Vendors scramble to provide USB connectivity

  • 13-Jul-2009 09:10 EDT
Jungo’s middleware "sits" above the operating system, letting drivers control many consumer products with minimal distraction.

The auto industry’s efforts to increase connectivity by providing USB ports are attracting more suppliers f­rom the consumer industry. Jungo Ltd., which provides middleware used in a number of consumer products, has rolled out a protocol stack that will help ensure compatibility with any USB device.

The Israeli company’s MediaCore middleware provides access to media sources such as Apple's iPod, MP3/MP4 players, flash drives, local hard disks, and mobile phones that use USB network transports. Jungo has partnerships with a number of consumer suppliers including SanDisk, Samsung, and Microsoft.

The 11-year-old company now supports operating systems and processor platforms used in automotive applications su­ch as Windows CE and Linux and those from QNX, VxWorks, VDK, Renesas, Freescale, ­Analog Devices, and Texas Instruments. The new MediaCore software complements its USBware software, which can be integrated within operating systems. The MediaCore middleware sits between applications software and the operating system.

Jungo is entering a segment of the automotive market that is expected to see strong growth despite the downturn. iSuppli Corp. predicts that USB usage will double this year. In 2009, 33% of U.S. car models will have USB, compared to 16% last year. Strategy Analytics also predicts widespread acceptance, with 56% of vehicles providing at least one USB port by 2015.

One of the keys for the automotive environment is to let drivers control their consumer products with a minimum of distraction. MediaCore provides native support for advanced media protocols, augmenting that with what Jungo calls media application programming interface reduction technology. This API reduction code allows applications in iPods and other MP3 players to select and play songs using only three function calls.

Implementing well-tested software will save automotive infotainment developers a fair amount of time. Though users view USB as a very simple interface, developers often do not share that view.

“The USB drivers are very complex; there’s a stack with three layers,” said Ilya Lifshits, CTO of Jungo’s Connectivity Software Division. Apple’s iPod has a huge software protocol and most of the multimedia protocols are also complex, he added.

Though MP3 players are expected to be one of the largest attractions for USB in cars, many other devices will be linked to the radio head unit via the popular port. Hard drives and DVD players may be used to bring media content into vehicles. Wireless Bluetooth phones will often be plugged in to charge batteries, making USB connectivity necessary.

Longer term, Lifshits noted, USB dongles may be used to provide Wi-Fi access. Some consumers will download content to a vehicle parked at home. Others will connect to broadcast Internet connections to the rear seat. However, he noted that there is currently little interest in bringing the Internet into moving vehicles.

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