When we began discussing and planning our next-generation i.MX 9 applications processors series, we wanted to build on the success of our i.MX 6 and i.MX 8 series but bring advanced performance efficiency, our state of the art security in EdgeLock secure enclave and scalability to the intelligent edge. The i.MX 9 series products will enable higher performance graphics, vision and neural processing to transform edge processing worldwide. Application areas for the i.MX 9 series include smart home, smart city and public safety systems, fleet management, precision farming and agriculture, consumer audio, healthcare and energy applications where customers require embedded computing and connectivity solutions underpinned by next level security and built-in energy optimization.
The i.MX 9 series expands machine learning capabilities at the edge for performance intensive systems where low-power connectivity and machine learning acceleration options are necessary. Factory and process automation, transportation, robotics and Industry 4.0 applications also benefit from machine learning with time-sensitive networking technology and additional industrial protocols and connectivity that will be part of specific families in the series.
We also wanted to make dedicated neural processing units (NPUs) — something first introduced in the i.MX 8M Plus — a standard feature across the entire series for acceleration of machine learning applications. In order to achieve the required efficiency of something worthy of the i.MX 9 name, we needed to use an ultra-efficient NPU. As such, the series marks NXP’s first implementation of the Arm Ethos-U65 microNPU. See our earlier blog here for more details of the Ethos-U65 microNPU.
Specific i.MX 9 applications processors will enable advanced machine learning, including multi-object recognition and spoof-free multiface recognition in millisecond inference time, voice-based systems that can recognize natural language and accents, sequence analysis for gesture recognition, anomaly detection for industrial predictive maintenance and synthetic sensors in smart home, and multitude of other industrial and IoT applications.
Energy Flex Architecture
The i.MX 9 series applications processors implement NXP innovative Energy Flex architecture that developers can use to optimize energy efficiency and help reduce carbon footprint.
The first families in this series will be built in 16/12nm FinFET class of process technology with specific low power optimization. The Energy Flex architecture in i.MX 9 processors combines heterogeneous domain processing with fine-grained power management to minimize energy usage for each application mode. The architecture encompasses multiple domains, including an applications processor domain for high performance. There is also a real-time domain that integrates MCU-class efficiency of operation. In addition to this, i.MX 9 processors incorporate separate product-specific domains containing acceleration such as NPUs, multimedia domains or high-speed IO. The key is that any domain can be powered on and off and operate at the required performance point to minimize energy consumption. This is truly making use of design techniques and process technology to maximize performance efficiency. Also important is that either the application processor or real-time domain (or both) can be configured to have access to any of the other domains. We understand that there is no one-size-fits-all use case (and that over time even these use cases can change dynamically), and so we let our customers choose to use the i.MX 9 processors for any use case they can imagine at maximum efficiency.
For example, low power audio use cases can be powered by the real-time domain, where audio can run while the rest of the processor is switched off. The real-time domain is also well-suited to applications requiring a fast time to boot and respond to incoming data.
EdgeLock™ Secure Enclave – Self-Managed, Autonomous On-Die Security Subsystem
Security is an area where the industry and NXP’s customers continue to demand that we raise the bar, and NXP, a company focused on “Secure Connections for a Smarter World”, is happy to oblige.
Using the same underlying silicon transistors to run application code and to own the security crown jewels isn’t something that future systems may be able to accept. Consider especially that security is required to ensure that the code run is the code that was intended to be run, and that our products are genuinely talking to who they think they are talking to with no-one impersonating or intercepting any secret information.
Embedding ground-breaking security IP in the SoC architecture, NXP EdgeLock™ secure enclave provides a pre-configured security subsystem that simplifies implementation of complex security and helps designers avoid costly implementation errors. This dramatic evolution of on-die security features autonomous management of security functions including silicon root of trust, run-time attestation, trust provisioning, SoC secure boot enforcement and fine-grained key management augmented by extensive crypto services for advanced attack resistance. Encapsulating the security functions in one place also simplifies the path to security certifications. Going further, the EdgeLock secure enclave intelligently tracks power transitions when end-user applications are running on the device to help prevent new attack surfaces from emerging.
The secure enclave will be a standard feature across the i.MX 9 applications processor families, providing developers with a wide-range of compute scalability options to easily deploy state-of-the-art security on thousands of edge applications.
For security that spans from the edge to the cloud, specific members of the i.MX 9 series will be Microsoft Azure Sphere-certified.
For more information on the i.MX 9 applications processor series please visit NXP.com/imx9 or contact NXP Sales worldwide.