Inova Semiconductors GmbH is a fabless semiconductor manufacturer headquartered in Munich, Germany. The company was founded in 1999 and specializes in the development of state-of-the-art products for Gigabit/s serial data communication. The products are manufactured at leading factories in Europe and Asia and sold through a widespread world-wide distribution network.
Pioneering Digital Display Links
With the introduction of its first product in 2000 - the GigaSTaR link - the company has been focusing on the interconnection between graphic sources and displays. The unique capability of establishing reliable long-distance display links - either through STP copper or fiber optic cable also in harsh environmental conditions - has made the GigaSTaR link technology popular in the industry. On production floors, it connects displays with computers across distances of up to 50 meters, transmitting digital graphics together with the signals of the common Universal Serial Bus (USB).
GigaSTaR enables simple and loss-free signal repetition (repeaters). The technology is also employed in passenger infotainment systems in trains, buses, subways and other public transportation means. The ability to deliver graphic signals in perfect digital quality from one single source (= video server) to 60 and more TFT displays throughout the train has made GigaSTaR the preferred technology for so called passenger infotainment systems among major train manufacturers and equipment suppliers around the world.
With the launch of the “Digital Display Link (DDL)” in 2003, Inova Semiconductors has added another product to its portfolio that is even more dedicated to display applications. The DDL’s built-in return channel plus extra bi-directional sideband channels provide for applications in which additional signals - like analog/digital audio, RS232, PS/2 or even USB - have to be transmitted in addition to the digital video signal (DVI), e.g. for digital KVM extenders, “digital signage” applications or LED video walls.
Making it into the Car
In 2007, Inova Semiconductors added a new product to its portfolio, the “APIX” (Automotive Pixel Link), designed to fulfill the demands of high-resolution in-car video applications. Meeting the highest automotive EMI requirements, APIX can be used to establish multiple display links with a bandwidth of up to one Gbit/s over a single pair of copper cable. Adjustable output drive and preemphasis current facilitate the adaptation to various cables and distances of below one to more than 15 meters.
In addition to connecting TFT displays to graphic units, the APIX link can also be used to connect CCD/CMOS camera sensors of upcoming single-/multi-view driver assistance systems to a central processor unit or directly to a TFT display, e.g. for rear-drive cameras. Similar to the GigaSTaR technology, the APIX products feature built-in bi-directional sideband channels which provide for the transmission of additional control signals at a data rate of up to 18 Mbit/s. This way, a remote camera link can be established. The camera signal, bi-directional I²C bus plus the supply for the camera require no more than a tiny two-pair copper cable.
The APIX INAP125T/R24/12 devices are AEC-Q100 qualified and “on the road” in first automobiles as of 2008. Moreover, Fujitsu Microelectronics has launched first graphic- and display-controller products that feature an integrated APIX interface. Further semiconductor manufacturers will follow to present graphic products with an integrated APIX interface. Just recently, Inova Semiconductors has introduced the first APIX solutions with field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). The company offers a complete IP package for the Xilinx Automotive (XA) Spartan® 3E family enabling FPGAs to communicate with other modules that contain either an embedded or discrete APIX function. A dedicated protocol, known as AShell, which is also part of the IP package, ensures flawless and protected data transmission over the APIX interface.
The APIX link has not only proven to be the ideal solution for video and network applications in cars. It has also aroused a lot of interest in other market segments, such as security & surveillance, as well as medical applications or consumer camera systems.