Instead of traditional analog gauges and dials, clusters are going digital. Gauges are displayed on an LCD screen. Ino asked, “What if you turned on the ignition of a new car, and your instrument clusters don’t show up instantaneously?” OEMs and Tier Ones want something like the HyperBus interface for fast boot and quick display solutions, he explained.
If this hypothetical dashboard were an Android smartphone, which typically uses a combination of NAND and DRAM, consumers might be more tolerant of several seconds of boot time. But a delayed display in a car won't be permitted in the automotive world.
Spansion’s HyperFlash NOR memory is designed from the ground up for automotive applications. It withstands under the extended temperatures, ranging from minus 40 to 125 degrees Centigrade, required by automakers.
HyperFlash NOR memory’s use inside infotainment/navigation systems and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) doesn’t mean that it’s replacing NAND flash in such systems. “NOR will be always there,” said Ino. But it leads to a system design using less DRAMs.
By reducing the amount of DRAMs, “system designers can eliminate the number of components in a complex ADAS system, already crammed with a lot of parts,” Ino said. “Fewer components mean reduction in power and boost in reliability in automotive systems.”
Asked if HyperBus interface needs to become an industry standard, Ino explained that Spansion decided to push its proprietary technology as “a de facto standard” due to the pressing market demand. Going through the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC) “would take too long,” he noted.
However, customers might feel differently about HyperBus once they realize that Spansion is the only Flash memory company using that proprietary interface. They often demand second sources.
When asked about this second source, Ino explained, “Spansion has a pin and package compatible Dual-Quad SPI NOR flash, which was introduced last December. This has satisfied our SoC vendors as an alternate solution.”
Ino added, “Nonetheless, we also have multiple fabs as sources to mitigate any production risks. We are also actively exploring second source opportunities at this moment.”
It’s important to note that HyperFlash memory based on the new FlashBus interface will not be totally foreign to system designers who would use it for the first time. Because the HyperFlash NOR memory device is offered on a universal footprint featuring a common pin-out, Spansion claims that it provides a smooth migration path -- from single Quad SPI to Dual Quad SPI to HyperFlash memory. It will allow system applications to be scaled to different levels of flash performance when paired with compatible controllers, said Spanion, giving OEMs the ability to offer different product models with a single design.
Comeback of NOR flash?
The market for NOR flash memory has been shrinking over the last few years, as more handsets turn from NOR to NAND flash, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli.
A big unanswered question is whether HyperFlash NOR flash memory -- armed with fast boot and fast XIP -- can buck the trend of market erosion caused by smartphones. Typically, smartphones use a combination of NAND and DRAM for memory.
Spansion’s Ino believes HyperFlash NOR memory, with its fast boot, “has potential” to replace or reduce DRAMs in smartphones. But for now, the focus is on meeting the immediate demands of the automotive industry, he added.
Applications, other than automotive, include hand-held displays, digital cameras, projectors, factory automation, medical diagnostic equipment, and home automation appliances, according to Spansion.
“As we educate the market on HyperFlash and HyperBus, we are confident that people will find various applications we are not even thinking about right now,” said Ino.
Spansion will offer its HyperFlash Memory family in 3V and 1.8V power-supply versions. It will initially include three densities: 128Mb, 256Mb, and 512Mb.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times