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Third-party I/O hubs adapt Atom E6xx for vehicle and media phone use

Sep 17, 2010 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

Two companies have spun products taking advantage of the new Atom E6xx's use of PCI Express as an interconnect. Harman International announced its ICM (IVI Compute Module) for automotive infotainment systems, and Rohm announced I/O hubs and supporting chipsets for both auto and “IP media phone” use.

Earlier this week, Intel announced the Atom E6xx — previously known only as "Tunnel Creek" — touting features already offered on some other Atoms (low power consumption and an integrated graphics controller, for example). But the E6xx is unique, the chipmaker added, in that instead of using a proprietary interconnect between the CPU and an I/O controller, it employs the industry-standard PCI Express bus.

As a result, third-party vendors will be able to create their own IOH (I/O hub) chips for the E6xx, adding custom functionality. Meanwhile, Intel's own EG20T (pictured at right, and block diagram, here) will be offered for those requiring typical interfaces such as SATA, USB client, SD/SDIO/MMC, and gigabit Ethernet, as well as general embedded interfaces such as CAN, SPI, I2C, UART, and GPIO. 

We've already reported that STMicroelctronics announced a "ConneXt" IOH this week, designed specifically for situations where the Atom E6xx is employed in in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems. When it's available next year, this device will include Ethernet AVB (audio video bridging), CAN, and MOST (media oriented systems transport), as well as general purpose I/Os such as SATA and USB On-the-Go for broader applications, according to the company.

An auto-centric IOH, and more

Now, Harman International has released generalized information about what appears to be another E6xx IOH, combined with other yet-to-be-specified components. The company touts its ICM (IVI Compute Module) as being the "first … developed especially for the automotive industry."

It's said the module will enable infotainment system scaling from mid to high-end functionality with the same connector footprint, reducing development efforts. The device is initially based on the E6xx, but "the connector and pin-out definition will be capable of supporting future generations of processors … with no fundamental changes to the carrier board, head unit architecture or form factor," Harman promised.

An Atom-based vehicle infotainment system
Source: Harman International

Sachin Lawande, Harman's chief technology officer, stated, "We are pleased to work with Intel and to announce a further major milestone in Harman's commitment to enable open infotainment platforms for the automotive industry. The new Intel Atom processor-based solution will provide higher flexibility, lower material costs and better performance-density, setting a clear standard for future platform developments."

Harman International cites BMW, Hyundai, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, and Toyota as being among its automotive customers. The company owns A/V brands that include AKG, Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Leixon, and Mark Levinson.

I/O hubs for both cars and phones

Meanwhile, Rohm and its Oki Semiconductor division announced two application-specific IOHs for the Atom E6xx. The ML7213 is intended for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI), while the ML7223(V) is intended for what the company describes as "web-enabled media phones."

A block diagram of Rohm's ML7213
(Click to enlarge)

According to Rohm, the ML7213 (block diagram, above) is connected to the E6xx via a single PCI Express x1 lane, and converts the CPU's SDVO signals to digital RGB, among other things. The IOH includes multiple audio interfaces (six I2S and two TDM), three serial ports, four USB ports (one host/device switchable), two SD hosts, two SATA II ports, and support for the MOST (media oriented systems transport) bus, the company says.

Meanwhile, the ML7223(V) connects to the E6xx via two PCI Express x1 lanes, "with population of real-time network-related functions on a lane to secure QoS," says Rohm. Again offering a video input and SDVO-to-RGB conversion, the device is said to include a gigabit Ethernet MAC, four USB 2.0 hosts, an SATA port, two SD hosts, two serial ports, SPI, I2C, and eight GPIOs.

A block diagram of Rohm's ML7223(V)
(Click to enlarge)

Rohm says the ML7223(V), a block diagram of which is pictured above, offers echo and noise cancellation functionality, supporting hands-free telephony. The IOH is further said to provide built-in security, with hardware acceleration for IPsec and support for 3DES, AES, and SHA1/265/MD5 encryption.

Adding that the ML7213 and ML7223(V) may optionally be linked to FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays), Rohm also announced two supporting power management ICs (the BD9591MWV and BD9594MWV) as well as a clock generator IC (the BU7335MWV).

According to the company, the power management ICs supply all of the voltage rails required not only for the E6xx series and the EG20T, but also for the DDR2 memory and BIOS-storage SPI flash connected to the CPU. It's claimed the ICs control start-up and power-down sequencing, eliminating the need for an external microcontroller or CPLD (complex programmable logic device).

Plaudits from Intel

Ton Steenman, general manager of Intel's low-power embedded products division, stated, "Standards-based platforms will save development costs and improve time-to-market for infotainment designs. [Harman's] IVI Compute Module combined with the Atom processor will help the automotive industry more easily implement a standards approach and ultimately increase their pace of innovation."

Regarding the Rohm products, Steenman further stated, "By providing dedicated PMIC and clock generator chips as well as application-specific input/output hubs (through OKI Semiconductor) to support Atom E6xx designs, Rohm Group products will help reduce design complexity and cost for embedded customers."

Further information

Neither Harman nor Rohm cited availability or pricing information for the products mentioned in this story. Further details of the Rohm products may be found in PDF format, here, while a video demonstrating Harman's Atom-based automotive technology may be found here.

An interactive block diagram highlighting the Atom E6xx and EG20T I/O controller may be found on Intel's website, here.

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