Chip, connector makers build 1394 infrastructure

  • 01-Jun-2009 03:53 EDT
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Ruggedized Molex HSAutoLink connectors are a key element in 1394’s assault on the automotive market.

As proponents of the 1394 high-speed serial databus, also called FireWire, gear up their efforts to try to become the backbone architecture for interior systems, products are rolling out rapidly. Chips, connectors, and other devices creat­ed for automotive environments are beginning to ship.

Fujitsu Microelectronics America unveiled a controller that moves data at the standard’s 800-Mbit/s data rate. That is enough speed to address the growing use of video for both safety and infotainment.

“1394 is capable of supporting both the camera data and the commands," said Akio Nezu, Senior Manager of Fujitsu’s Embedded Solutions Business Group. The standard’s isochronous data rate also lets it handle video for multiple rear-seat entertainment displays, he added.

The chip also features a smart code that provides data compression, making it possible to move many different image streams throughout the network. For example, a navigation system moving 450 Mbit/s will see a decrease to only 157 Mbit/s using compression, Nezu explained.

The network’s ability to handle commands is a major differentiator from the low-voltage differential signaling (LVDS) scheme now used to link many cameras to controllers. 1394 has already seen broad usage in industrial machine-vision systems, which also have stringent environmental requirements.

Connector maker Molex also unveiled a new connector line in conjunction with the 1394 Trade Association’s first U.S. Automotive Technology Seminar in late April. Its HSAutoLink line, which uses techniques developed by the U.S. Council for Automotive Research (USCAR), also includes ruggedized USB (universal serial bus) and LVDS connectors.

But the key focus is clear. “Automotive is the perfect market for 1394. You can put in a 1394 backbone and build out from that architecture," said Mike Gardner, Automotive Marketing Manager for Molex.

He noted that 1394 provides flexibility, giving engineers an easy way to add safety cameras and video outlets. That also makes it simpler for dealers to add components such as rear-seat entertainment.

­Belgian chip supplier ­EqcoLogi­c also discussed a line of devices that extend transfer distances beyond the basic 8 m (26 ft) using coaxial cables. Coax can provide significant weight and cost reduction compared to twisted-pair or -quad cabling.­ “We use equalization to get up to 15 meters," said Peter Helfet, Chief Executive of EqcoLogic. “At eight meters, we’re half the cost of twisted pair cables and connectors.”

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