I3C sensor interface set to superset I2C, SPI

November 18, 2014 // By Peter Clarke
I3C sensor interface set to superset I2C, SPI
MIPI Alliance Inc. (Piscataway, New Jersey), an open membership organization that develops interface specifications for mobile equipment, has introduced I3C, a sensor interface specification, intended to support the use of multiple sensors within mobile equipment.

MIPI claims that digital interfaces currently available, such as I2C and SPI, are too numerous, causing fragmentation, and do not use power efficiently for communication with sensors, which can limit applications and scalability.


The specification was developed with participation of many companies from across the sensor and mobile ecosystems, MIPI said. Companies working in the MIPI Alliance Sensor Working Group include AMD, Audience, Broadcom, Cadence, Intel, InvenSense, Lattice, MediaTek, Mentor Graphics, Nvidia, NXP, STMicroelectronics, Synopsys, Qualcomm, QuickLogic, ZMDI, and others. MIPI has about 275 members in total.


MIPI said that the term SenseWire will be used to describe the application of I3C in mobile devices and the use of the I3C interface for mobile devices connecting to a set of sensors, directly or indirectly.


In general SenseWire incorporates and unifies key attributes of I2C and SPI while improving the capabilities and performance of each approach with a comprehensive, scalable interface and architecture. The specification has also tried to anticipate sensor interface architectures that mobile, mobile-influenced, and embedded-systems industries will need in the future. I3C should help equipment developers combine multiple sensors from different vendors while having them communicate at low energy and therefore supporting longer battery life.

The technical features of the MIPI I3C specification include a two-pin interface that is backward compatible with the I2C standard and provides data throughput capabilities comparable to SPI.

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