Memory chip provides traceability, wireless programmability

  • 10-May-2010 10:13 EDT

STMicro’s Dual Interface EEPROM can be updated using conventional programming techniques or a wireless RFID link.

A growing number of design programs are allowing technicians to upgrade functionality once vehicles are in the field. STMicroelectronics is addressing this trend with a memory chip that can be programmed wirelessly via an RFID (radio frequency identification) link, making it simpler to alter software in fast-changing applications such as infotainment.

An additional benefit of the Dual Interface EEPROM is that once it is attached to the board, the RFID link provides traceability, eliminating the need for bar codes or RFID tags that are temporarily attached to boards during the manufacturing cycle. The chip, the M24LR64, also houses a conventional I2C bus for communication with controllers and external programmers.

Putting the chip on circuit boards will make it simpler to track specific modules, which can be critical in product recalls. The memory can hold serial numbers, board revision, repair and upgrades history, customer information, and other data that can be accessed using standard RFID readers.

The RFID link makes it simpler for dealers and others to update code by eliminating the need for connectors. That could be attractive in radio head units that must connect to rapidly changing consumer devices that emerge after vehicles are in the field. The only major board design change is to employ a small amount of board space for an antenna.

The chip can house diagnostic data, allowing technicians to access files even when there is no power. RFID chips use power from the wireless signals. The I2C bus link also lets maintenance personnel access memory with common wired connections.

The chips have security protection to prevent unauthorized alteration of programs. At $0.90 for 1000-piece orders, STMicro’s devices don’t cost much more than conventional EEPROMs. Their reliability specs are also comparable with conventional devices: up to 40 years of data retention and 1 million cycles.

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