To USB or Not to USB


Synopsys at Type C (USB-C) Plugfest and Synopsys USB Type C IP Solutions

Morten Christiansen authored today’s blog on the industry’s first plugfest earlier this month.  At this exciting event, USB Engineers (no marketing people generally) bring their products on carts, and go from hotel room to hotel room interoperating their products with stationary products.  Morten as spent a lot of time writing and contributing to standards at Ericsson for mobile phones.  He’s our Technical Marketing Manager for USB products, a great guy and a fantastic engineer, and a true expert on USB applications.  Hopefully he will write for us more in the future.


USB Type C on HAPS Hanging out on a cart in a Hotel room for the plugfest

Picture 1:  A cart with multiple PCs, FPGA boards, power supplies and cables is required to move around and test prototypes. This is the ‘business end’ of the cart.

I attended the Type-C InterOp Event in Portland, OR a few weeks ago. InterOp Events and PlugFests are fun, scary and interesting. Test results are for information only and not published. Without breaking any confidentiality agreements; here are some of my thoughts on Type-C based on this event:

InterOp background:

The purpose of an InterOp Event is to provide the industry an opportunity for early testing of devices and systems. Early products are by definition designed based on an immature understanding of the relevant specifications. It also happens that errors or inconsistencies exists in the specifications. How the design handles this affect interoperability. However, early testing mainly benefits the end-users. By testing and verifying products before they are shipping in volume to end-users, specification compliance and interoperability is verified.

Products based on mature specifications can easily and effectively be tested by certified test-houses. The process is simple: Pack up the system, send it to the test-house and wait for the test certificate. When designers do their job properly; no excitement. InterOp Events and PlugFests on the other hand are far more interesting.

This Type-C InterOp Event had approx 100 registered attendees. 45 registered roving devices moved around the hotel for 3 days. Each of the devices could visit 26 test suites with vendor systems, hosts and stationary devices. I addition, the USB-IF hosted 5 compliance test suites.

The fun:

Packing, shipping and setting up the prototype system, lugging it around for 3 days before repacking and preparing for transport back to HQ is not fun. Meeting old friends from yesteryears is fun. Reminding each other of previous events, non-working devices, the steep learning curve and the first successes. “And this time we are so much better prepared.” As a former designer I also enjoyed technical discussions with

The scary:

InterOp can be scary. Hopefully the “will it work?” question has been addressed in the lab before going to such an event. However there is always the possibility that your product could “crash and burn”. At this event, there were no recorded casualties. I am aware of one system that died after connecting to an alien device. However as the backup system arrived next morning, the dead system suddenly worked again. Apparent self-healing is one of the interesting things that does happen at InterOp. It also happens that systems and devices die overnight, for no apparent reason. At previous events, recorded casualties have been numerous. 5V@3A is significant power and can cause damage in modern chips that work at less than 1V. When Power Delivery is enabled, up to 20V@5A is available. Systems have actually caught fire at previous InterOp events!

Synopsys USB Type Con on HAPS DX at July 2015 USB-C Plugfest

Picture 2: Synopsys side of interoperability testing with USB-C.  (We can’t show the others’ end products, those are confidential)

The interesting:

Most vendors believe their design is the best. The design has been systemized to meet market requirements. Designers made all the right detailed choices and tradeoffs. And their design will dominate the market. At InterOp you learn that other vendors and designers disagree with you! The range of different system designs and detailed solutions was amazing. However as long as it works, all is fine. And something has been learned, that will be useful in your next design. Admittedly, not all competitor’s design choices are fully understood. For a designer that is an interesting challenge!

The summary:

Type-C has arrived. The July 2015 Type-C InterOp Event showed a range of Type-C solutions that are becoming mature and ready for products. Type-C is not just for USB but also for Power Delivery and Alternate Modes. In particular DisplayPort Alternate Mode is ready for product deployment.

Multiple Type-C products have already been launched, using external support chips and multiple discrete components. More and more products will be offered with Type-C. The external support chips become more integrated with fewer discrete external components required. Implementing Type-C becomes easier.

Fully integrated and optimized native Type-C solutions in SoCs and ASICs are not practical for some products. Optimized Type-C system partitioning is possible. Future Type-C solutions will ensure Type-C is the preferred and most widely used wired interface for consumer electronics for the next 10-15 years.


Type C - Plugfest 1 July 2015 - Multi-Connector DisplayPort and USB

Picture 3: Some Type-C external support chips already exist; this chip combines USB and DisplayPort. In the future this functionality will be integrated into the SoC.

Type-C is happening now!

End of Morten’s Blog Entry


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Synopsys USB Type-C IP Solution

And we announced our USB Type-C solution – Normally I’d write something up about this, but the writing is so good, just click on the picture below to read about it, and see it in action.

Synopsys Type C PHY announcement

Here’s your jokes of the blog

Q: What did the peanut say to the elephant?
A: Nothing: peanuts can’t talk.

Q: What do you give a seasick elephant?
A: Lots of room.

Q: How is an elephant like an apricot?
A: They are both gray. Well, except the apricot.

Q: What do you call an elephant that rides a bus?
A: A passenger.

Q: What do you get if you take an elephant into work?
A: Sole use of the elevator.

Thanks to the Thought Palace for these SFW jokes at 131 Elephant Jokes

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