Analog Smart Sensor Startup Aspinity Closes $5.3M Funding Round
Aspinity, the developer of smart sensor chips for always-on devices, has closed a $5.3 million Series A funding round led by Anzu partners, with Amazon’s Alexa Fund and other venture capital groups participating. The Pittsburgh-based startup plans to use the new capital to expand production of chips built with its Reconfigurable Analog Modular Processor (RAMP) platform, designed to extend battery life in mobile smart sensory devices with on-edge analog audio processing.
Smart devices today are passively listening for many sounds and don’t have to be tied to an external power source. Wireless earbuds with embedded voice assistants, home security sensors primed to respond to breaking glass, and other products are all passively listening for specific audio. But, digitizing sounds for analysis can rapidly drain batteries. Aspinity’s RAMP model helps preserve battery life by analyzing those sounds in its analog form before deciding to use the energy for digitizing it. The energy and processing power cost drops, extending a battery’s life without slowing things down from a user’s perspective.
“All audio is analog,” Aspinity CEO Tom Doyle told Voicebot in an interview. “It’s a physics problem where you have to digitize data, but you’re also adding very complex intelligence in that domain. We’re representing the efficiency of the way the human system handles sound processing.”
Aspinity’s tech only digitizes relevant sounds, instead of requiring spending energy digitizing everything the device detects despite the fact that most of it is irrelevant and immediately discarded. Along with the lower power requirements, doing so also boosts privacy by limiting the data sent to cloud servers. A big reason analog analysis isn’t more common is simply the difficulty of building the technology to do so. Aspinity has the tech and is building toward bringing it to a wide range of partners, including in wearable tech and industrial services, though the company wouldn’t name specific clients yet.
The new cash will go toward the five-year-old startup’s chip production. The funding had been in the works for a while, but happened even faster than the company initially planned thanks to investors coming unsolicited with offers to participate, Doyle said. It’s the third time that the Alexa Fund has invested in Aspinity, dating back to 2018, after Aspinity graduated with the first Alexa Accelerator class the year before. The new round brings Aspinity’s total funding amount to $8.3 million.
On-edge processors are booming as the smart device space grows. While Aspinity stands out due to the analog aspect of its technology, it is not alone. Syntiant just closed a $35 million funding round last month for its digital version of audio edge processors, and companies like Picovoice, Sensory, and ID R&D have al brought in funding and customers for their variations on the idea of audio processing without needing to transmit data to the cloud. Meanwhile, Apple spent a reported $200 million to acquire AI startup Xnor to add the same kind of technology to its portfolio.
“We think of the edge as a whole new ecosystem and think of Ceva and Sensory as partners,” Doyle said. “Our contribution makes the device more successful, leading to higher-power digital cores. It’s unique where we fit in the system.”
Follow @voicebotai Follow @erichschwartz
Apple Researchers Are Improving Voice Wake Word Detection and Speaker Identification