This week’s EYE ON NPI ( looks at a new spin on a familiar favorite! We’ve chatted before about the IMX RT10xx series of chips from NXP. These ‘cross-over’ chips are Cortex M7’s running at 500 or 600 MHz – that means you get the relative simplicity of a Cortex microcontroller with the speed and power of a microprocessor. Heck, the RT106x’s ~3000 CoreMark @ 600 MHz makes it faster for some computations when you compare it to the Raspberry Pi Zero’ ~2000 CoreMark ( – most of that due to the Linux operating system overhead. This chip family recently made its way into CircuitPython ( as we were super-excited to see such a powerful and low cost chip.
OK but back to this week’s EYE ON NPI which is a sister-chip, the iMX RT106L ( – an interesting twist to the RT1060 – this chip is licensed to use with a wake-word + voice-activation software stack. It seems like the hardware is the same, and share the same datasheets and reference manuals. So it’s more about purchasing hardware that has a licensing cost baked in – this reminds us of when we would purchase MP3 chips that had a 50 cent licensing fee built in. (
So, why is this interesting? Well, you’ve seen the proliferation of voice assistants like Siri, Google Voice and Alexa – they all use a a microcomputer, with a very powerful processor, to record audio and send it to the cloud for processing. Having to build a full computer with operating system to do voice control makes the BoM cost go up – you need a few MB of RAM, plenty of flash, a complex PMIC…what if we could do all of the processing on a really fast microcontroller instead? Like…a 600 MHz M7? Yes!