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MIPI Alliance Background and Objectives

It is pronounced “mippee.”

MIPI Alliance is a collaborative, non-profit organization serving companies that develop mobile and mobile-influenced devices. The organization develops hardware and software interface specifications that manufacturers can use to interconnect components within a device. Its members in the mobile industry are companies that develop smartphones and other devices such as tablets, laptops, and laptop-tablet hybrids. Its members in mobile-influenced industries are companies that use MIPI Alliance specifications to interconnect components in automobiles and to develop products that are part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

MIPI Alliance provides specifications that serve manufacturers’ various needs for physical layer, multimedia, chip-to-chip or interprocessor communications (IPC), control/data, debug/trace, and software integration applications.

All of the specifications are designed to address three characteristics essential to successful mobile designs:  1) low power to preserve battery life; 2) high-bandwidth to enable feature-rich, data-intensive applications, and 3) low electromagnetic interference (EMI) to minimize interference between radios and other subsystems in a device.

MIPI Alliance specifications are available as individual interfaces, enabling companies to pick and choose those that meet their particular needs. Companies can implement the specifications with their own high-level designs or features to differentiate or provide added value to their products.

Companies must be members of MIPI Alliance to employ its specifications, however non-member companies benefit whenever they procure and implement components that use its specifications.

MIPI Alliance specifications are used in hundreds of millions of smartphones on the market.  All major chip vendors use MIPI Alliance specifications. Every smartphone sold today uses at least one MIPI Alliance specification.

MIPI Alliance specifications are used in other mobile devices, such as tablets, laptops and laptop-tablet hybrids.

In the “mobile-influenced” market, the specifications are used by the automotive industry to support safety and infotainment applications, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous cars. Components used to provide these features include cameras, displays, telematics hubs, audio systems, data storage, and network connectivity chipsets.

Mobile-influenced implementations of MIPI Alliance specifications are found in all types of IoT products, from single-function connected devices to feature-rich wearables and complex robotics systems.

The mobile and computing industries rely on variety of organizations to define the many hardware and software interfaces needed to connect devices to one another and to a network. MIPI Alliance has a very specific role in these ecosystems because it focuses on the signaling characteristics and protocols that internal hardware components need to communicate with each other within a mobile device.

MIPI Alliance is distinct for the broad applicability of its specifications: It is the only industry entity addressing the hardware interface needs for the entire mobile device, from the modem and antenna to the application processor and peripherals such as the camera, microphones, speakers, storage, display, battery, sensors and others.

While MIPI Alliance is a standalone organization, it has a strong heritage of collaboration with organizations from other industries. Through partnerships with standards groups in the PC, sensor, display, storage and other industries, MIPI Alliance has extended the reach of its specifications beyond mobile into additional markets while enabling the services and applications from external industries to function in the mobile device environment. MIPI Alliance will continue to collaborate with cross-industry partners to apply and advance its specifications to meet new and emerging market needs.

MIPI Alliance specifications consolidate fragmented interconnection approaches to a core set of interfaces to facilitate interoperability, simplify device designs, and optimize performance.

The conveniences offered by MIPI specifications have helped companies shorten time-to-market with new and feature-rich products. The specifications have enabled manufacturers to create economies of scale that lower price points and reduce design costs. The cost advantages have enabled small companies to enter the market. And overall, the benefits have helped lower retail prices to drive mass market adoption of mobile technologies that benefit business, society, and our way of life.

The conveniences and benefits are providing impetus for the use of MIPI Alliance specifications in “mobile influenced” industries and ecosystems. These segments include the automotive industry and a range of IoT segments, such as wearables, augmented/virtual reality devices and robotics.

MIPI Alliance is led by a board of directors. Companies represented on the board include Intel, Nokia, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Synopsys, Texas Instruments and Toshiba. The specifications are developed by working groups, which are chaired by individuals from member companies. Administrative services are provided by IEEE-ISTO.

MIPI Alliance specifications serve the mobile industry and the ecosystem of mobile-influenced industries that are developing connected devices for vertical markets and the Internet of Things.

In the mobile market, MIPI Alliance specifications are targeted to mobile devices that operate on mobile networks. Typical devices are smartphones, tablets, laptops and hybrid devices.

Mobile-influenced industries are those that leverage mobile technologies and the mobile ecosystem to evolve existing products or create new product designs. Two key categories in the mobile-influenced market include the automotive industry and the Internet of Things.  

When MIPI Alliance was formed in 2003, MIPI was an acronym for “Mobile Industry Processor Interface.”  Because the organization’s specifications today address not only processor connectivity but the full range of interface needs in a device, MIPI Alliance no longer uses the original phrase and MIPI is no longer used as an acronym.

“MIPI Alliance” is the proper use of the brand when referring to the organization. “MIPI Member” is used to refer to a company that joins the organization. “MIPI Specification” is used to refer to a specification that has been adopted by MIPI Alliance.

Applications and Specifications

MIPI Alliance specifications provide common approaches for interfacing components to allow interoperability of components supplied by different vendors. The specifications alleviate the need for proprietary solutions, which saves development time and costs to help companies shorten time-to-market with compelling, feature-rich products for consumers.

MIPI Alliance specifications are also designed to help vendors meet the stringent operating conditions required in mobile devices: high-bandwidth performance to enable feature-rich, data intensive applications; low power to preserve battery life; and low electromagnetic interference (EMI) to minimize interference between radios and other subsystems in a device.

MIPI Alliance publishes its specifications according to the MIPI Bylaws, which limits distribution to member companies only. Any company can join to become a member.

Yes. MIPI Alliance specifications address interfaces needed to connect components within a device and as such the specifications are not involved with the air interface.  MIPI Alliance specifications have supported the mobile industry’s needs as it evolved from 2G to 3G and 4G and the organization will continue to advance specifications to serve the industry as cellular standards evolve to 5G and beyond.

No, MIPI Alliance focuses on improving interconnectivity between components. Companies that use MIPI Alliance specifications are free to develop differentiated products, including proprietary internal architectures and bus structures.

Yes, MIPI Alliance periodically updates its specifications with corrections and improvements. As it releases updates, it recommends that members should implement the newer specification.

No. MIPI Alliance working groups occasionally discuss changes they expect to make in future specification updates, although these discussions and related documents are informative only and do not set normative requirements.

If a working group intends to set normative requirements, it will create a draft specification that proceeds through the formal review process.

MIPI Alliance develops interfaces that define the signaling characteristics, protocols and other techniques used to interconnect components in a device and enable the components to interoperate and communicate with one another. A device can use a few or multiple interfaces. In a mobile device such as a smartphone, a range of interfaces is needed to connect a couple dozen components, from the antenna, modem and application processor to the microphone, speaker, battery, camera, sensors and others. Devices designed for mobile-influenced applications, such as wearables or automobiles, will use varying numbers and types of interfaces depending on the application and components used.

If the term “deprecate” is intended to mean “change from authorized status to nonauthorized and remove from active distribution,” no, MIPI Alliance does not deprecate specifications.

However, if the term “deprecate” is intended to mean making recommendations concerning documents to “indicate that they should be avoided, typically because they have been superseded,” yes, MIPI Alliance does sometimes make those recommendations. However, such recommendations do not affect Member rights and responsibilities under the Membership agreement. [Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deprecation.]

 

A mobile device is a mobile or handheld device that can be carried by hand, is battery powered, and provides voice and data connectivity on internationally standardized mobile communications networks. A typical mobile device is a smartphone, tablet, laptop or laptop-tablet hybrid. Mobile devices can be sold in any market.

A mobile-influenced device is a previously unconnected device or a new type of device that incorporates standard mobile communications connectivity to provide voice and/or data services and solutions for mobile-influenced industries.

Mobile-influenced industries are those that leverage mobile technologies and the mobile ecosystem to evolve existing products or create new product designs. Two important mobile-influenced industries are the automotive sector and the overall Internet of Things.  

MIPI Alliance specifications serve six fundamental application areas:

  • Physical layer applications: A family of high-speed physical layers to serve essential interconnection needs in a device
  • Multimedia applications: Protocols for cameras and imaging, displays, touch, and audio
  • Chip-to-chip/IPC applications: Protocol layers for chip-to-chip or interprocessor communications (IPC)
  • Control and data applications:  Protocol layers to manage lower-speed components
  • Debug and trace applications:  Tools for debugging embedded systems throughout the development life cycle
  • Software integration applications: Tools that streamline software integration of components in mobile-connected devices

MIPI Alliance has a portfolio of many different specifications that have been released and adopted in the market. We stopped counting after 50 or so, but an overview of our more active specifications is available on the specifications page of this website. The specifications are available as individual interfaces, enabling companies to adopt whichever ones they prefer or need to differentiate their designs or support particular technology requirements or architectures.

Membership

Different companies place different value on membership depending on their markets, business strategies, resources, etc. For example, some companies have the desire and resources to attend meetings, participate in working groups and help define specifications. Others may simply want access to the specifications once they are published.

The MIPI Alliance membership model provides a range of participation levels to serve any individual company’s needs. The tiered model also scales membership fees in accordance with the level of membership. The tiered model helps ensure that MIPI Alliance has a diverse membership base that represents both large and small companies.
 

Any company can join MIPI Alliance. The organization has a diverse membership base and enables participation from both large and small companies. The members represent companies across the mobile and mobile-influenced ecosystems. Members include semiconductor and chip suppliers, component vendors, device manufacturers, IP providers, software vendors, and firms that offer test equipment and testing services.

An up-to-date list of member companies can be found in the Membership Directory.

Membership requires signing a Membership Agreement and paying membership dues. To become a member, go to the Join MIPI page.

The fee structure scales with levels of membership. Fees range from $40,000 for founders and board members to $4,000 for small companies that join at the adopter level. Membership fees are detailed on the Membership Model page.

Organizational Structure and Management

No, MIPI Alliance is an independent, not-for-profit corporate entity. MIPI Alliance contracts with IEEE-ISTO to provide administrative support services. 

MIPI Alliance operates as a non-profit corporation. It relies on membership fees to support all of its operations, events, marketing, staff and other business needs. 

MIPI Alliance is governed by a board of directors that consists of a single director from each of the following seven companies: Intel, Nokia, Samsung, STMicroelectronics, Synopsys, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba. The Bylaws allow for additional board members to be elected by the board. The board manages the general affairs of the organization, acting in the best interest of its members to guide development of specifications that advance interface technology for mobile and mobile-influenced devices.

The board is led by a chairman and supported by a secretary, a treasurer and vice chairs. Each member has an equal vote. 

MIPI Alliance uses a tiered membership structure, similar to other industry organizations, to enable participation from large and small companies representing the mobile and mobile-influenced industries. The members include adopters, contributors, promoters and the board of directors.

Companies that are only interested in licensing and using the specifications can join at the adopter level. Companies that join at the contributor level can attend meetings, participate in working groups and help define specifications. Promoters, which are elected by the board from the set of contributors, have the rights of contributors as well as a voting board seat. Board members have the rights of promoters and permanent board seats. 

Many board and contributor member companies collaborate in the development of MIPI Alliance specifications. Companies participating in this work include most of the leading semiconductor suppliers, software vendors, IP providers, peripheral manufacturers, test labs and end-product OEMs.

MIPI Alliance specifications typically reflect multiple technology submissions from multiple companies. Sometimes a company will offer a proprietary interface to the organization for adoption as a specification, and sometimes the organization well decide to pursue a new specification or modify an earlier specification to meet a market’s changing needs.  MIPI Alliance forms investigation groups or birds-of-a-feather groups to clarify opportunities and market requirements. Once an approach is defined, the board assigns the project to a working group and establishes a development roadmap and timeline that allow for plenty of dialog and discussion as the specification is developed and drafted.

Like many contemporary organizations, MIPI Alliance is a global, “virtual” entity. As such, it has no physical location. It does not plan to define a physical location unless future activities require it. For legal and tax reasons MIPI Alliance is incorporated in the U.S. state of Delaware. Administrative support is provided by the IEEE Industry Standards and Technology Organization (IEEE-ISTO), which is located in Piscataway, N.J., in the U.S. 

Confidentiality

Yes. All members of MIPI Alliance are bound to preserve the confidentiality of MIPI specifications. The confidentiality terms are defined, and certain exceptions are described, in Section 4 of the MIPI Membership Agreement. Review that section for the details.

No, it extends to the confidential information generated during and from all MIPI Alliance activities.

Yes. For example, disclosure may be made to employees and contractors who have a need to know and are bound by confidentiality obligations. 

There may also be disclosure to customers if it helps the customer develop and sell products for the member that comply with the MIPI specification(s). It is also allowed if it helps the customer provide support documentation for the member’s products.  In these cases the customer must agree to keep the information confidential.

Only as much as is required, in the good faith judgment of the member. This is all described in detail in the MIPI Policy on Disclosure by MIPI Members of Board adopted MIPI Specifications. But read the disclosure policy carefully. Even when permitted there are important special requirements in the event of disclosure. For example, disclosure must include the MIPI Alliance copyright notice as it is contained in the specification.

Yes, but the specification itself may not be disclosed unless otherwise allowed. Consult the MIPI Policy on Source Code Disclosures.

As discussed in the Membership FAQs, the subsidiary company is an affiliate of your company. In this case you are allowed to provide the document to the colleague at the affiliate, although MIPI Alliance encourages all active users to have their own user accounts on the MIPI Members Web site so they can access documents directly.

It could lead to suspension or termination of membership. See Article IV, Section 3 (d) of the MIPI Bylaws.

Patent Licensing & Payments

Per the provisions in the Membership Agreement, (MA) Membership in MIPI does provide that among Members, RAND terms will be made available, but as discussed in questions above, MIPI neither controls nor participates in licensing negotiations among Members and does not research or track which patents or intellectual property might be applicable.

None. In choosing to join MIPI, a company willingly enters into a contract when signing the Membership Agreement. Signing the Membership Agreement does not constitute an assignment of patent rights.

This contract provides for the granting and receiving of licenses as provided for in the Membership Agreement. Members also contract through the Membership Agreement to provide and enjoy RAND licensing for products outside of mobile scope.

These and similar questions depend on many details requiring intimate knowledge of the products and the transactions involved. As with so many of these questions, it is appropriate to consult company counsel.

For implementations of MIPI Specifications in mobile products as defined in the MIPI Alliance Membership Agreement, Members provide royalty free licenses to each other. Outside “mobile scope,” Member companies enjoy the provision of RAND terms.

These licenses are "worldwide, non-exclusive, non-sublicensable, non-transferable (except as provided in Section 7.10)" of the MIPI Membership Agreement to do the things normally associated with broad licenses.

The most significant difference for most companies between the licensing models relates to whether royalty payments must be made. Inside mobile terminals and accessories as defined, the license is royalty-free. Outside, RAND licensing applies, which is generally understood to mean with or without compensation.

Other differences will relate to the terms Member companies agree to provide each other for non-mobile uses. These are determined by the parties involved; MIPI is not involved in those negotiations or communications.

If the licenses are for Compliant Portions (defined in the MIPI Membership Agreement ) inside a Mobile Terminal (also defined in the MIPI Membership Agreement) or in certain components or accessories, no compensation can be required of the licensee. However, see the next question.

The MIPI Membership Agreement provides that if the Compliant Portions are NOT IN a Mobile Terminal, the license required by the MIPI Membership Agreement must be on RAND (reasonable and nondiscriminatory) terms, which generally is taken to mean with or without compensation.

This is determined by negotiations between the licensor and licensee. MIPI is not involved in those negotiations or communications.

MIPI does not know, since MIPI does not research or track intellectual property of Members or non-Members.

  • MIPI Alliance does not provide legal opinions and has no official interpretation of language of the MIPI Membership Agreement and MIPI Bylaws. As a matter of normal practice, MIPI requests that companies consult with their own legal counsel for interpretation of clauses in the documents and their application to company concerns.
  • MIPI does not research or track intellectual property, nor does MIPI require disclosure of IP from its Members, so MIPI is not able to answer these questions concerning Member IP, etc. MIPI disclaims any obligation to investigate or inquire into the existence or validity of any intellectual property rights of its Members or of non-Members.

A license agreement between your company and each and every MIPI Member is unlikely to be needed but MIPI cannot answer the question definitively since Member intellectual properties need not be disclosed to MIPI by Members.

It may be that one or more MIPI Members do have applicable patent claims, and you might need to arrange terms per the provisions in the Membership agreement. As discussed in Question #1 in the “IP/Patents” section of this FAQ, MIPI does not have knowledge of the intellectual property of its Members, and disclaims any obligation to inquire for such information. See that FAQ item for more detail.

MIPI Member companies are entitled to important benefits and owe certain obligations to all other Members. Among these are duties to share through licensing the benefits of their world-wide patent protected intellectual property ("IPR"), including IPR claimed in patent applications. These obligations are defined in the MIPI Membership Agreement which is signed by MIPI and every Member company, binding on the Member and all its Affiliates. These claims are licensed by each Member to every other Member (including in each case all Affiliates).

Inside mobile scope, as defined by the Membership Agreement’s definitions of Mobile Terminals and Accessories, Members provide each other a royalty free license. Outside mobile scope, Members provide RAND terms to one another and the financial terms are not pre-determined.

Typically, companies that implement MIPI Specifications will provide any required royalties. Customers who buy products that implement MIPI Specifications typically would not need to pay an additional set of royalties.

MIPI charges no royalties of any sort.

MIPI Members pay annual dues to be Members of the organization, but there are no royalties paid to MIPI.

MIPI Alliance’s Position on Implementation Testing

MIPI Alliance developed and maintains a policy to state clearly, to its members, its relationship to product testing and evaluation. The policy strongly encourages members to participate in test activities to promote product quality, speed the overall development process, and improve manufacturability of products that use MIPI Alliance specifications. The MIPI Alliance Test Policy, established by the board of directors in 2012 and updated by the board in 2016, also provides the mandate for the Test Working Group. 

Unlike most MIPI Alliance working groups, the Test Working Group itself does not produce any specifications. Instead, it functions in an advisory role for all MIPI Alliance working groups that do develop specifications. It promotes an awareness of test issues and encourages development of test-related materials.

The Test Working Group also advises the MIPI Alliance Board of Directors on all test-related issues and conformance questions. It encourages members to participate in conformance and interoperability test activities and to list their conforming products on the MIPI Product Registry.

The Test Working Group encourages all other MIPI Alliance working groups to develop Conformance Test Suite (CTS) documents for their specifications to help the industry consolidate around a common set of test methods. The Test Working Group assists other working groups in the development of CTS documents.

The Test Working Group also raises awareness of the importance of two principles of specification development: 1) promoting development of features that support “design for testability” to make it easier to develop and test an implementation; and 2) promoting “design for manufacturability” so products built with MIPI Alliance specifications can be more easily manufactured and potential problems can be identified prior to production and fixed during development. 

No, the intent in forming the Test Working Group was not to evaluate or test implementations. MIPI Alliance does not judge whether products comply with or conform to its specifications. Furthermore, MIPI Alliance does not mandate testing of products that use its specifications, nor does it endorse/approve test equipment, test tools, labs or services, or develop equipment-specific documents.

The Test Working Group does not arrange test events directly but strongly advocates that members hold conformance testing events and/or interoperability testing events (a.k.a. “plugfests”) to facilitate convenient product testing or to determine how well their products work together. 

The Test Policy approved in 2016 allows and encourages MIPI Alliance working groups to organize these test activities. All members, particularly independent test labs and test services companies, are also encouraged to organize events. 

MIPI Alliance contributor, promoter, and founder members are welcome to join.

Once a specification is released, MIPI Alliance recommends that test event organizers invite participation from all levels of members who have implemented a MIPI specification in their products. Prior to a MIPI specification’s release, participation requires access to working group materials and typically consists of active working group members.

We encourage test service providers to join MIPI Alliance and participate in the Test Working Group as well as our specification working groups. Participation helps companies stay informed about testing needs and upcoming events.