Posts Tagged ‘technology’

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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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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).

Ellisys_EX350_PD

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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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.

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USB Recharge port on HP Chromebook 11: One port to rule them all

October 14, 2013

A newborn  just enter entered in the always growing family of Chromebook devices: the HP Chromebook 11.

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What captured my attention is the unusual charge solution: not anymore hp-chromebook-11-micro-usba dedicated jack to connect an external charger, but a microUSB, as described by JR Raphael in his review. Like our portable devices, smartphones or tabled. This is a great news in my perspective, at least for two reasons.

Standardization

It is the first step to standardize the recharger mechanism: no more custom and proprietary jacks and charger, but an universal main adapter with USB connection compatible with all our device, hopefully with more then one USB port to recharge many device at a time. One Ring to rule them all. This will impact the final price of the device, too.

Power Flexibility

A single connector will simplify our life. But soon users will ask to have more flexibility. To recharge batteries in a faster mode delivering more power and to use this port to recharge portable device as well, or to supply external peripherals. In one word, USB Power Delivery technology. Able to deliver up to 100w over USB cable.

Dreaming

This device is the first step in the direction of simplifying our life among different and proprietary chargers, jacks and connectors. I hope to see more device implementing this bold solution with a step forward toward USB power delivery and more peripherals and devices taking advantage from this technology.

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USB Power Delivery Showcase from INTEL

July 11, 2013

At the Technology Showcase at IDF Beijing, INTEL demonstrated a typical application of the USB Power Delivery feature: a portable PC delivering through a USB2.0 connection video streaming at 480Mbit/s (not really a big deal) and at the same time the power to supply a LCD monitor.

INTEL DEMO@IDF

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Developing a USB Power Delivery device? Let’s talk about solutions!

July 1, 2013

Are you thinking to develop or evaluate an USB-PD device? If yes, I’m sure the first problem you are facing is the unavailability of USB-PD semiconductor solutions to build your concept board and of USB-PD enabled products to be used as peer for your system (at least at this date). This is for sure a major issue to assess the system requirements and to evaluate the performances. The possibility to have a USB-PD evaluation board permits the engineering team to start playing with this new protocol, to build the system and to start the implementation and debug of the high level functionalities.

Up to date two solutions are available in the market: one coming from Obsidian Technology and one from Canova Tech.

Everything I know about Obsidian can be found in the website. They came as first in the market with an USB-PD solution and they are offering an USB-PD development board  (OTS9102) based on a proprietary IC (OTI9121) implementing the physical layer (PHY).

CT20600

More I can say about Canova Tech (sorry, it’s the company I’m working for!). It’s currently developing an USB-PD PHY block, the CT20600.

The CT20600 is a USB-PD compliant PHY IP implementing all the features described in the current USB-PD specifications. The block can be integrated in a more complex power management unit (see previous post) or in standalone device for cost sensitive applications. The CT20600 can be ported to most of the analog CMOS processes available in the market.

CT20600 DVLP Board 1V1

A development board has been developed in order to assess the architecture and to implement the digital blocks of the PHY and the upper layers, like the protocol layer. Waiting for the incoming silicon samples, at the moment the board v1.1 implements the analog parts of the USB-PD PHY using discrete components and the digital blocks in a FPGA.

A detailed description of this board will follow soon.

Any comment and feedback is welcome.
Stay tuned.