MIPI aims to standardise sensor interfaces in smartphones


MIPI interfaces in a mobile device

MIPI interfaces in a mobile device

The MIPI Alliance is to develop interface specifications for sensors, including MEMS sensors, used in mobile devices.

The cross-industry organisation, which develops the physical layer interface specifications for chip-to-chip and chip-to-board interfaces in mobile devices, has been working with MEMS sensor suppliers and has created a sensor working group to help define specifications for the mobile phone developers to integrate sensors into their devices.

According to Mike Krell, director, marketing and membership at MIPI Alliance, mobile devices can have 10 or more sensors with 20 signals per device, and the digital interface landscape is fragmented and current standard architectures do not scale to reach future demands.

“Sensor vendors were cautious at first, but now they realise it is not threatening,” said Peter Lefkin, managing director, MIPI Alliance.

Does this mean the most commomonly used sensor interface, I2C, will be replaced by a MIPI specification?

“The issue is I2C has not evolved and devices with multiple sensors may be looking for another approach,” said Lefkin. “The interest is there amongst sensor vendors, now we must find the right path.”

It is likely NXP, lead developer of the I2C spec, will play a role in any proposed MIPI sensor specification.

The working group will address these issues and will include Ken Foust, Sensor Technologist at Intel, as chairman and Satwant Singh, Director of Strategic Planning with Lattice Semiconductor as vice chairman.

Lefkin believes the sensor specification will see MIPI standard interfaces being used outside of mobile devices in new application areas such as automotive, medical, cameras and scanners. “Where silicon goes, MIPI will follow,” said Lefkin.

According to Lefkin, developing specifications for non-mobile applications may see MIPI interfases going in the direction of higher power, longer range and even optical.

“The sensor specification should be available late 2014,” said Lefkin.

Before this the Alliance will introduce a high quality audio interface standard by Q2 of next year.

MIPI Alliance  was founded in 2003  and currently has more than 260 member companies specifying physical layer specifications for interfaces within the mobile phone. To date there are 45 MIPI standard interfaces.

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