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    Software-defined radio SoCs remaking car infotainment

    Simplifies the design, lowers the cost, and shrinks the size of the head unit.

    By Majeed Ahmad | June 26, 2017

    Infotainment—the unsung hero of automotive electronics—is continuously making strides while more chic technologies like ADAS and automated driving are stealing most of the headlines. A single piece of infotainment hardware covering multiple broadcast radio requirements simplifies the design, lowers the cost, and shrinks the size of the head unit.

    Car infotainment is still a major differentiator amid a strong consumer demand. So what’s driving this change in vehicle infotainment design? It’s the software-defined radio (SDR) technology and the single-chip solutions that it’s enabling to incorporate multiple radio broadcast standards around the globe.

    The SDR capability allows infotainment system-on-chips (SoCs) to support multiple analog and digital broadcast standards such as AM/FM, DAB+, DRM(+) and HD.

    Two product announcements made earlier this year clearly mark this shift in automotive radio design. NXP’s SAF4000 RF CMOS chipset boasts a fully integrated SDR that replaces the multi-chip infotainment design with an ultra-compact hardware device.

    That, according to NXP, allows automotive designers to replace a large PCB and six different ICs with a single-chip infotainment solution. NXP also claims that its multi-standard radio processor with integrated audio delivers up to 60 percent power and space savings in head unit designs.

    RF CMOS

    NXP employs the RF CMOS integration prowess to create an SoC that replaces six radio and audio chips in car infotainment design.

    Software-defined radio or SDR is also the centerpiece of the remote radio tuner architecture from Maxim Integrated that eliminates the need for a dedicated baseband processor for each radio broadcast standard. Simply change the software in the MAX2175 tuner chip and support any radio broadcast standard.

    MAX2175 chip from Maxim Integrated

    The MAX2175 chip from Maxim Integrated replaces multiple tuners in car’s head unit with a single analog/digital hybrid radio receiver.

    The switching between analog and digital radio standards via software on a single piece of hardware just affirms the SDR promise. Luca De Ambroggi, principal analyst for automotive ICs at IHS Markit, says that this flexibility makes the software-defined approach crucial in automotive electronics.
    Tags: car infotainment, radio tuner, SDR, RF CMOS