Key Takeaways from USB Developer Days and the Opportunity for USB in Embedded Systems
Why we’ll continue to see USB dominate peripheral connectivity and how USB-IF is exploring multiple areas to support embedded solutions
USB is well-known as the most ubiquitous I/O standard worldwide, with billions and billions of devices being produced over the last two decades. Originally designed for connecting peripherals to desktop computers, USB evolved from an easy way to transfer files into a dominant charging solution. Now, thanks to the performance, power and usability advancements enabled by USB Type-C™, the technology is well-positioned to be the favored peripheral connectivity standard for the next twenty years.
…we’re looking into how USB Power Delivery and data over USB 3.2 can be adapted to provide power-efficient, robust solutions with minimal wires.
As the guiding force behind USB, USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) hosts many events throughout the year to educate the industry about new specifications, implementation best practices, compliance, and other topics. Recently, USB-IF held two USB Developer Days, one in Vancouver BC and one in Taipei, Taiwan. If you weren’t able to attend, here is what’s on the horizon for this evolving standard.
Vision of USB Type-C™
USB-IF’s vision of USB Type-C™ is scalable, secure, consistent, and compliant.
Scalable—USB Type-C™ was designed to be a scalable connector for hosts (phones, tablets, detachable, etc.) and peripherals (displays, docks, storage). The thin, robust form factor is built to last for any platform.
Secure— USB-IF is working to expand the security infrastructure, including the USB Type-C™ Authentication Specification, which enables devices to identify compliant products, such as USB Power Delivery Chargers and cables, and safely upgrade peripheral firmware.
Consistent— As USB Type-C™ evolves, we see a future of connector uniformity on a host, with equal source and sink capabilities alongside identical Alternate Mode support—eliminating consumer confusion with respect to what each port on a host supports.
Compliant—We cannot overemphasize the importance of designing compliant products. Compliant products and designs provide end users and system integrators with consistent and reliable behavior, enabling interoperability across the ecosystem.
USB for Embedded Solutions
Beyond form and function, USB-IF is exploring new opportunities for USB use. As an open, established, and trusted standard, the key characteristics of USB can directly benefit embedded solutions.
The automotive industry, for example, is in a stage of discovery trying to determine the future of connectivity within the car. The key tenant of USB, “it just works,” is a clear proof point to utilize USB for in-vehicle infotainment and user connectivity. Charging ports in cars are in high demand, and we’re looking into how USB Power Delivery and data over USB 3.2 can be adapted to provide power-efficient, robust solutions with minimal wires. The new USB 3.2 specification opens the door for media sharing, image capture, and aggregating sensor data. USB is plug and play and has a unified software stack, which saves development costs. All of these benefits are supported by a well-established ecosystem. And the comprehensive USB-IF compliance program assures compliance to the specification and interoperability.
That being said, we recognize the need to address issues (real or perceived) with using USB for embedded applications. First, it’s right there in the name: “universal” serial bus. A “walk up” port needs to be general, but the lack of optimization for application specific connectivity can be limiting and constricting. Second, in-box USB was not a primary focus in the past, but that does not mean it is a fundamental barrier for expanding USB within the box now. We recognize much of the problem is generality, which is something we are addressing. We’re cutting away what isn’t needed for embedded applications to ensure the industry has the right resources available to develop tailored solutions.
USB-IF is exploring multiple areas to support embedded solutions, including multi-drop, asymmetry (for devices that have predominantly unidirectional traffic) and simplifying enumeration/addressing of devices. There is a need to enable simple hosts and devices and allow scalable hardware and software complexity. We’re also looking into security and link encryption, as well as energy efficiency and reducing wire count.
As you can see, there are a lot of exciting developments in the world of USB. The future of USB is scalable, secure, consistent, and compliant, but it is also adaptive and innovative. USB-IF’s vision goes well beyond devices and aims to modify USB for new applications, including embedded solutions. USB-IF encourages industry developers, product designers, and technology experts to get involved with the organization and attend future USB Developer Days. We also urge you to use industry standard specifications, design compliant products, and submit them for USB-IF certification. Compliant products that achieve USB-IF certification are the backbone of an interoperable ecosystem. For more information about upcoming events or other opportunities, visit http://www.usb.org.
USB Type-C™ and USB-C™ are trademarks of USB Implementers Forum.
Abdul Rahman Ismail is the Chief Technology Officer of the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF). He has been working on USB technologies for over 17 years, participating in the development of the USB Type-C™ Specification, USB Power Delivery Specification, USB Authentication Specification, and others. As a Principal Engineer with Intel®, he leads the design, development, and deployment of USB technology.