Sub-system definition is “a group of independent but interrelated elements comprising a unified whole” (www.thefreedictionary.com/subsystem).
When using the term subsystem it all depends on the context as to what system you’re referring to.
For example mobile SoC interfacing with camera, requires camera sub-system to handle all of the interface from the external image sensor (camera) up to the internal processor that receives the extracted data to do other tasks such as sending to display, post process, pack, store, transmit, etc. The camera subsystem comprised therefore with physical layer that handles all high speed transmissions and signaling and protocol layer that unpacks the pixels and sends to processor.
In a similar way SoC’s display sub-system takes care of grabbing the data, packing it properly, taking care of all sync signals and transmitting it out via the physical interface through the traces to the embedded display.
Here’s a diagram that illustrates the building blocks for camera subsystem (in Yellow square) and display subsystem (in light blue square) on the SoC host device communicating with external image sensor and display.
Synopsys has integrated complete camera and display subsystems into SoC environment using FPGA prototyping platform with D-PHY daughter card emulating the entire SoC configuration. The FPGA has CSI2 and DSI host controllers connected to the D-PHYs and externally connecting the ‘SoC’ environment to commercially available image sensors and displays.
This entire configuration allows customers to have system-proven configuration from the IP level to the system level that includes all components for SoC design, testing and manufacturing.
See video of the system’s capabilities here:
As complexity of SoCs increases subsystems become more important to reduce risk of integration and interoperability with external devices.
You can read more about MIPI Camera and display interfaces here: How the Next-Generation of Camera and Display Interfaces Impact Mobile Electronics.
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