More and more car manufacturers are implementing over-the-air software updates as a way to improve functionality, fix software defects, and guarantee a user experience that is continuously better. Car manufacturers GM (OnStar) and Daimler (MBRACE 2) have been leaders in recognizing the value of over-the-air updates for improving their infotainment systems. For example, GM recently updated the Bluetooth technology in OnStar to support late model smartphones.
The ability to update the infotainment system even manually is an improvement over requiring car owners to visit the dealership every time a new software update is available. As an example, Ford recently launched a program for consumers to update their own MyFord Touch system by mailing Ford owners a USB drive loaded with the appropriate software updates. However, many consumers view manual updates as bothersome and complicated, which means some systems simply don’t get updated. Today’s car owners expect their infotainment systems to have the same user experience as their mobile devices, and that means performing software updates over-the-air.
Scope and scale
According to ABI Research, there will be 210 million connected cars by 2016, and together with the ability to tether the smartphone to the infotainment system, the main enabler for doing over-the-air update is there: connectivity.
The updating solution must have scope and scale. Scope is the ability and the flexibility to update all of the memory including the user and system space with full or discrete components. As well, the solution must scale to manage millions of updates without failure and with the highest security possible. This, for example, would enable users of the QNX CAR application platform to update not only the QNX CAR software but also individual applications such as Pandora or the Weather channel.
In the mobile industry, where over-the-air software updating is a well-established practice, manufacturers and service providers realize many benefits:
- Cost reduction — Over-the-air software updates have reduced warranty costs
- Update success rate — Over-the-air software updates deliver the highest success rate
- Faster updates — Sending only the code that is different between the original software and the update (often called the delta) is faster and uses less bandwidth
- Customer satisfaction — A fast and automatic over-the-air process eliminates the need for the consumer to go to the dealer
A holistic solution
The mobile industry has enjoyed these benefits for some time. The automotive industry needs over-the-air updating even more so because the infotainment system includes millions of lines of code and updating this software requires a holistic solution that can manage the whole software life-cycle.
Red Bend Software has integrated its vRapid Mobile® update technology, which exists in more than 1.6 billion devices, into the QNX CAR platform. This enables car manufacturers and Tier 1 providers the flexibility to create an over-the-air update strategy that is optimized for infotainment systems and also for other embedded systems in the car. Today, infotainment systems are central in the car cockpit experience. These systems contain not only the QNX CAR 2 platform but also a variety of applications. Applications for the auto industry are not like applications for mobile devices. Applications for the auto industry have been modified in order to meet the car environment and have more voice activation and larger buttons so the driver isn’t distracted.
Car manufacturers are looking at their infotainment systems as product differentiators and as a valuable asset to generate revenues after the sale. The automobile industry doesn’t want Over-the-Top companies controlling the delivery channel to the infotainment system and weakening automotive brands. With a holistic Firmware Over-the-Air (FOTA) solution, car manufacturers can guarantee ownership of the infotainment firmware and applications, increasing the consumers’ perceived value through a much stronger brand.
Not if, but when
No longer is the auto industry asking whether or not to perform over-the-air updates. Now car manufacturers and tier one suppliers are asking how often and when should updates be provided during the life-cycle of the infotainment system.
Yoram Berholtz is the Director of Market Adoption at Red Bend Software, the market leader in Mobile Software Management. Mr. Berholtz is responsible for working with mobile operators and device manufacturers to help them increase and improve their usage of over-the-air software updating. In addition, he has responsibility for developing partnerships and go-to-market strategies in the Automotive and Connected Device markets, and oversees the Red Bend Certified™ Interoperability program. Mr. Berholtz has experience in engineering, product management and partner management with an emphasis on mobile communications technologies, having worked at Motorola, Pelephone, ECI Telecom, Schema, Intel and Marvell.