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ADI rolls out low-end telematics platform

Posted: 10 Jul 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:analog devices? telematics platform? blackfin processor? gps? speech recognition?

Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) has rolled out a new telematics platform, which it claims will cut costs for first-tier suppliers and automakers by 50 percent or more.

By introducing the new platform, ADI executives hope to provide a shot in the arm for the struggling automotive telematics market, which brings voice and data communications to vehicles.

"One of the challenges the auto industry is facing is that telematics is not a popular option, primarily because of the price point," said Mark Gill, product line manager for Analog Devices. "Right now, our objective is not so much to save money for automakers, as much as to just make this market happen."

Based on the company's Blackfin processor, the platform will reportedly serve as a single-chip solution, enabling developers of automotive telematics systems to replace a chipset that typically includes a microprocessor and a pair of DSPs. By doing so, the new platform drives down the cost of a telematics platform from between $40 to $75 per vehicle to less than $20 in 100,000-unit quantities, the company said.

The new Blackfin Car telematics platform will serve as the hardware and software foundation, incorporating computing power for such functions as hands-free phone operation, Global Positioning Satellite navigation, speech recognition, noise reduction, echo cancellation and text-to-speech capabilities, among others.

By applying the Blackfin processor architecture to telematics, the company's executives hope to provide enough of a performance boost so that telematics developers won't need to augment microprocessors with DSPs and specialized crossbar switches that enable multiple processors to communicate with one another. Because Blackfin architecture runs at speeds of up to 600MHz, and because it incorporates DSP-like capabilities, ADI engineers said it can run several algorithms concurrently without requiring additional hardware back up.

"The telematics processors that we plan to replace tend to be older, low-performance technologies running in the 100MHz to 160MHz range," Gill said.

By cutting costs so dramatically, the company hopes to push telematics usage down from luxury cars into mid-level and even low-end vehicles.

"If you're selling a $50,000 luxury vehicle, then a $2,000 option isn't a big worry," Gill said. "But in a $20,000 or $15,000 or even a $12,000 vehicle, putting in an expensive option is a real struggle."

Automotive industry analysts said last week that ADI's new approach could be well-suited to the low end of the market, but might struggle at the higher end.

"As long as the telematics applications are simple, this should get the job done," said Frank Viquez, director of automotive electronics for Allied Business Intelligence Inc. "But it remains to be seen whether or not they can pull this off for complicated speech recognition or text-to-speech applications."

- Charles J. Murray

EE Times

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