Modern small computer architecture has evolved over the last 20 years as a legacy of the Harvard and von Neumann architectures. These were concerned with how to put a computer together, rather than an attempt to envision a solution to application challenges at the end of the century.

The advent of the Internet, Smart Cards, e-commerce and digital video has challenged conventional architecture.

Techniques used to offer wide, fast data buses are not intrinsically the best way to connect system functions together. Wide buses impose circuit board, manufacturing, product size and consequently, cost penalties on what need to be high performance, compact and low cost, flexible products.

IntAct is not really a bus at all. It is a series of module-to-module data relay mechanisms with many attributes of Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) without the cost.

Modules may be arbitrarily replaced in the future. Conventional bus architectures demand all products must communicate no faster than the clock rate determined by the slowest device on the bus. IntAct devices are an implementation of Intrinsic Technology Matching (ITM) to ensure after-market module replacements are not constrained by the speed of earlier devices.

ITM ensures that each component communicates with any other component in the system at the fastest speed achievable between components. Since each communication path operates asynchronously on a terminated transmission line unwanted RF emissions are minimized by design.

Modular expansion

Subsystems within a product are constructed within modules that are interconnected by IntAct data relay circuits. The sequence of modules is determined by the desired data bandwidth and security between modules. The IntAct specification sets down rules that the systems engineer will use when assigning the module interconnection sequence.

IntAct is suited to constructing products that use Ethernet, ATM, CAN or FireWire to connect with other devices. Cable modems, ADSL and PSTN dial-up devices are all readily connected to IntAct modules. Applications include:

  • Automotive
  • Intelligent consumer appliances
  • Internet appliances
  • Network computers
  • Embedded web servers
  • Video-on-demand
  • Intelligent cameras
  • Navigation aids
  • Communication devices
  • Industrial

New components which bring new features can be added to IntAct-based products using a six-wire, hot-plug, consumer friendly connection. Depending on the product’s mechanical enclosure, either within or external to the original product, new functions may be added which were not even imagined when the product was first built.

This feature allows service providers to deploy products which have an extended product lifetime thereby protecting their initial investment. In combination with on-line software upgrades it is possible to create “price list” low-cost, optimized functionality devices which are consumer upgradable and expandable without limit and without prior knowledge of new requirements.