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Unified Centralized Network Stack (UNICENS)

The Unified Centralized Network Stack (UNICENS) sets a new standard for handling complex, heterogeneous infotainment networks out of one single software framework.

Today’s modern cars need to offer advanced audio and video capabilities to their users. However, handling multiple audio or video sources that can be dynamically distributed to multiple sinks requires complex hardware and software mechanisms to ensure high quality, perfect synchronization and low latency. Car makers also need to use in-vehicle networks to transfer an increasing amount of data to perform updates. In addition, system engineers need expert know-how of each bus technology. This complexity also reaches the application engineers who need to communicate over such networks. This meant long development cycles and complex application code, until now.

UNICENS technology separates application development and network management by defining a standardized abstraction layer between low-level, hardware-specific software and applications. This means that application engineers can fully concentrate on their applications without knowing anything about the underlying physical layer. Network configuration can be done in a simplified way within record time. OEM and Tier 1 system engineers can easily configure the vehicle’s networks (e.g. INIC technology) alone or with our support.


Compared to MOST NetServices (MNS), which need to be running on every node of a system, UNICENS only needs to be installed and running on one single node, commonly called the Root Node. UNICENS acts as a centralized control and management instance for the whole network, which can be configured in static or dynamic mode. In the latter mode, it scans the network at startup time to discover the nodes and then configures every node properly. Once the network is up and running, UNICENS controls it during the full operating time. UNICENS also handles the multiple connections between the nodes in order to guarantee bandwidth and latency to transfer audio or video, to send or receive control information along with sending small or big datasets of information using standard Ethernet frames over the INIC network. All this has been implemented and encapsulated in UNICENS so that only minimum handling is required from the developers. UNICENS dramatically reduces development cycles. It reduces the complexity of the software and makes the overall experience of using INIC technology easier than any other technology.

UNICENS also offers new capabilities for hardware developers by introducing the concept of slim nodes. Traditional nodes in an infotainment system used to require a local microprocessor or microcontroller to handle the communication on the bus and perform the required actions on the node. UNICENS’ slim nodes eliminate the need to have a local intelligence in the node. The root node centrally controls all the nodes of the system. It sends data and remote commands to the INIC of the other nodes. Then the local INIC on each remote node passes data and commands to the local hardware components. With fewer components, slim nodes are smaller, less expensive and they become more reliable.

For applications requiring intelligence and processing power on remote nodes, UNICENS also supports traditional nodes integrating a microcontroller. Slim nodes and traditional nodes can be mixed in the same network.

UNICENS can be used on a variety a microprocessors and microcontrollers. For small devices, it is available in a lightweight bare-metal version. For complex systems, such as head-units or instrument clusters, Microchip provides a suitable driver for Linux® or QNX operating systems. Extensive integration in the operating systems and in standardized application frameworks is also available to abstract applications from the technology used for the physical network.

UNICENS is compatible with the OS81118, OS81119 INICs and future controllers. UNICENS can be used with these INIC for free. It is released under the 3-Clause BSD License, a permissive open-source license that allows ours customers to easily integrate it into or link it to their application, no matter if this application is open source or closed source.

We offer UNICENS training to existing and new customers. Existing customers who already have experience with MOST® physical layer devices and MOST NetServices will be trained on the new INIC technology and UNICENS software and learn how to migrate their existing software from MOST NetServices to UNICENS. New customers will be trained on both UNICENS and INIC physical layer.

For further information about UNICENS technology and development tools, please contact support-ais-de@microchip.com

Take Advantage of Our Automotive Connectivity Training

Learn how to use our products and the capabilities of  INICnet™, UNICENS and MOST® technologies effectively to create your automotive applications. These training modules and customized training options are taught by an experienced trainer and provide a balanced mix of theory and hands-on exercises where you can use the latest tools and software.