High-end electronics provide drivers and passengers with in-car navigation and entertainment and information delivered over a wireless network. In fact, many car buyers today care more about the infotainment technologies embedded in the dashboard than what’s under the hood. This phenomenon is requiring additional storage space for rich multimedia data and advanced software and applications and is driving an explosive growth of both volatile and nonvolatile memories. Embedded multimedia cards are helping meet this demand in today’s memory-hungry automotives.
Automotive electronics are memory hungry
The explosive growth of infotainment systems in modern cars has a significant impact on the market demand for semiconductor memories. For 2012, the average memory content of a car was estimated to be around US$12.8, ranging from US$2.0 for low-end models to more than US$100 for fully equipped luxury vehicles. As a result, the total available market value for semiconductor memories in automotive applications is expected to reach a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of more than 9 percent from 2011 to 2015, well above the overall CAGR for the total memory semiconductor market, which is less than 7 percent.
Managed NAND: Ideal solution for car infotainment
New memory solutions, specifically tailored for automotive infotainment systems, are needed to provide additional storage space for rich infotainment multimedia data and advanced software and applications. An example is the embedded multimedia card device, a nonvolatile memory option (Figure 1). It has all the features needed to support navigation and infotainment applications such as detailed 3D maps, traffic monitoring, meteorological information, car radioand multimedia, e-call, and voice recognition. Embedded multimedia card memory is a standardized version of the “managed NAND” memory architecture. It is essentially a module based on a bank of nonvolatile NAND flash devices and is internally managed by an ad hocmicrocontroller (Figure 2).
The primary advantage to the user is that an embedded multimedia card’s memory is fully managed and independent from the NAND technology inside. As NAND flash geometries shrink, the technology becomes more complex to manage in terms of dealing with increased Error Correction Code (ECC) requirements, wear leveling, and bad block management. NAND flash is also variable in terms of road-map changes that require updates to software and perhaps even at the controller level.
Embedded multimedia card memory is backward compatible and has a standard interface so that changes to the NAND are transparent to the application. This means that developers don’t have to bother with dedicated software to manage the complexity of NAND flash. Embedded multimedia card memory uses standard interfaces, and functions are geared to match JEDEC specifications.
Micron Technology, for example, provides a wide range of densities of its Embedded MultiMedia Card (e•MMC), 4 GB to 64 GB, with an integrated 16-bit NAND controller that offers more robust management and memory optimization compared to discrete NAND devices. An evolution toward 256 GB modules has already been defined. The next step will be the development of higher-density managed NAND memory solutions like Solid State Drive (SSD) modules and higher-performance 32-bit microcontrollers. All of Micron’s e•MMC devices are available in JEDEC-standard 100-ball, 1 mm pitch and 153-ball/169-ball, 0.5 mm pitch BGA packages, easing the design and validation process that is critical to the fast pace of product development in the automotive segment.
An answer to automotive application needs
Quality is an important factor for the rapidly innovative in-vehicle infotainment electronics market, and memory is the backbone of this segment where semiconductor products must meet specific automotive-grade certifications. Accordingly, embedded multimedia cards have special features to meet automotive requirements, such as dedicated test pads for failure analysis. The NAND devices inside these modules can be accessed without going through the controller, enabling a full and comprehensive check of the memory bank.
e•MMC devices are fully operational at -40 °C to +85 °C so that data written into the memory at the lowest end of the temperature range is still valid when read at peak temperature, and vice versa. Power-loss protection is another advantage. And in the final analysis, embedded multimedia cards help enable a rich infotainment experience – and a safe ride – for driver and passengers.
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