Startup raises funds for battery-less IoT

December 24, 2015 // By Peter Clarke
PsiKick Inc. (Charlottesville, Virginia), a semiconductor startup formed to work on sub-threshold voltage operation wireless circuits, has raised $16.5 million in Series B financing led by Osage University Partners and joined by existing investors.

The company was founded by professors at University of Virginia and the University of Michigan in 2012 and raised a Series A round of finance in 2014 reported to be worth $5.25 million. This brings total funding raised by the company to more than $22 million.

The startup has designed a proof-of-concept wireless sensor node system-chip using conventional EDA tools and a 130nm mixed-signal CMOS that operates with sub-threshold voltages and opening up the prospect of self-powering Internet of Things (IoT) systems. The company has claimed that its proof-of-concept chip design would consume between 100 and 1000 times less than any comparable chip.

The latest tranche of funding will be used for expansion of engineering and developing battery-less systems based on the sub-threshold technology, the company said.

"Prior to Series B, PsiKick created a platform of fundamental technologies for wireless devices that are entirely self-powered," said Brendan Richardson, CEO of PsiKick, in a statement. "Those building blocks include the world's most efficient wireless connectivity, robust node computation and energy harvesting to enable a highly scalable batteryless IoT," he added.

Marc Singer, managing partner of Osage University Partners, is set to join PsiKick's board of directors as part of the Series B financing deal.

As part of its proof of concept progress PsiKick is working on systems that can scavenge energy from multiple sources including indoor light, RF rectification, thermal gradient and piezoelectric vibration. One such system is a battery-less electrocardiogram (EKG) sensor that supports a 1Mbit per second data rate over 10 meters distance.

Other companies working on sub- and near-threshold operation of ICs include fabless startup Ambiq Micro Inc. (Austin, Texas) and ARM Holdings plc (Cambridge, England). Ambiq has launched the Apollo line of Cortex-M4F based microcontrollers claiming they offer a 10x reduction compared with other microcontrollers and ARM has been working in R&D on a processor core optimized for operation close to the threshold voltage of CMOS transistors