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Will Type-C kill the other USB connectors?

September 18, 2014

The new Type-C connector just released with the new USB 3.1 and USB Power Delivery 2.0 specifications is going to be a big and abrupt revolution in the USB ecosystem.

Without any back compatibility with legacy USB connectors, the new connector and the related cable constitutes an handful, flexible and powerful solution to connect and charge our devices and peripherals.

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The questions around Type-C are:

  • Will it be widely and fast adopted?
  • Where and when?
  • Will it coexist with the other USB Connectors?

Adoption

It’s very difficult to predict the adoption and the success of this solution. For sure at the moment the USB ecosystem is not ready for mass productions:
* cable and connector manufacturers are delivering just engineering samples to OEM and extensive qualification activities are on going.
* Semiconductor companies are working hard to offer dedicated solutions, at the moment not available.
* Compliance test infrastructure is not yet mature and available for product qualification.

As results, charger, adapter, USB accessories and OEM manufactures are struggling to predict the adoption time frame and to understand how to implement an Type-C/USB-PD solution .

Coexistence

From another point of view, the coexistence with other USB connector types seems to very difficult. I can predict a very fast adoption in the mobile market replacing soon the micro-USB in most of the mobile devices. This will benefit the standardization of the charger for mobile devices and minimize the number of connectors in the device (enabling charging, USB communications, video exporting with a DisplayPort interface and audio interface for headsets)

In the PC market I can assume in a first and medium-long phase the coexistence of type-C and type-A, the latest just for legacy and compatibility reasons with old USB disks and peripherals. Slowly the typeC will be the only connector in the PC as well. Even if robustness should be proven. Just to mention, [web rumors] say Google is working to adopt USB Type-C connector in the next generation of chromebooks.

Looking at the main players in this market, it’s evident the great effort to finalize everything in short time. This rush will bring most probably the first products with type-C in the market beginning 2015.


Credits: “Hands On with USB Type C: Reversible USB Connectors” by Joshua Ho

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The USB Revolution

September 4, 2014

The USB.org just released the new USB 3.1 specifications that includes the updated Power Delivery 2.0 Specifications and the new Type-C connector Specifications.

This big update can be considered a revolution in the USB ecosystem, as it introduces not only mechanical modifications of connectors and cables, but new interfaces and new features, too. It’s a sharp discontinuity with the past and it will have a big impact in the consumer market of USB devices, chargers and peripherals.
It will change the scenario around your desktop, the way you will charge your mobile devices, the way you will manage the peripherals like monitors and printers.

Type-C Connector

The main contributor of this revolution is the new Type-C connector and cable. The specifications (Revision 1.0, August 11, 2014) define a robust, small (more or less the same size of a micro-USB connector), flippable 24-pin connector.

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The respective Type-C cable contains up to 19 wires:

  • 2 Power GND (mandatory)
  • 2 Power VBUS (mandatory)
  • 1 shield (mandatory)
  • 1 Configuration Channel (mandatory)
  • 1 unshielded pair for USB 2.0 (mandatory)
  • 2 shielded pairs
  • 2 reserved for future use
  • 1 Power VCONN

The 2 shielded pairs are used to implement USB 3.1 10 Gbit/s transfer but they can be used for other interfaces like audio for headsets, Display Port for video exporting or other customized interfaces. This flexibility is a great news in the USB scenario: new protocols can be carried over USB simplifying connections around PC and mobile devices.
The configuration channel (cc) is reserved for USB Power Delivery Protocol used not only for power negotiation but for role negotiation (the up/downstream role is not anymore defined by the connector type, as you can have Type-C plug in each end of the cable), interface definition and active cable communications.

update: good article about Type-C connector with photos and speed tests.

USB Power Delivery

The USB Power Delivery has been updated taking in account the Type-C implementation. A dedicated wire (cc ) is reserved for this communication with a new physical channel in base-band (USBPD-BB). The earlier powerline communication over VBUS using FSK modulation (USBPD-FSK) is not anymore required. This physical layer is anyhow still existing and it’s mandatory for Type-A and micro A/B connectors.
The USB Power Delivery protocol has been extended with new functions and commands to support the new Type-C features.

Conclusion

The new USB Power Delivery specifications and the introduction of the new Type-C connector/cable constitute a revolution in the mobile and PC markets.
The semiconductor ecosystem is moving fast to deliver silicon and hardware solutions for this new technology.

The first product in the market adopting the Type-C connector? Most probably a mobile smartphone but we could wait till beginning 2015. Maybe….

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New Family of USB Power Delivery Controllers from Microchip

June 19, 2014

PR_UPD1001-7x5Finally Microchip announces the first device of a new family of USB Power Delivery Controllers, the UPD1001.

The new device is a highly flexible and configurable solution that supports the 5 USB-IF standard UPD power profiles plus an additional 25 UPD-compliant profiles for a total of 30 profiles supported by a single chip. This will allow designers to select the optimum power profiles in order to meet their specific application requirements.

Pro’s

  • Support 5 defined USBPD power profiles + 25 additional user’s defined profiles
  • Fully integrated. Microprocessor and USBPD controller
  • Offering integrated ADC for Voltage/current  monitoring
  • Coming with a ready-to-use UPD1001 Evaluation Kit (part # EVB-UPD100).  It integrates everything you need for a USB Power Delivery provider.
  • Delivered in Consumer (0°C to +70°C),  Industrial (-40°C to +85°C) and Automotive  (-40°C to +105°C) grade

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Con’s

  • Only provider, meaning not supporting  swap features. Looking at the published UPD100x family roadmap, we should wait for the UPD1002 to have the role swap available.
  • Compliant with USBPD v1.2. We are currently at v1.3
  • Not clear the level of flexibility and programmability

 

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USB PD specifications V1.3

March 12, 2014

New USB Power Delivery Specification (Rev. 1.0, Version 1.3, Including Errata through March 11, 2014) has been just released. Check it out.

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USB Power Delivery: looking for a tester?

March 6, 2014

I attended the USB Power Delivery Interoperability event in Portland on middle of Jan. The opportunity was to test the CT20600 USB-PD complete solution from Canova Tech.

During the test sessions, I had the opportunity to touch the new USB test solution from Ellisys, a worldwide leader in protocol test and analysis solutions. The USB Explorer 350, just announced in the company news,  is intended for technology developers working on products employing features specified in the recently released USB Power Delivery specification.

Ellisys EX350

Waiting for the USB Power Delivery compliance procedures delivery from usb.org, the USB Explorer 350 could be a valid and powerful instrumentation helping developers to characterize protocol compliance of silicon, software, and systems and to verify corner case communications. The device can be configured to play as a protocol analyze by sniffing the communication between two USB-PD devices or as emulator (producer or consumer).

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It comes with a powerful software GUI that enable a complete monitor, analysis and control of the communication protocol. For a detailed description and list of features, please check product page.

A USB-PD Analyzer and Emulator is a great tool for developers and designer to test their products and to be ready for final product qualification and compliance tests. The Ellisys  USB Explorer 350 is the first solution in the market, most probably not the only one in the short term. I’ll check the web for other solutions and/or similar products.

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A new USB Power Delivery Device from Etron

January 8, 2014

The 2014 is just started, bringing new products for the USB Power Delivery Standard. And the CES 2014 in Las Vegas is the greatest event for such announcements.

Etron Technology, Inc. , a semiconductor  company based in Taiwan, specializing in buffer memory and system-on-chips, just announced the availability of the USB Power Delivery (PD) Controller IC – EJ888, based on the USB-IF’s USB Power Delivery Rev. 1.0 specification, which enables USB power delivery from 10 watts to 100 watts, and significantly reduces device charging time. The device implements a Battery Charging 1.2 interface.

For early market engagement, Etron’s latest USB Power Delivery Controller IC EJ888 is based on the USB Power Delivery Rev. 1.0 specification. In addition, it supports USB-IF Battery Charging 1.2 for any portable device. The EJ888 Chip enables higher voltage and current in order to deliver power up to 100 watts, with 20V to the full 5A, via USB. Utilizing bi-directional power delivery, EJ188 automatically detects current sources and sinks, and performs a negotiated handshake via VBus. It allows users to access simple Plug-and-Charge via USB and meets the needs of USB PD developers,” said Dr. Nicky Lu, Etron Technology Chairman & CEO.

At the moment no more information are available, but  Etron will display and demonstrate its cutting-edge EJ888 at CES 2014 from January 7th to 10th. Looking for more informations.

 

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Is the USB Power Delivery a Game Changer?

October 28, 2013

The first USB PD devices will come to market in 2014, with a “big roll-out” in 2015, says Brad Saunders of Intel. Gregory Reed, of the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, calls the new USB standard a “game-changer”.

This is an extract of an interesting article from The Economist related to the USB Power Delivery: The humble USB cable is part of an electrical revolution. It will make power supplies greener and cheaper.

Anyone interested on USB-PD and in general on new technology should read.