FireWire Hits The Road

The 1394 Trade Association, the group that "controls" the technical specifications of the Apple-created FireWire bus, has released a preliminary plan for the layout of FireWire equipped automotives. This paves the way for car makers to start incorporating FireWire connectivity in vehicles, allowing electronic devices such as MP3 players, to easily make the jump fore the desktop to the dashboard. According to the 1394 Trade Association:

The 1394 multimedia standard took a major step into automotive applications today, as the 1394 Trade Association and the IDB Forum (Intelligent Transportation System Data Bus) jointly introduced a draft specification defining the enabling requirements for 1394-equipped vehicles.

The new specification establishes the basic architecture, plastic fiber and copper connector specifications for a 1394 multimedia backbone that will provide consumers with 1394-equipped embedded devices and let them connect portable consumer electronics products - such as CD players, DVDs, games or computers - in their cars. The 1394 Trade Associationis Automotive Work Group, chaired by Brad Little of Texas Instruments and co-chaired by Frank Desjarlais of Ford Motor, has worked closely with the IDB Forum and the 1394 Trade Associationis Cable/Connector Working Group to complete the specification.

``What we are developing is a complete 1394-based multimedia backbone that will enable vehicle manufacturers to embed exciting new audio and video capabilities into cars, trucks, SUVs and any other vehicle,ii said Max Bassler of Molex, vice chairman of the 1394 Trade Association. ``The specification also includes a Customer Convenience Port that will let drivers and passengers bring their portable CD players, laptop computers, PDAs, or other devices into the vehicle and plug them in. The port will use the pending 1394b standard so consumers will be able to use the same cable in their home or car, interchangeably.ii

``IDB-1394 bridges the gaps between automotive electronics and consumer electronics by enabling the connection and interoperability of portable consumer electronic devices over the embedded network,ii said Arlan Stehney, executive director of the IDB Forum. Stehney said the Forum and the Trade Association will work closely with leading auto makers to bring initial demonstrations of 1394-enabled vehicles to the annual Convergence 2000 automotive electronics show in Detroit October 16-18.

New Specification Outlines Architecture for 1394-Equipped Vehicles

The IDB-1394 specification is supplemental to the IEEE1394-1995, 1394a-2000 and the upcoming 1394b standard. The next step is completion of the 1394 automotive power management specification, due for completion before the end of this year, Little said. ``The 1394 bus is becoming a pipeline for audio and video in the vehicle,ii said Desjarlais. ``The hardware and software is coming together now for an October demonstration of exciting 1394 products - video displays, DVD, a Playstation II, and other consumer electronics products - in the car.ii

The 1394 Joint Automotive Working Group was formed in January 2000 to leverage the IEEE 1394 standard -- which is also known as FireWire and i.LINK -- for extension into automotive multimedia applications. IDB-1394 defines the automotive grade physical layers, including cables and connectors, power modes, and higher layer protocols required so all 1394 devices interoperate with embedded automotive IDB-1394 devices.

The architecture is divided into an embedded network and a Customer Convenience Port. The embedded network consists of the fiber optic physical network. Residing on the network are various auto components such as DVD players, video displays, navigation systems, radio head units (telematic devices) and other multimedia applications.

The CCP port, which consists of an automotive grade bilingual 1394b physical layer and connector, lets users bring portable consumer electronics devices into their car or truck to access audio and video services over the IDB-1394 interface.

The system topology consists of an embedded plastic optical fiber vehicle network, the embedded devices, one or more CCP interfaces, and the ability to attach hot-pluggable portable devices. The embedded network will support 1394 products running at 100, 200 or 400 Mbits/second. A secure gateway delivered with the vehicle protects critical vehicle services from the multi-media network.

You can find more information at the 1394 Trade Association web site.