To USB or Not to USB


Will Wireless (data & charging) replace USB?

The big question on people’s minds is if wireless, data transfer and charging, will replace USB in the future. The simple answer is  NO, USB is here to stay. For the longer answer read on.

It is true, wireless data transfer and wireless charging has replaced some of the traditional USB cable connected usage but even in these devices USB lives on supporting other extended use modes. At a high level USB will always be design in to support the following use cases and capabilities

  • Internal connectivity
  • Manufacturing
  • Recovery
  • Debug
  • Standard connectivity
  • Power delivery

Internal connectivity: USB is being used more and more for internal connectivity, chip to chip, as it’s a reliable and unified (universal) way to enable the rapid integration of chip building blocks. WiFi, Bluetooth and radio chips are good examples where USB might be employed to enable rapid and seamless connectivity to other processing engines. In these use cases I’d expect the interface to be USB 3.0 to support the required connectivity performance. So USB will be designed into both the chips.

Manufacturing: This is a use case which the end user rarely sees. Lets take the example of a fully wirelessly connected IoT device. Within the manufacturing process, do you think that the company wirelessly connects to thousands of devices to upload the firmware and execute the production testing? No, of course not. Managing production firmware loading, test and debug is typically done over a reliable hard wired connection, in most cases this will be a USB connection.

Recovery: Who has not had a device go into a bricked state? A while back my little fitness tracker locked up. I tried powering it up and down but no luck. After a quick online search of course I found the product detailed documentation which listed the failsafe recovery mode. Guess what, connect the USB powered cradle to a computer and run a software app to recover the device. My wireless fitness tracker integrated USB and it was this hard wired interface that was used to recover the device. I should have known that the device integrated USB already as you plug it into a mini dock to charge. The charging interface is of course USB.

Debug: Another trend is debug over USB, sometimes called Advanced Debug and Diagnostics. Again, the product integrates USB which could support multiple use modes and the advanced debug and diagnostics extends the ports usage.

Standard connectivity: Thanks to the reliability and performance of a hard wired USB it’s still the interface of choice to connect products to a host machine. Think device backup or mass data transfer.

Power Delivery: For a while there was a trend of wireless charging and this trend for small IoT based devices is expected to continue. However while wireless charging seems convenient it’s far from perfect and suffers greatly from slow charging performance issues. Consumers are just not willing to wait hours for their phone to charge. This is where of course USB Type-C blasts the competition. The increased power delivery means the device can be charged very quickly meeting and sometimes beating the consumers expectations.

I’m sure I have missed some use cases as well but as you can see, the wireless mega trend is far from replacing USB, in fact we expect the two to co-exist. Oh, and I suddenly realized that I didn’t even cover the USB-C with DisplayPort use mode. USB is here to stay.


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Last weeks little quiz: What is this?

Can you guess what this is?

Kati guessed it correctly, it’s a Mason Bee house. Mason bees sort of adopted us. We started noticing holes in our house being filled up with mud. At first I was worried as I thought the bees were also eating into the house to make these holes. After research and observation we realized they were mason bees. We purchased one little mason bee house and in spring they quickly adopted that. Now I custom build the houses for them using either ABS piping as in the picture or cedar. I purchased disposable cardboard tubes for them to live in which we replace once they exit. This helps keep them healthy.

Newly built mason bee house

Mason been poking his head out of hole

A row of our Mason Bee houses, some purchased, some built

It should be noted that Mason Bee’s are not USB powered in anyway.

This weeks quiz, when is BODMAS used?

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