Multi-output power management ICs in infotainment systems

October 30, 2013 // By Steve Knoth, Jeff Marvin, Linear Technology Corporation
With automotive infotainment systems being increasingly incorporating highly integrated and very powerful microprocessors and FPGAs, power management for these infotainment systems is growing more complex. A solution that helps to keep the designs simple is multi-output power management chips.

As product form factors are decreasing, demand for their functionality and features continue to increase. Furthermore, the industry trend for sophisticated digital ICs such as microprocessors (uP) and microcontrollers (uC) or field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) that power these products continues to lower their operating voltage while simultaneously increasing their amperage. Microprocessors are among the most popular of these to design in, and there is a growing list of power efficient types from such suppliers as Freescale, Intel, NVIDIA, Samsung, ARM and others. They are designed to provide low power consumption and high performance processing for a wide range of wireless, embedded and networking applications.

The original intent of these processors was to enable OEMs to develop smaller and more cost-effective portable handheld devices with long battery life, while simultaneously offering enhanced computing performance to run feature-rich multimedia applications. Nevertheless, demand for this same combination of high power efficiency and processing performance has spread to non-portable applications. A couple of examples include automotive infotainment systems and other embedded applications, both of which demand similar levels of power efficiency and processing horsepower. In all cases, a highly specialized, high performance power management IC (PMIC) is necessary to properly control and monitor the microprocessor's power so that all of the performance benefits of these processors can be attained. Further, as the electronic content of automobiles continues to dramatically increase, so too has the use of microprocessors as the workhorse of various control systems within the vehicle. Infotainment systems have captured a wide array of functions to enhance the driving experience. Touch screens, Bluetooth communication, digital and high-definition television (HDTV), satellite radio, CD/DVD/MP3 players, global positioning system (GPS) navigation and video game systems have created a full-fledged entertainment center inside the car!

Automotive PMIC Challenges

Electronic systems designed for automotive applications are challenging for many reasons, including the wide operating temperature range, strict EMC and transient requirements, as well as the high quality

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