Power on the Port

We don't usually think about it when we do a simple thing like plug a USB mouse into our computer, but the various connectors that our computers have are also sometimes powering the devices attached to them. This is by default the case with USB and Firewire, two port designs that are intended from the outset to supply a bit of power through their connectors.

This concept has also been extended: there are specialized USB 2.0 ports and accompanying connectors that supply more than the basic level of power; USB 3.0 has been designed from the ground up to supply added levels of power on its connectors; there are variants of eSATA and Ethernet to supply power; and a variety of RS-232 serial ports have been designed to deliver increased power to peripherals. In the next few articles we will look at each of these interfaces in turn to see what they provide and how it can be used.

The markets for these powered ports are growing as people grow tired of the mess of power adapters (or "wall warts") clogging outlets and power bars. This is particularly the case in the Point-of-Sale industry, where numerous peripherals are all connected to one POS system.

On the consumer side also, people are increasingly using ports as charging interfaces for cell phones, Bluetooth earpieces, music players, and iPods, among other things. Inexpensive external hard drives and their enclosures draw little enough power that they can be powered by ports onto which they connect as well.

All of these demands have reconfigured ports to be both data paths and channels to deliver power to peripherals, and the trend will continue into the future.

All About Serial

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