Philips on the go for USB breakthrough

Philips Semiconductors in Singapore is working on a high-speed universal serial bus (USB) on-the-go (OTG) transceiver that can...

Philips Semiconductors in Singapore is working on a high-speed universal serial bus (USB) on-the-go (OTG) transceiver that can achieve a throughput of up to 480Mbps.

The project follows two ground-breaking releases from the company - a single-chip USB OTG controller, the Philips ISP1362, launched in January, and the ISP1301 USB OTG transceiver, which was unveiled earlier this month.

Both the ISP1362 and ISP1301 were developed in Singapore by a team of 61 professionals, including architects, design engineers, application engineers and software engineers. Four patents were filed based on the development of the ISP1362.

USB OTG is a supplement to the ubiquitous USB standard and is being developed by a consortium of companies that includes Intel, Philips and Hewlett-Packard.

The specification allows mobile phones, handhelds, digital cameras and other portable devices that can be connected to a PC as a USB peripheral, to "host" other USB devices. The dual-role USB OTG device can connect to either a PC, or directly to another USB device via a new "Mini-AB" connector.

According to Tee Chee Yen, technical marketing manager at Philips Semiconductors Singapore, the USB OTG initiative was initially driven by mobile phone manufacturers such as Qualcomm and Motorola, who wanted host functions for point-to-point connectivity in their devices.

The Philips team had to develop software that supports USB functions via host stacks, as opposed to focusing on device stacks and drivers for traditional USB devices. It also developed a software suite that accompanies the Philips ISP1362 - the FlexiStack On-The-Go software suite that can be used for development on a variety of operating system environments.

According to Tee, one of the key challenges in developing the USB OTG chips was to reduce power utilisation to 8mA (milliamps), much less than the 100mA to 500mA that conventional USB uses.

Devices sporting USB OTG are expected to be on sale by the end of the year and consumers can look forward to a slew of USB OTG-compliant devices ranging from mobile phones from Nokia and Motorola, personal digital assistants from Palm, HP and Sony and digital still cameras from Kodak.

Despite the trend towards implementing wireless networking specifications such as Bluetooth for personal devices to interface with one another, Tee believes USB OTG offers the benefits of speed at lower costs.

Both the ISP1362 and the ISP1301 USB OTG transceivers can utilise the full 12Mbps bandwidth of USB Specification Rev. 2.0 while being downward compatible with USB Specification Rev. 1.1 devices that run up to 1.5Mbps.

At the same time, the cost of implementing USB OTG in a device is low - the ISP1362 will sell for $3.50 while the ISP1301 will sell for $1.20.

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