JW Insights: Chinese manufacturers apply millimeter-wave radar technology in smart home appliances
Chinese article by 施旭颖
English Editor 张未名
04-26 18:22

By Li Panpan

Millimeter-wave radar has been widely used in automobiles and has become more common because of autonomous driving. Now the technology is finding its way into consumer electronics devices, especially the Internet of Things and smart home devices. Chinese manufacturers are adopting this technology and have come up with more new products for smart homes, despite facing challenges. 

Millimeter waves refer to electromagnetic waves with a length of 1 to 10 mm, and the corresponding frequency range is 30 to 300 GHz. Previous data released by research agency Marketsand Markets showed that by 2023, the total market for millimeter-wave radar sensors would reach $20.6 billion. Vehicle radar is the current driver of growth. The 5A and AI will support it more in the IoT and smart home devices involving more data, computing power, and algorithms.

Millimeter-wave technology has attracted great attention in China since Huawei’s new smart home products were released in March. Before that, heartbeat and respiration monitoring are typical use cases of millimeter-wave radar. 

Most of the millimeter-wave radar solutions in consumer electronics launched by Chinese manufacturers are currently used in smart homes. JMicron Technology (智微科技), based in the Taiwan region, launched a single-chip solution for a 3D gesture recognition system based on 60GHz millimeter-wave radar technology; Air Smart developed low-cost millimeter-wave radar gesture recognition SoC chip targeting the smart home, energy-saving lighting, and children’s toy markets. Others like Shanghai-based Calterah(加特兰) and Hangzhou-based Andar Technology(岸达科技) are also essential players in the field. 

Millimeter waves can detect in a house the existence of the human body, the movement, speed, and orientation of the human body, and the posture of the human body, sitting or standing, or lying down. 

Millimeter-wave sensors have better performance than other non-contact sensing technologies, and they enable devices to sense, detect, and interact while maintaining privacy. 24GHz or 60GHz frequency can be chosen for smart home and IoT applications with millimeter-level accuracy. Higher frequency brings a shorter detection distance. 24GHz solution is suitable for demands in a more extensive detection range, while the 60GHz solution is better for tracking short-distance changes, such as hand moving. 

In May 2021, Shenzhen-based Lumi (绿米联创)released the whole-house smart brand Aqara, adopting millimeter-wave radar. In March 2022, Guangdong-based and NASDAQ-listed Yunmi(云米) released the Alpha X millimeter-wave super-vision perception radar. Both used 60GHz, while the above-mentioned Huawei’s new products are with 24GHz.

However, there are still many challenges faced by Chinese manufacturers. The current millimeter-wave technology chip is expensive, big, and has lengthy development cycles. To apply it to home appliances in a large-scale market, they need to develop it in the direction of high integration, high-cost performance, and small size.

AiP (Antenna-in-Package) is one of the critical technologies that 5G millimeter-wave radar manufacturers have developed to reduce chip size and cost and improve performance.

Companies involved in AiP technology include TI, Infineon, Google, Socionext, and Chinese players, like Calterah and a company called Kaiku Tech (开酷科技) invested by JMicron Technology.

Although millimeter-wave radar has excellent prospects in the consumer market, it is still in the early stage of market expansion with a high overall cost. Large-scale markets can be achieved only with a larger shipment volume. Therefore, devices manufacturers closer to consumers need to work together with chip manufacturers to develop the market.

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