DisplayPort is designed for high performance displays with resolutions in excess of that provided by standard 1080P HDMI displays. Icron is working to enhance the DisplayPort cable by shipping USB over the same set of wires along with the DisplayPort video signals. This cuts cabling requirements in half and makes a single cable capable of linking a laptop to a range of displays and peripherals providing generic docking station support.
Icron Technologies has been pushing the limits of USB with external USB extenders based on its LionsGate ASIC. The ASIC has been used in a range of OEM products. Icron refers to a source unit as a Lex and the remote unit as a Rex. Icron has a range of products that use different wired and wireless connections between a Lex and Rex.
The addition of DisplayPort to the group is more interesting because the primary connection is actually the video DisplayPort communication. Icron uses its LionsGate ASIC to take advantage of the 5th lane, 1 Mbit/s DisplayPort channel used for data communication. Icron multiplexes the USB data with this channel.
To demonstrate the technology, Icron created a Lex with a DisplayPort and USB host connection. The Rex had a matching DisplayPort and USB hub. In practice, the Lex and Rex would be built-in. For example, a laptop would have a single DisplayPort connection. A display would have a USB hub but it may also have features like a built-in webcam or USB audio support. The link between the Lex and Rex uses the same DisplayPort connectors and cabling. The Rex can also recognize the type of connection allowing a DisplayPort source to be plugged in but obviously the USB support would not be available.
The demonstration unit took advantage of DisplayPort 1.1A. DisplayPort 1.2 will have a 720 Mbit/s 5th channel allowing USB 2.0 support. DisplayPort has other advantages as well such as a 15m run versus USB's 5m. DisplayPort 1.2 may eventually incorporate Icron's support as part of the upcoming standard.