To USB or Not to USB


“The Future of High Performance Flash Cards” (& USB 3.0)

Today at the Flash Memory Summit, Lexar’s Jonathan Hubert presented “The Future of High Performance Flash Cards.”   The proposed standard called “BluLightning” transfers data faster than SDXC. In fact, BluLightning uses USB 3.0.

The Problem

Anyone buying a digital camera these days knows that transferring 2 or 4 or 8 GB of pictures takes forever.  This is limited by the card speed itself.  You can see from the website that the faster card readers are limited to about 27 MB/s.  This speed is probably limited by the SD read speed more than anything else. USB 2.0 might be the bottleneck, if it’s a bad host implementation or a poor host PHY, or similarly on the Device.  These days,the cheapest give-away USB flash drives still have this problem.

The fastest SD standard, SD UHS-1 goes up to only 104 MB/s compared to USB 3.0’s 320+ MB/s.   But, to my knowledge, these devices aren’t yet available.  If SD UHC-1 was available, you’d need a USB 3.0 card reader to make it work fast.

The point is this, the bottleneck is the flash card standard, not USB 2.0. 

The Solution – BluLightning

BluLightning is a flash card form factor with the same volume and physicimageal dimensions of a CompactFlash cards.  BluLightning uses USB 3.0 to provide a really fast data transfer PIPE from something like a Digital Camera to a Flash Memory Card.     USB 3.0 at 320+ MB/s  runs faster than SD UHS-1 at 104MB/s.   This means that there is room to grow.  You can use USB 3.0 to get your photos and videos from your Card to your PC much, much faster.  This is even more important for HD DVCs that record Gigabytes of data per hour of HD video recorded.

 USB 3.0 Cable to

I should point out at this point that this eliminates the need for a Card Reader, you just use a standard USB 3.0 Cable. So that saves Consumers some money.  You can use the same USB 3.0 cable for your camera, DVC, or card reader.

So speed is good, but why is BluLightning cool?

BluLightning cleverly employs USB 3.0 standard protocols, electricals, connectors, and cables.

Um, again, why is this cool?

This means that you can re-use existing USB 3.0

  1. Software Drivers & Stacks – you can leverage open source drivers, 3rd party software like those from our USB Software Alliance
  2. IP/Cores/Controllers – The protocol engines can be used “as is” like the IP from Synopsys
  3. PHYs – The PHYs are identical to existing USB 3.0 IP

It turns out that Synopsys has all this USB IP, specifically USB 3.0 PHY IP, USB 3.0 Digital Cores, and USB 3.0 VIP.

And our USB Software Alliance partners with USB 3.0 can provide compatible drivers and stacks.

Wow, that will save me months, and months of engineering time and money, while lowering my risk at implementing a new standard!

Probably. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

That’s not very objective!

BluLighting solves a problem everyone with a Digital Video Camera knows about and can feel.   (and Camera owners too).  The more leverage we get as an industry from existing standards, the faster we can get time to result, time to market, and value into consumers hands.

Who backs this standard today?

“BluLightning is a Lexar initiative with open industry meetings under the Compact Flash Association”*

This means the people that actually build digital cameras and DVCs

think and breathe this everyday and night.

How do I find out more?

Ask questions below, I’ll answer. I can get answers from Jonathan and his team behind BluLightning.  I’ll post more on this in the next few days including more on form-factor, applications, and other interesting stuff.


*All the data, graphics, basically everything on BluLightning was taken from Johnathan Hubert’s presentation with permission of Lexar.

**All opinions are mine, and mine alone. (But you knew that).

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