Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pandora interview: Using HTML5 to deliver content to the car

At CES this year, our own Andy Gryc had a chance to sit down with Tom Conrad, CTO at Pandora, a long-time QNX CAR platform partner. Pandora is already in 85 vehicle models today and continues to grow their footprint, not only in automotive but in consumer as well.

Take a couple minutes to hear Tom's perspective on standardizing on HTML5 across markets and to get a glimpse of the future of Internet radio in automotive. And make sure you watch the whole thing — there's some fun outtakes at the end.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Making the growing number of connected cars continuously better

Guest post by Yoram Berholtz, Director of Market Adoption, Red Bend Software

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.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Creating HTML5 apps for the car

Adding a downloadable app capability to the car isn't just a matter of bolting consumer-grade technology onto an automotive hardware platform, dusting your hands, and calling it a day.

Apps should be integrated into the vehicle experience, which means they need access to vehicle resources. But you must carefully control that access: the apps should be isolated in their own environment to protect the rest of the car software. Most of all, the apps need to conform to safe driving practices, which typically entails a re-write of the user interface.

Still, we should leverage as much as possible from the mobile world. That’s where the real innovation happens; the mobile community provides a much bigger pool of fresh ideas than automakers could ever build by themselves. And the best tools and libraries are focused on mobile development.

That’s why QNX Software Systems is building the best of both: an application tool that draws heavily from mobile, but is adapted to the car. It's provisionally named the HTML5 SDK for the QNX CAR application platform and, while it isn't yet available to the public, beta versions are now available for QNX CAR platform customers.

For a preview of what we’ll be rolling out, check out this video:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Making your car a first-class citizen of the Web

Tina Jeffrey
Anyone who follows the latest ongoings of the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) may have heard today’s news: the launch of the Automotive and Web Platform Business group. We live in a connected world, and let’s face it, many of us expect access to our favorite applications and services while on the road. I see the formation of this W3C group as a huge step in the pursuit of marrying web technology and the automobile.

The business group will bring together developers, OEMs, automotive technology vendors — many of who, like QNX, were part of Web and Automotive Workshop held last November. The group allows us to continue the discussion and to define a vehicle data API standard for enabling automotive services via the Web. And this is just the start of greater things to come: standards for OTA (over-the-air) software updates, driver safety, security, and seamless integration of smart phones and tablets.

As a member of the QNX automotive team, I second my colleague Andy’s enthusiasm in the announcement in saying we’re extremely excited to be part of this group and the process of helping to define these standards for the industry.

Check out the W3C press release.

Tina is an automotive product marketing manager at QNX Software Systems

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

An (info)graphic look at self-driving cars

If I were in the insurance industry, I'd be following the development of autonomous cars with keen interest. Think about it: all those cars will have to be insured, but they will probably get into fewer accidents (and incur fewer insurance settlements) than conventional vehicles. That could be good for business as well as for safety.

So why am I bringing this up? Because has come up with an infographic on autonomous cars, and it's a doozy. (Trivia dep't: Some believe that the expression "it's a doozy" was coined by the legendary automaker Duesenberg, as part of a campaign to promote its vehicles. Others disagree. I thought you'd want to know.)

Kidding aside, the infographic does a nice job of summarizing the potential benefits of self-driving vehicles, including greater safety, faster traffic flow, reduced fuel wastage, and increased mobility for people with physical handicaps.

Of course, if these benefits are borne out, we will all have to come to terms with the inevitable conclusion: computers do a better job of driving than humans. If you can get comfortable with that, you should survive the year 2040 with a minimum of future shock.

POSTSCRIPT: Sorry, folks, the infographic is no longer available — Paul

Self-driving cars

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

First look: HTML5 SDK for the QNX CAR platform

Whenever I hear the word “ripple,” I think of ice cream: butterscotch ripple, chocolate ripple, lemon ripple, and (yum) strawberry ripple. Well, the video I'm about to show you isn’t about ice cream, but it is about something that’s just as cool and just as sweet: the Ripple mobile environment emulator.

Ripple already supports multiple platforms, such as BlackBerry 10 and Apache Cordova, allowing developers to preview how their apps will look and function on a variety of mobile devices. And now, thanks to extensions provided by the QNX CAR development team, it will also emulate how an app looks and performs in a vehicle infotainment system.

Simply put, the same tool that helps app developers target mobile platforms will also help them target the car.

QNX Software Systems will offer this modded version of Ripple as part of the HTML5 SDK for the QNX CAR platform. The goal of the SDK is simple: to help mobile developers and automakers work together on creating apps for in-vehicle infotainment systems.

If you’re a developer, you’ll be able to use the Ripple emulator and its associated Web Inspector to perform JavaScript debugging, HTML DOM inspection, automated testing, and screen-resolution emulation, all from the convenience of a web browser. You’ll also be able to modify your apps and view the results without having to recompile — simply edit your source code and hit refresh in the browser. You’ll even be able to perform remote debugging on the evaluation board or final hardware used by the automaker, again from the same browser environment.

Enough from me. Let’s get the complete scoop from my colleague Andy Gryc: