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NXP Unveils Smartphone Quick-Jack Solution Transforming Audio Jack into Multi-Purpose, Self-Powered Data Port

May 26, 2014

Enables smartphone UI to control external devices and supports sophisticated app development

Eindhoven, Netherlands and Beijing, China, May 26, 2014 - NXP Semiconductors N.V. (NASDAQ: NXPI) today announced a versatile new Smartphone Quick-Jack Solution that simplifies connecting a variety of external devices to smartphones for self-powered data communications. Adapting the standard 3.5mm audio jack found on smartphones, the Solution creates a universal interface for external sensors, switches, peripherals and other devices. Inspired by the University of Michigan's Project HiJack, it gives mobile, consumer and industrial product designers simple, plug-and-go connectivity for adding features to a variety of applications, from wearable medical and fitness devices, gaming controllers, and toys, to diagnostics and maintenance tools.

Many app features depend on connectivity with external devices to collect readings from sensors, control switches, data collected by external meters, as well as act on user inputs from keyboard, wands, or joysticks and more. For these types of apps, tying up the phone's high-bandwidth USB/Lightning port is unnecessary. While wireless connectivity offers user convenience; it can also increase BOM cost in small devices and requires experience working with wireless protocols, and an external power source. By repurposing the audio jack, the Smartphone Quick-Jack solution makes communication with external devices as easy as plugging in headphones.

"Smartphone user interfaces and connectivity features have revolutionized personal communication. The new Smartphone Quick-Jack Solution makes it exceptionally easy to take advantage of those same appealing features when designing end products, from something as sophisticated as a portable air-quality monitor, to something as rewarding as a child's toy with changeable/uploadable features," said Jim Trent, vice president and general manager, business line microcontrollers, NXP Semiconductors.

"We initially designed HiJack to create a universal way to connect low-cost sensor devices easily and securely to any brand of smartphone, tablet, or even PC," said Prabal Dutta, Assistant Professor, EECS , University of Michigan. "Today, the applications for audio jack connectivity have exploded, from our original vision of low-cost measurement instruments, to mobile entertainment, secure card readers, remote controls, personal medical monitors and many more."

For end-product designers, the Smartphone Quick-Jack Solution puts appealing smartphone UI features at their fingertips for data display, controlling switches, monitoring sensors, collecting diagnostics and other field data. The phone's wireless connectivity supports data upload, storage, firmware updates, and general communication with the cloud, without the need to configure extra hardware or software.
For smartphone app developers, the solution provides plug-and-go data connectivity and power for external devices, making it simple to add sophisticated, user- or environment-aware inputs and features into smartphone apps. It also creates a secondary data/control channel for use when the USB/Lightning port is busy.

The Smartphone Quick-Jack Solution comprises a small board, a free example app for popular smartphone OSs, and design documentation. The board houses:

  • The LPC812 microcontroller to handle decoding/encoding of the Manchester algorithm (enabling use of the left audio channel for data transport) and communication with external peripherals
  • Source code for the LPC812 is available free and is ready to use with NXP LPCXpresso tools.
  • A standard extension header for easy connection of sensors, switches, HMI peripherals, or data- collection devices
  • An energy harvesting circuit that draws power from the smartphone over the right audio channel to power the board and attached components
  • An onboard miniature joystick to visualize data/signals and control the smartphone UI in the example application

In conjunction with the launch, NXP will host a competition whereby designers can submit ideas on what application they would create if they had a Quick-Jack board and enter a free drawing to win one of five boards to help their idea become a reality. The contest is now open and entries will be accepted until June 20, 2014.

Links

About LPC software ecosystem

LPC81x microcontrollers are fully supported by the LPC software ecosystem and an extensive collection of tools, drivers and middleware, as well as popular forums and blogs in constant use by a highly engaged and collaborative community of embedded developers. Free to all LPC81x developers, the NXP LPCXpresso development platform includes a full featured C/C++ IDE and LPCOpen firmware libraries. LPCOpen incorporates device drivers that enable rapid code development and can be used with a wide range of third-party RTOSs, middleware solutions, and popular third-party ARM development tools. www.lpcware.com/lpcopen.

About NXP Semiconductors

NXP Semiconductors N.V. (NASDAQ: NXPI) creates solutions that enable secure connections for a smarter world. Building on its expertise in High Performance Mixed Signal electronics, NXP is driving innovation in the automotive, identification and mobile industries, and in application areas including wireless infrastructure, lighting, healthcare, industrial, consumer tech and computing. NXP has operations in more than 25 countries, and posted revenue of $4.82 billion in 2013. Find out more at www.nxp.com.

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