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CSSP platforms expand smart phones' connectivity

Posted: 09 Jul 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:smart phone? UART? GPS? peripheral?

Underscoring its commitment to the mobile electronics market, QuickLogic Corp. has announced the availability of a versatile upgrade path for smart phone developers. The company's recent addition of high-speed UARTs to the library of functions for QuickLogic's low power, configurable Customer Specific Standard Product (CSSP) logic platforms for consumer electronics, offers a power-efficient single-chip solution to expand the interfacing capability of a mobile application processor to support high-data rate Bluetooth, as well as the integration of further high-desirability peripherals such as GPS.

Smart phone firmware can be very sophisticated and migrating software to new host processors can be costly and time-consuming. Unfortunately, the development of some of the underlying mobile application processors has not kept pace with market demand for new features such as VoIP calls and GPS. In particular, some processors have only low-speed UARTs, and just one Secure Digital host controller for peripheral connection.

Search for better performance
Faster UART performance is a common request seen by QuickLogic. The standard UART capability integrated into some recent mobile application processors is a major limiting factor, as it tends to conform to the traditional UART role of low data-rate serial communication for applications such as a PC serial port. This is a particular problem for developers who need to support the latest high-speed enhanced data rate mode of Bluetootha very important function for phones targeting business and high-end users.

Smart phones are also leading the cellular carriers' drive toward supporting major new capabilities such as GPS positioning, location-based services, Wi-Fi capability for VoIP calls etc. A high-speed UART provides a suitable mechanism for interfacing to some GPS chipsets, while another SDIO port offers a simple means of connecting embedded Wi-Fi chipsets.

Extending mobile apps' resources
One of QuickLogic's CSSPs, the PolarPro platform, is providing smart phone developers with a means of expanding the native host controller resources of the phone's mobile application processor. One of the smallest devices in the family, which consumes less than 10?A in standby mode and comes in thin-profile fine-pitch BGA packages as compact as 5mm x 5mm, can easily integrate two high-speed UARTs and an additional SDIO port, as well as the processor interface required.

This CSSP approach provides a low power, single-chip solution that contrasts well against alternative implementation strategies. There are commercial devices available for additional SDIO host controllers, or devices offering multiple high-speed UARTs, but using both would eat up valuable real estate on an already densely packed PCB. Migrating to another state-of-the-art processor is always an alternative, but this demands a major investment in software porting effort, as well as time. Conventional logic could also implement the functionality required, but this technology is generally viewed as too power hungry and costly for consumer applications such as this.

CSSPs' capabilities
In addition to this simple UART-and-SDIO example, CSSPs can be used to provide a wide range of high-level capabilities such as USB on-the-go, dynamic LCD contrast control, flexible memory interfacing and autonomous data transfer engines that can operate without waking up the host CPU. QuickLogic said: "CSSPs really provide the 'missing link' in today's consumer semiconductor world, offering a mechanism that can expand the capabilities of ASSPs or CPUs both cost effectively and with very low-power consumption."

The first platform in QuickLogic's latest PolarPro II family offers a capacity of 27 customizable building blocks (CBBs), a measure of the level of functionality that can be integrated. A high-speed UART from QuickLogic's library requires five CBBs, and an SDIO port. Together with the logic required to implement an application processor interface, this device provides a cost-effective solution for the smart phone configuration. Other larger PolarPro platforms are available for OEMs and ODMs that require more functionality, as well as devices that combine hard-wired functions with a programmable fabric.

- Clive Maxfield
Programmable Logic DesignLine

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