Electronic Design

DSP Technology: Pivotal To Consumer Electronics

Consumer electronic equipment constitutes a substantial market for DSP technology, second only in size to the communications segment. However, consumer electronics implementations are not necessarily in the form of off-the-shelf DSP chips. The ubiquity of DSP technology in the consumer market is not well known because of the several forms it takes and the different names given to devices that employ it.

For example, the biggest consumer market for DSP silicon from a dollar standpoint is in the many products that include audio or video compression. Well known industry-standard algorithms are implemented using DSP technology. That technology, in turn, is embedded in a wide variety of consumer devices, from Internet audio players (MP3 and WMA) to digital still cameras (JPEG); camcorders (MPEG-4) to DVD players and set-top boxes; and A/V receivers to HDTV consoles (MPEG-2 and AC-3).

Although MP3 decoding is often done using a low-end programmable DSP chip, MPEG implementations are usually executed on hardwired (finite state machine) silicon implementations of the key algorithms. The hardwired approach is appropriate when the computation rate is too high for conventional DSP chips and the algorithm is invariant. But DSP also comes into play in audio systems. It can be used to enhance the listening experience through "surroundsound" and digital effects algorithms. Also, video gaming chips in products like Sony's Playstation 2 and Microsoft's Xbox also employ embedded DSP cores for sound and hardwired DSP algorithms for graphics filtering. Furthermore, DSP is used for control of CD and DVD disk rotational speed and laser tracking.

More recently, DSP has become the heart of advanced car AM/FM receivers, providing superior reception over longer distances and under nighttime fading conditions. Plus, DSP enables the new high-fidelity digital audio broadcast (DAB) services, both satellite (like XM Radio and Sirius Radio) and terrestrial (such as HD Radio). Location-based telematics services based on the DSP-enabled GPS are assuming greater importance on the automotive dashboard. Downloading of localized maps for vehicle navigation will also be possible via future DAB services.

Continuing advances in DSP technology are enabling our ever richer consumer electronics experiences. It's worth remembering that without DSP technology, "multimedia" would not exist.

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