When an industry starts to bring in high quality levels for products across the range of products available, an important factor that maintains this quality is that of setting-up specifications. Standards ensure that products in the market, irrelevant of their price point, match high levels of quality and ensure fair competition that favours both customers and competitors alike. While a number of standards are made compulsory by industry or government bodies, there are a few standards that gain prominence in industries as much as mandated ones.
MIPI Alliance is one such example of a trade association that brings together companies to form standards that various industries across the globe are adhering to voluntarily. It is an international organisation that began by developing interface specifications for mobile and mobile-influenced industries, but has since moved into various other industries, including automotive. We met with Peter B Lefkin, Managing Director, MIPI Alliance to understand what this alliance plans to achieve in terms of creating standards, especially with regards to those concerning the automotive industry.
Founded in 2003, MIPI Alliance currently has over 300 member companies globally. Members of the alliance include handset manufacturers, device OEMs, software providers, semiconductor companies, application processor developers, IP tool providers, test and test equipment companies, as well as camera, tablet and laptop manufacturers. There is at least one MIPI specification in every smartphone manufactured today, noted Lefkin.
In addition to this, companies in various vertical markets are also adopting MIPI Alliance specifications for current and future designs. Connected cars developed by automotive firms provide an example of the range of devices and business ecosystems that benefit from MIPI specifications. The alliance has been providing services for the automotive industry over the last 4-5 years, with partners coming in the form of OEMs, component suppliers, as well as engineering service providers. However, it has been more active in this industry over the past year, observed Lefkin.
Lefkin said that MIPI brings together competitive companies within an industry to partner on technologies that are trending in that particular segment, and then creating competition by differentiating their products from one another. The Alliance members define a common interface or specification, and then compete on their individual products, in terms of design, quality and other features.
For the automotive industry, the initial focus of MIPI’s Auto sub-group will be on advanced drive assistance systems (ADAS), specifically related to camera and display components, said Lefkin. He noted that in cars, which are currently being offered with multiple cameras for various views, there is the need to get the camera data to the processor. While there is the issue of the distance the data needs to travel to be processed, there is also the question on where the data is processed – in the camera itself, or in a computing device within the car. Therefore, the work carried out by MIPI addressing the interface challenges for cameras 12-13 years ago is very much like the challenges faced by the automotive industry at present. This is especially true in the case of integrating and networking of multiple cameras within a car, which the alliance can address due to the success it has achieved in the camera industry, added Lefkin.
With regards to autonomous driving, MIPI specifications are not just limited to camera data, but automotive Radar, LiDAR, and other imaging technologies that provide data. MIPI’s Camera Serial Interface (CSI) is evolving to address all of the different mobile requirements, but is also looking at automotive, where the issue is of length and physical layer, he added. The automotive industry is recognising that the work that has been carried out for mobile cameras has applicability in cars.
The automotive industry may not always work directly with MIPI, but with member companies that supply products and tools for the industry. A number of these technology suppliers are developing specific platforms for the car that are fit-for-purpose, including computing and communication devices, screens and cameras, as a whole package, explained Lefkin. He also said that while there are organisations that supply standards for the car in general, OEMs and suppliers are looking for solutions in terms of scaling mobile technologies into the vehicle. MIPI is in a good position here due to its experience in physical layer development, as well as cameras.
MIPI is looking at the automotive industry, but will continue to focus on mobile devices, since that is the alliance’s area of expertise. However, its strategies towards automotive are in line with current trends being seen across market geographies. The alliance is not looking at competing or providing solutions to challenges already being worked on, but rather leverage on such development by partnering with those working on solving challenges in the industry, noted Lefkin. The main aim of MIPI is in helping customers cut their development times and bring products to market faster by working on different approaches to making using of technologies by the application of specifications and standards. Lefkin said that standards set by MIPI are completely voluntary and free to be adopted by industries.
TEXT: Naveen Arul