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Original Publication Date: 2001-Apr-20
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2001-Apr-20
Document File: 2 page(s) / 9K

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Bruce Geren: AUTHOR



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by Bruce Geren


With the proliferation of portable electronic devices (PEDs) and its projection to steadily increase, connecting PEDs to peripheral equipment has become common-place. Such PEDs include computer laptops, cellular phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), music players (particularly MP3 players), digital cameras, and camcorders. Although wireless communications is a growing trend, wired connections are still favored due to higher transfer rates, lower cost, and better data security.

PEDs are usually momentarily connected to other devices through a cable connection to transfer information. Connectors can vary in size from very small to very large and from a few pins to dozens of pins. As these connectors get smaller and the number of pins remain substantially high, the connector becomes more fragile and difficult to manipulate by the user. The user base is also increasing to include small children as well as aging adults which only complicates the matter.


The Multiple Orientation Smart Connector is a method in which a cable can be plugged into a PED in more than one orientation. This increases the odds of successfully connecting a cable to a PED on the first try without fumbling to get the correct orientation. This can also lead to the simplifying of the mechanical "keying" to make the connection alignment easier and quicker. A simplified mechanical key also reduces the risk of damaging the connectors due to improper alignment.

The ability to make a connection without perfect vision of the cable and mating connector (or "blind insertion") is also improved, such as making a connection in a poorly lit area or reaching behind a computer.

The Multiple Orientation Smart Connector can be implemented using two different methods: A mechanical approach; or, both a mechanical and electrical approach.


A mechanical-only approach would be desirable for connectors that have only a few electrical signal pins, the size of the connector is not of much importance, or the cost of the implementation must remain very low. An example of a 4-signal cable that can be plugged into a connector of a PED using two orientations is shown in Figure 1. In this example, four pads (or contacts) are exposed on each side of a cable's connector, for a total of 8 contacts, where each side gets each of the 4 signals, but they are laid out in opposite pin order.

Only one side is used when the cable is mated to the PED, leaving the other 4 contacts currently unused. However, if the cable were rotated by 180 degrees and then re-mated to the PED, the same 4 signals still match up with the mating connector and complete the circuit, allowing two different orientations. This example would work well with a Universal Serial Bus (USB) cable.

Note that this example place...