies are collaborating on a series of roadmap ICs with increasing levels of integration and enabling customers’ adoption by means of providing radar modules with integrated antennas, transceiver ICs, radar processing ICs, and DSP algorithms.

EE Times spoke to two of the co-founders of Steradian Semi, CEO Gireesh Rajendran and CTO Ashish Lachhwani, who explained how they came to the startup. Rajendran said, “We saw a lot of activity in lidar, but with our experience in sensors and the growth in interest we observed in autonomous vehicles, we decided to focus on the radar. Production is already well-established, but we felt that it lagged on the performance side.” He added, “High-resolution radar imaging is already established in satellite imaging, so we wanted to develop it at a cost and form factor that enabled real-time high-resolution imaging in automotive environments.”

Lachhwani continued, “Radar has been in use in automotive applications for some time but mostly as a warning system as opposed to detecting objects. At 80 GHz, the aperture needs to be very wide to get the resolution to be able to, say, distinguish two human beings standing next to each other or to differentiate between stationary and moving objects. We are aiming to achieve one-degree resolution as opposed to other systems today, which only achieve 8- to 10-degree resolution.”

We asked how the solution differs to those of, say, TI and Arbe Robotics. Without being specific, Lachhwani said that some of the others are addressing near-field communication applications in the 3- to 10-GHz band. “We demonstrated a 24-GHz imaging radar prototype last year to prove the algorithms. In this, we could clearly see a point cloud and were able to figure out an object’s width and height. We’ve now taped out an RF IC for 79 GHz.”

This is the IC that will be offered by IDT, which offers one-degree resolution and a reach of 300 m. Steradian says that the IC, to be produced on a 28-nm TSMC process, integrates synthesizers and transceivers; the processing is currently on an Arm-based FPGA, but its roadmap will eventually put this in a DSP.

Sailesh Chittipeddi, IDT’s executive vice president of global operations and chief technology officer, said IDT’s SenseVerse radar family "will add new dimension to sensing and vision, causing a disruptive change in Industry 4.0 and similar end markets needing high-resolution solutions."

Chittipeddi said IDT's imaging radar architecture based on mmWave technology "will be key to reliable and autonomous operation in various climatic conditions and continues IDT’s tradition of delivering high-value-added solutions for its customers.”

Rajendran added, “IDT’s SenseVerse radar family offers all-weather high-resolution sensing and will enhance and complement human and computer vision. IDT’s SVR4410 and roadmap ICs, together with Steradian’s RF expertise, will offer exceptional value to a wide variety of application spaces.”

IDT says that its SenseVerse radar products are currently sampling at selected customers.

— Nitin Dahad is a European correspondent for EE Times.