TI PINS-DOWN AND DEBUGS
Something old and something new! Texas Instruments is showing the industry how old standards pave way for new technology.
As products evolve, so does the circuitry inside. The smaller the devices get, the more intricate and confusing the chipsets can be. Having an efficient way to debug the products of today and tomorrow can be as important as the products themselves. For a company like Texas Instruments (TI), it's also good business sense. That is what first drew the company to lead the IEEE 1149.7 working group.
IEEE 1149.7 also goes by the lengthy name Standard Test Access Port and Boundary-Scan Architecture. Although it was just ratified in December 2009, the type of technology used in IEEE 1149.7 is not new to TI or the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA). In fact, it's closely related to another existing standard, IEEE 1141.1. However, this is not a replacement. Instead, the new standard adds functionality and improves on its predecessor.
"IEEE 1149.7 is important to TI because it is an industry standard which helps reduce the number pins for debug capability," says Stephen Lau, emulation technology product manager at TI. "It also provides significant new features for debugging modern system on a chip (SoC). Reduced pin requirements leaves more pins available for either other functions or smaller packages. Smaller device packages mean lower prices, while more functions increase the capability of a device."
TI and the IEEE SA
Better prices and features are two things very important to TI and its customers. That's why the company wanted to be involved in shaping IEEE 1149.7. In fact, that's why TI has been involved in the IEEE SA and the standards process for years.
"Standards simplify things for the ecosystem that must support devices. They make it easier for TI's customers when working with TI and non-TI parts," says Lau. "Working group members are there to improve the standard, and engagement is an effective strategy."
TI is very familiar with the standards process, as well as the impact of IEEE 1149.7. In fact, they were part of the process for its predecessor, IEEE 1141.1. Considering that the standard has been in use for more than 20 years, that sounds like a pretty good track record. Over that time, TI has also been involved with other working groups, including those for IEEE 1625-2008 Standard for Rechargeable Batteries for Multi-Cell Mobile Computing Devices and IEEE 1394 FireWire.
However, on longevity alone, IEEE 1149.1 should seem most familiar to those involved in this segment of the industry. It also paved the way for TI's work with the new IEEE 1149.7 standard. However, don't think anyone is showing the door to 1149.1. The new standard was not designed to replace its predecessor. Instead, it's complementary, as well as backwards compatible. "IEEE 1149.7 complements IEEE 1149.1 by extending the capability of IEEE 1149.1," says Lau. "IEEE 1149.7 uses IEEE 1149.1 as its base."
Because IEEE 1149.1 has had such a long history, there are many devices floating around based on this standard. Lau says it's for this reason that compatibility is so important. It also helps ease into use of IEEE 1149.7. "In addition, on-chip integration of what were previously separate devices means that proven IP necessitates compatibility," he says. "Also, the tools industry (from boundary scan to software debuggers) is very familiar with IEEE 1149.1, and being able to leverage their expertise is useful and important."
Of course, IEEE 1149.7 adds functionality while streamlining the debug process—something that many companies can get behind. Coming together with industry leaders to further advance this process is just another reason why it was important to TI to lead the team. "The IEEE 1149.7 test and debug technology will be a milestone for the electronics industry," Lau has said. "Being part of the standards-making process is important because standards are important."