After smartphones, cars are becoming the next extension of connected lives, and it's apparent from how connectivity is taking the center-stage in automotive infotainment designs. Look at the major infotainment announcements during the past six months or so, and connectivity is the key design theme.
Take the 2018 Audi A8, for instance, which allows drivers and passengers to connect to up to eight devices at one time to Alpine communication unit’s Wi-Fi hotspot. The communication unit is designed by e.solutions, a joint undertaking of Audi and Elektrobit. The communication unit design, based on a combo solution from Cypress Semiconductor, combines 802.11ac and Bluetooth connectivity mechanisms inside vehicles. Thus, it allows two unique data streams to run at full throughput simultaneously.
The CYW89359 combo solution (Figure 1) claims to support 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11ac as well as dual-mode Bluetooth/Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) streams simultaneously. It's based on the Real Simultaneous Dual Band (RSDB) architecture that integrates two Wi-Fi subsystems into a single chip. That allows the RSDB technology to operate communication environments like Apple's CarPlay and Wi-Fi hotspot concurrently without any degradation caused by switching between RF bands.
Another design case study showing the nexus of communications and infotainment is Valens’ HDBaseT Automotive technology that allows the simultaneous transmission of high-definition video and audio, Ethernet and control data over a single, unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable for up to 15 meters.
In Figure 2, Valens, a designer of the automotive connectivity solutions, is using the Distributed Playback in-vehicle media distribution system from Cinemo as well as Accordo5 infotainment processor and Telemaco3P telematics processor from STMicro.
Finally, take the case of Microchip's smart hub ICs for in-vehicle USB designs. The five new chips based on the USB 2.0 standard cater to multiple architectures to allow automotive OEMs and Tier 1's to interface with major smartphone platforms.
Moreover, these USB chips enable the cascading of the hubs to the second- and third-row seats in vehicles. And if there are dual USB ports, one port can connect the mobile device to the head unit, and the other port can either wireless charge the mobile device or transfer data.