TORONTO — The introduction of its HyperBus family of technology nearly three years ago has put Cypress in the driver's seat when it comes to supporting automotive backup cameras, and will keep it moving toward supporting technologies necessary for autonomous vehicles.
The company recently announced the ability to puts its HyperFlash and HyperRAM technologies together in a single packaged while using the HyperBus interface. While not a revolutionary change to the technology, it was driven by customer demand, Rainer Hoehler, VP of the company's flash business unit told EE Times in a telephone interview. “Customers wanted one package."
The small-footprint memory solution is aimed at support instant-on applications, particularly those in the automotive and industrial Internet of Things segments. It contains Cypress's 3V 512-Mbit HyperFlash and 64-Mbit HyperRAM memories in a multi-chip package, combining a high-speed NOR flash memory for fast-boot, instant-on capability with a self-refresh DRAM for expanded scratchpad memory in a low-pin-count package for space-constrained and cost-optimized embedded designs.
The new MCP uses the company 12-pin HyperBus interface and is housed in a 24ball BGA package that shares a common footprint with both discrete HyperFlash and HyperRAM products. By using the same footprint, said Hoehler, design engineers can implement a single-pad layout that supports either discrete device or the HyperFlash and HyperRAM MCP, which means they can make changes at any point In the design or product lifecycle without affecting board layout.
Cypress' HyperBus boasts a 70% reduction in pin-count that simplifies PCB design and lowers system cost.
In addition to shrinking the footprint, the MPC lends itself to simpler designs, he said, and as a result, also leads to lower costs. Particularly critical to automive market is the quick startup times. “What people really get out the HyperBus and HyperRAM is very fast boot time."
Hoehler said the company's expectation was that some automotive cluster applications might only use the HyperFlash, depending on the sophistication of the graphics, but has come to see a variety of interfaces feeding into these clusters. Some customers, he said only want HyperRAM for their industrial applications to take advantage of HyperBus' low pin count.
While it possible that these automotive infontaiment systems might be become more modular and removable, similar to the car stereo systems of the past, Hoehler said Cypress has come across it yet, but acknowledges that systems will become more customizable and configurable. “That trend is definitely there."
Tom Hackenberg, principal analyst for embedded processors at IHS Markit Technology, told EE Times in a telephone interview that while the initial advent of the Cypress' HyperRAM and HyperFlash solutions were “game changing", the single package offering using the HyperBus technology is more iterative. “It's an evolutionary change."
This latest announcement does have its merits, he said, and speak to the advantages of simplicity in the design process to accelerate the introduction of new products. “This is a trend that's happening all over the place, where we are seeing a lot of integration of components to reduce complexity and speed up the time to market."
The HyperBus single-pad layout supports any combination of HyperFlash, HyperRAM, or HyperFlash + HyperRAM MCP
The single package of both HyperRAM and HyperFlash will save significant space, said Hackenberg, which is at premium in the application segments Cypress is targeting, such as automotive. Including the HyperRAM may not always be necessary, he added, depending on what the OEM wants to do, as the processor may have sufficient onboard memory, but it would be rare there would be HyperRAM without HyperFlash. “The reduced memory footprint can open opportunities to add other features on the board, such as a higher performance process or sensor."
Automotive is really the primary target market for Cypress, said Hackenberg, and not just because of the small footprint of the single package. The “instant on" capability places in the company is an excellent position to me the requirements of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), specifically backup cameras, which will be mandated for all vehicles under 10,000 lbs. by 2018. “As part of the stipulation, it has to produce an image in two seconds or less," he said. “HyperFlash memory is one the best at addressing the low latency issue in time to meet those specifications."
Cypress is already well-positioned in the automotive market, in part due its merger with Spansion, which initially introduced the HyperBus technology in February 2014. “This particular improvement is a somewhat significant step," said Hackenberg, even if it is more of an evolutionary than disruptive change.
In the meantime, he said the automotive market is relatively stable, as it is slow to change technologies. “It usually takes three to five years for new technology to actually hit the market where consumers can find it in a vehicle." Hackeberg said Cypress has become the leading NOR flash provider in the automotive industry due in large part to the HyperFlash technology and by targeting video imaging latency, which will be a challenge for autonomous vehicles that will have multiple cameras.
“Where they've gone and where they are headed is exciting."
—Gary Hilson is a general contributing editor with a focus on memory and flash technologies for EE Times.