NXP i.MX 6 and i.MX 8 processors are widely used in industrial boards and systems-on-module, and the company has now teased a new family with i.MX 9 processors integrating Arm Ethos-U65 1 TOPS microNPU, as well as the company’s EdgeLock secure enclave for increased security.
The company did not provide that many technical details, so we still don’t know which CPU cores, GPU, and exact peripherals will be found in the processor. But we do know the i.MX 9 processors will be manufactured with a 16/12nm FinFET class of process technology optimized for low power, and features the “Energy Flex” architecture that combines “heterogeneous domain processing (independent applications processor and real-time domains with a separate low-power multi-media domain), design techniques, and process technology to maximize performance efficiency”. That means most blocks of the processor can be turned off for low power audio or CAN networking use cases, and other industrial applications requiring fast boot, defined as sub-100 milliseconds boot time.
Typical applications for NXP i.MX 9 processors will include smart home, smart city and public safety systems, fleet management, precision farming & agriculture, consumer audio, healthcare, and energy applications where requirements mandate low-power connectivity and/or machine learning acceleration.
NXP notably lists some of the specific machine learning applications that will be possible with i.MX 9 SoCs:
- Multi-object recognition and spoof-free multi-face 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 other industrial and IoT applications.
As mentioned in the introduction, the new i.MX 9 processor will also come with EdgeLock secure enclave. The company describes it as a self-managed, autonomous on-die security subsystem that is meant to simplify the implementation of complex security functions, and help prevent implementation errors. Security features handled by/through EdgeLock will include silicon root of trust, run-time attestation, trust provisioning and SoC secure boot enforcement. NXP also says the EdgeLock secure enclave tracks power transitions to help prevent new attack surfaces from emerging. Some of the processors from the i.MX 9 series will also be Microsoft Azure Sphere-certified.
NXP did not provide any timeline for i.MX 9 series processors, but based on the little information we have now, and the time it usually takes for industrial-grade processors to launch, I’d be surprised if we see anything before 2023. More details should eventually surface on the product page.