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allautowares > Featured Articles > A comprehensive approach to automotive connectivity

A comprehensive approach to automotive connectivity
Author: Harald Kohler
Source From: EETIMES Europe
Posted Date: 2010-09-23

SMSC's Automotive Information Systems develops, markets and supports components for real-time multimedia networks and connectivity solutions. To address the high quality requirements of such components, SMSC developed dedicated quality processes and flows known as its TrueAuto Quality approach.

SMSC is offering a broad, TrueAuto compliant, product portfolio ranging from network interface controllers for its Media Oriented Systems Transport (MOST) technology, the de-facto standard for high bandwidth automotive infotainment networks as well as 10/100 base-T Ethernet, USB devices and Kleer Wireless Audio solutions.

Many carmakers consider Ethernet as the software download interface of their next generation electronics architecture. Furthermore it turns out that Ethernet is becoming the technology of choice for vehicle diagnostics. With USB, the connectivity solutions as shown in figure1 become complete. USB is implemented as the consumer port and offers access to the automobiles' electronics architecture for all kind of mobile devices. This way the driver can easily bring content such as music, photographs, videos or office data into the car which can then be displayed or further processed by passengers.


Figure 1: Automotive infotainment network


Finally there is one more but important feature of USB technology, which is the charging capability for mobile consumer devices through USB. Wireless audio devices like head sets or rear seat remote controls are being selected by consumers as rear seat entertainment systems' take rates are increasing.

MOST network technology

MOST (Media Oriented Systems Transport), the high bandwidth de-facto standard in network technologies for automotive infotainment systems, was developed for transport of audio-, video-data and control and is optimized for quality and reliability, robustness and cost efficiency.

The core products of MOST are the network interface controllers (NIC). In a second product generation the network driver stack is also integrated onto NIC, now called intelligent network interface controller (INIC). Backward compatibility to NIC but consideration of lessons learned at the same time were major design objectives for designing INIC architecture. When designing a MOST network architecture based on INIC, a much higher level of system robustness and stability can be achieved in even shorter development cycles due to the higher level of integration and stronger encapsulation of realtime sensitive network management functions of INIC.

MOST network interface controllers based on SMSC's INIC architecture are available for MOST25, MOST50 and MOST150 speed grades with support for both optical and electrical networks.

Video transmission over MOST

MOST25, the first generation of MOST technology with a bandwidth of 25 Mbit/s was developed to transport digital audio streams in a synchronous manner with almost no overhead. As a result, the synchronous transport mechanisms, which are the precondition for transporting video content with ultra low latency, are there by design. The latest generation, MOST150, delivers a significantly higher bandwidth of 150 Mbit/s and isochronous transport channels, which can be used to transport data streams, which are asynchronous to the MOST network. In addition, MOST150 can handle a variable bit rate, for example MPEG-2 data streams, used for video processing. The INIC hardware that is incorporated with MOST150 features new interfaces such as the Transport Stream Interface (TSI), which is commonly used with tuner modules or video codec chipsets. Together, these features allow for flexible and cost efficient video solutions based on MOST.

Scalable system architecture

In an effort to realize performance and footprint efficiency, process geometries are continuously moving towards smaller sizes. Today, many new products are designed in the range of 0.18 micrometer down to 90 and even 65 nanometer structures. However, it is important to consider whether there are too many device pins or pad cells which may prevent further design shrink while maintaining cost efficiency.

For this reason, MOST INICs have a reasonable, well balanced set of hardware interfaces on chip. In case an application exceeds the available feature set of an INIC, it can be further expanded by different INIC companion devices and via SMSC's Media Local Bus (MediaLB). MediaLB is a serial on-PCB and inter-chip communication technology for multimedia applications. This low cost, low pin count bus is synchronous in nature and enables consumer application ICs to connect to a MOST network interface controller in order to transport diverse high-bandwidth multimedia signals to and from MOST.

So with INIC architecture it is possible to design simple MOST devices which can be further enriched by use of INIC companion devices resulting in a scalable system architecture.

I/O Companion

The primary application use case of SMSC's INIC I/O Companion OS85650 is the expansion of hardware interfaces to the INIC as shown in figure 2 below. The OS85650 supports INICs of all MOST speed grades. Secondly, the I/O companion features a DTCP coprocessor in hardware which might be used to encrypt digital content of data streams. Content protection is a requirement for high-end audio but also video data being transported across multiple integrated circuits.

Either way, with or without encryption, once configured and running, the very powerful routing engine of the OS85650 transports the datastreams from one interface to the respective destination port.


Figure 2: INIC I/O expansion with INIC I/O Companion OS85650. For full resolution, click here.


Power Management Companion

SMSC's MPM85000 INIC power management companion is compliant with the MOST specification. This cost efficient single chip solution addresses automotive diagnostics, status monitoring and power supply of a MOST device. It features an on chip LIN transceiver compliant with the MOST Electrical Control Line (ECL) specification to support Ring Break Diagnosis (RBD) for MOST. Multiple voltage comparators on chip can manage activity and wake up detection but also temperature monitoring. An internal micro power regulator is to supply the oPHY receiver of an optical MOST device connector.

This highly integrated solution is available in a 4 x 4 mm QFN package and serves the further standardization of MOST devices right down to power management and improves its overall robustness due to the reuse of field proven and already qualified system components.

Ethernet for diagnosis and software download

SMSC also offers several 10/100 Ethernet products, which were developed, qualified and manufactured in accordance with its TrueAuto quality to support fast software download or to work as an on-board diagnostics interface in the car (OBD connector).

SMSC's LAN89218 is a high performance single-chip Ethernet controller, fully compliant with IEEE 802.3, integrating an Ethernet MAC and PHY in a 100pin TQFP package. The interface to the embedded host controller is a simple, SRAM-like parallel interface. See figure 3.

Figure 3: 10/100 Ethernet-Controller LAN89218. For full resolution, click here.


In many cases of electronic device system partitioning the Ethernet MAC controller is already integrated in the application processors. Due to the pure digital nature of an Ethernet MAC, this can also be implemented in a reasonably cost efficient way. However this is not the case with an Ethernet PHY because the semiconductor technologies going further down, do not really go with the requirements regarding ESD protection and EMI. In this situation, a 10/100 Ethernet PHY can work as a complementary component to the Ethernet MAC controller. Typically an MII or RMII interface (Reduced Media Independent Interface) works as a MAC interface.

If the Ethernet network topology exceeds a simple point to point connection, a switched architecture is required. For these implementations, SMSC has also developed and qualified high-performance, multi port switches with management functions. It are these types of features, performance and various package size availability that make SMSC's 10/100 Ethernet switches attractive solutions for automotive applications such as diagnostics connectors, gateways, test equipment and legislated inspection systems.

USB the consumer port to nomadic devices

After broad adoption in the consumer electronics industry, USB technology is now also well established in the automotive market simply because USB became the standard hardware interface for any kind of mobile device. By using USB technology, mobile devices can be easily connected with the automobiles' infrastructure or removed in a hot plugging manner. In addition, the charging capability of USB technology makes it the interface of choice for battery powered mobile devices, such as PDA, PND, mobile phones or MP3 players.

There are USB hub devices, USB transceiver ICs and combo solutions which additionally integrate media card readers. Which device type is the best fit to the application requirements depends on the automobile's electronics system architecture.

SMSC's TrueAuto USB hub device USB82514 features one USB host controller port (upstream port) and up to four downstream-ports capable to connect multiple USB-devices to the USB host device. The USB82514 supports USB hi-speed (480 Mbit/s), full-speed (12 Mbit/s) and low-speed (1.5 Mbit/s). Several special features including SMSC's MultiTrakTM, PortMap, PortSwap and PHYBoost features (see respective datasheets at for more details) make SMSC's USB solutions an optimal alternative for automotive connectivity solutions.

For example, if the application processor already has integrated USB IP, there are standalone USB physical layer solutions, like SMSC’s USB83340 USB transceiver, which allow for a complete USB interface. In a typical application the outstanding ESD robustness of such a USB physical layer device also eliminates the need for external ESD protection components.

SMSC’s USB82640/USB82660 complete the USB TrueAuto product portfolio. The USB82640 and USB82660 are USB 2.0 compliant 3 port hub devices combined with one respectively two card reader interfaces. Each device supports today’s popular flash media formats such as Secure Digital (SD)/MultimediaCard (MMC) or Sony MemoryStick. Another interesting feature is the support of external code using SPI EEPROM. As a result, the USB82640/USB82660 are future proof devices regarding upcoming media card formats and also device features.The USB82640/60 is an excellent fit for USB consumer ports integrated in either the glove compartment, for example, or the centre arm rest of a car.


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