12.1. Embedded Controller Interface Description

Embedded controllers are the general class of microcontrollers used to support OEM-specific implementations. The ACPI specification supports embedded controllers in any platform design, as long as the microcontroller conforms to one of the models described in this section. The embedded controller is a unique feature in that it can perform complex low-level functions through a simple interface to the host microprocessor(s).

Although there is a large variety of microcontrollers in the market today, the most commonly used embedded controllers include a host interface that connects the embedded controller to the host data bus, allowing bi-directional communications. A bi-directional interrupt scheme reduces the host processor latency in communicating with the embedded controller.

Currently, the most common host interface architecture incorporated into microcontrollers is modeled after the standard IA-PC architecture keyboard controller. This keyboard controller is accessed at 0x60 and 0x64 in system I/O space. Port 0x60 is termed the data register, and allows bi-directional data transfers to and from the host and embedded controller. Port 0x64 is termed the command/status register; it returns port status information upon a read, and generates a command sequence to the embedded controller upon a write. This same class of controllers also includes a second decode range that shares the same properties as the keyboard interface by having a command/status register and a data register. The following diagram graphically depicts this interface.


Fig. 12.1 Shared Interface

The diagram above depicts the general register model supported by the ACPI Embedded Controller Interface.

The first method uses an embedded controller interface shared between OSPM and the system management code, which requires the Global Lock semaphore overhead to arbitrate ownership. The second method is a dedicated embedded controller decode range for sole use by OSPM driver. The following diagram illustrates the embedded controller architecture that includes a dedicated ACPI interface.


Fig. 12.2 Private Interface

The private interface allows OSPM to communicate with the embedded controller without the additional software overhead associated with using the Global Lock. Several common system configurations can provide the additional embedded controller interfaces:

  • Non-shared embedded controller. This will be the most common case where there is no need for the system management handler to communicate with the embedded controller when the system transitions to ACPI mode. OSPM processes all normal types of system management events, and the system management handler does not need to take any actions.

  • Integrated keyboard controller and embedded controller. This provides three host interfaces as described earlier by including the standard keyboard controller in an existing component (chip set, I/O controller) and adding a discrete, standard embedded controller with two interfaces for system management activities.

  • Standard keyboard controller and embedded controller. This provides three host interfaces by providing a keyboard controller as a distinct component, and two host interfaces are provided in the embedded controller for system management activities.

  • Two embedded controllers. This provides up to four host interfaces by using two embedded controllers; one controller for system management activities providing up to two host interfaces, and one controller for keyboard controller functions providing up to two host interfaces.

  • Embedded controller and no keyboard controller. Future platforms might provide keyboard functionality through an entirely different mechanism, which would allow for two host interfaces in an embedded controller for system management activities.

To handle the general embedded controller interface (as opposed to a dedicated interface) model, a method is available to make the embedded controller a shareable resource between multiple tasks running under the operating system’s control and the system management interrupt handler. This method, as described in this section, requires several changes:

  • Additional external hardware

  • Embedded controller firmware changes

  • System management interrupt handler firmware changes

  • Operating software changes

Access to the shared embedded controller interface requires additional software to arbitrate between the operating system’s use of the interface and the system management handler’s use of the interface. This is done using the Global Lock as described in Section 6.5.7, but is not supported on HW-reduced ACPI platforms.

This interface sharing protocol also requires embedded controller firmware changes, in order to ensure that collisions do not occur at the interface. A collision could occur if a byte is placed in the system output buffer and an interrupt is then generated. There is a small window of time when the incorrect recipient could receive the data. This problem is resolved by ensuring that the firmware in the embedded controller does not place any data in the output buffer until it is requested by OSPM or the system management handler.

More detailed algorithms and descriptions are provided in the following sections.