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FAQs and Answers

1. What is the license issue with PoweredUSB?

IBM owns the intellectual rights to PoweredUSB. IBM has a one time licensing fee of $5,000.00 for the ability to use this technology. It is further defined by IBM that the one time fee of $5,000.00 would only be applicable in the direct retail vertical market of the business and not be valid in other areas like banking. IBM also stipulates that licensees of PoweredUSB technology are able to manufacture and sell this product directly to end users only. Companies wanting to resell products through distributors and resellers would also have to enter a licensing contract with IBM to sell these products.

As mentioned in the “Who owns the rights to the PoweredUSB technology” section under the IBM Patent page, companies like HP, NCR, CyberData and Fujitsu have entered into contractual agreements directly with IBM allowing these companies to produce PoweredUSB products without any encumbrances for multiple levels of sales channels.

2. Who is the IBM contact for legal clearance and contract negotiations to handle the patent issue?

Scott O'Malia
IBM New York
Intellectual Property & Patent Licensing
Phone: 914-765-4351

3. Is PoweredUSB based upon a wild idea?

In retail POS terminals, manufacturers used to supply not only the processor but also the peripherals. For example, IBM's 46xx line of products had special keyed and locking connectors that carried power and communication signals to the peripheral. NCR had their own single-keyed and locked connector they used on their POS terminals.

While each of these companies had a proprietary connector, each product was designed for the harsh retail environment. The power included in the signal cable eliminated the need to have cumbersome power supply "bricks" connected to each of the peripherals. The keyed connectors made sure that the correct power and signal were being supplied.

When standard PC's started to replace proprietary platforms, the system builder would be forced to connect products either through powered serial ports (a custom and proprietary connection), or used a standard serial port with an external power brick.

Plug-n-Play USB technology became the natural fit for POS terminals in an open systems environment. OPOS and JPOS allowed standardization of application interfaces and easier interfacing with the POS peripherals.

The problem with standard USB is that the connector was not designed to be securely attached and with only 500 mA of +5V available, it was not able to power POS peripherals without an external brick.

PoweredUSB and it's connection/signal methodology have solved these problems.

4. What is the cost advantage for the end-users? The ROI must be there otherwise no one would want it. How do you calculate ROI to justify using PoweredUSB?

All new POS terminals from the major POS manufacturers have PoweredUSB connectivity. We would say that every RFP for a new POS system that has been requested by major retailers in the USA, have required PoweredUSB. It is recognized that PoweredUSB is and will be the retail peripheral connection standard in this industry. It has been approved by the ARTS standards committee.

The cost justification and advantage comes from providing an industry standard interface that allows the retailer to purchase peripherals with a standardized connection method.

5. What does it cost the OEM's to implement PoweredUSB compared to using a standard power supply with a USB port?

HP/IBM/NCR/Fujitsu/Wincor all have PoweredUSB built onto the motherboard. In sufficient volume, the price of a motherboard change can be justified. In a true PC application, products like internal PCI cards and external hubs are available at a reasonable price.

6. Power supplies are very cheap and the fear that there is no cost justification to implement this standard.

PoweredUSB is the retail connection standard being built by POS manufacturers and required by many retailers. If a retailer accepts power supply bricks for every peripheral, then that is the endusers decision. From a product perspective, customers will demand this type of POS connectivity so the manufacturer should have this as an option.

7. What is the maturity of this standard? It seems to be more bleeding edge rather then cutting edge. The standard does not seem to be accepted by the USB standard organizations. Has this started and when is it due?

PoweredUSB will never be approved by USB.org. USB.org is not interested in managing this variant.

Many standards are proposed mostly by companies trying to benefit their products or technology. A standard really becomes a standard once it is accepted and implemented by multiple manufacturers in their products. PoweredUSB has become the connection standard for retail POS since all major manufactures of POS equipment support it and the Retail Standards group ARTS has endorsed it.

8. Once implemented, who will oversee that we comply with the standard?

Right now, nobody. We started PoweredUSB.org with the hopes that manufacturers could join together to further define the standard.

9. Is anyone other than FCI/Burg manufacturing PoweredUSB connectors?

Foxconn has a line of host connectors available at this time.

10. What is a good PoweredUSB cable?

The PoweredUSB specification calls for a cable that has very specific requirements. The cable really has two cables in one sheath. The USB communications part of the cable needs to be of construction that meets the USB 2.0 standard. Just to say that it works is not sufficient to guarantee compliance.

The power portion of the cable needs to be of a certain gauge (wire size) to carry the expected current of the peripherals attached. The PoweredUSB standard calls for 20ga wire that is designed to carry the maximum current of 6 amp per cable assembly.

If the peripheral manufacture supples a cable attached to their device by either a hard connection or a non-standard (none-PoweredUSB) connector, the manufacture may use a gauge of power conductors in the cable that may be smaller than the standard PoweredUSB standard. It will be the responsibility of the manufacture to make sure the conductor gauge is sufficient to support their device. The construction of the USB portion still needs to meet the USB 2.0 requirements.

Through our research, we have found several raw cable manufactures claiming to have PoweredUSB compatible cable. Make sure the data sheets for the raw cable selected meets the PoweredUSB standard.

11. IBM Retail interpretation of the PoweredUSB specification

The original PoweredUSB specification (now at Rev 0.8F) was created when the authors (Berg, NCR, Microsoft) attempted to gain acceptance of this alternate connector with the USB.ORG.

This attempt failed and the USB.ORG refused to adopt it.

At that point, the motivation of keeping this specification updated was lost.

IBM while developing their SurePOS line of products decided to design certain cables that connect their peripherals differently than the way the PoweredUSB specification dictates. While the Host side seems to be standardized among manufacturers, the peripheral side may not be. Specifically, the selection of peripheral side connector should be that the ground pins of the connector make contact prior to the power and communication lines. The idea was to allow the connectors to be hot-plugged reliably at the peripheral side.

Just to be clear, the PoweredUSB specification does allow the peripheral manufacturers to choose their own connector, however, it is a little confusing that IBM is not following the PUSB standard originally created with their input.

What this means is that PoweredUSB cables may either meet the PoweredUSB specification or they may be the IBM standard. If a peripheral manufacturer wants to choose a peripheral side connector, it is PoweredUSB.org's recommendation to use the PoweredUSB standard rather than the IBM interpretation since it will be less prone to circuitry damage due to hot-plugging.

Remember, the host side is the same so it is only a peripheral side issue.

12. Can PoweredUSB cables be lengthened by use of an extension cable?

The short answer is no. Induced capacitive and resistive changes can occur with added connections on a USB 2.0 communications cable. It might appear to work but if not tested with complex cable test equipment, it may not meet the USB 2.0 requirements.

13. What parts of PoweredUSB are applicable to the IBM patent?

Read about the IBM patent.

14. How much power do you need from a PoweredUSB port?

The PoweredUSB specification calls for the following port power minimum capability: (See the PoweredUSB specifications for more detail)

5VDC: 1.5A RMS with a peak current no greater than 20A for 100us with a decay of 20mA/us.

12VDC: 1.5A RMS with a peak current no greater than 4A for periods of 10ms with a duty cycle of 1/6. Additionally, during power-up, each port should be able to sustain 20A peaks for 100us with a current decay assumed of 20mA/us.

24VDC: 2.3A RMS with a peak current no greater than 5A peak for 100ms duty cycle 800ms, 8A peak for 2ms duty cycle 1/14, 20A peak for 100us duty cycle 1/40

So, if you took a typical PoweredUSB hub with three +12V ports and one +24V port, you would need the following minimum power output capabilities:
12 Volts: 3 x 1.5 amp = 4.5 amps x 12 volts = 36 watts
24 Volts: 1 x 2.3 amps - 2.3 amps x 24 volts = 55.2 watts

Each PoweredUSB connector is also a standard USB hub with 500mA of +5V available at each port.

5V USB: 4 x .500Ma = 2 amps x +5 volts = 10 watts

Total minimum requirements of the power supply would have to be 101 watts continuous.

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