Tuesday, December 23, 2014

There’s experience, and then there’s experience

Or how a single word can have a trunkful of meanings.

"Liked your blog post. It was so random.” That, believe it or not, is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. You may think it funny that I see this as a compliment. But truth be told, randomness is part of my mental DNA — as anyone who has attempted to hold a conversation with me can attest. Even Google seems to agree. A few years ago, they temporarily closed my Blogger account because, according to their algorithms, my posts consisted of random, machine-generated words. I kid you not.

So why am I going on about this? Well, someone asked me about QNX Software Systems’ experience in the automotive market and, sure enough, my mind went off in several directions all at once. Not that that’s unusual. In this case, however, there was justification for my response. Because when it comes to cars and QNX, experience has a rich array of meanings.

First, there is the deep experience that QNX amassed in the automotive industry. We’ve been at it for 15 years, working hand-in-hand with car makers and tier one suppliers to create infotainment systems, digital instrument clusters, connectivity modules, and handsfree units for tens of millions of vehicles.

Next, there’s the experience of working with QNX the company. In the auto industry, almost every automaker and tier one supplier has unique demands — not to mention immovable deadlines. As a result, they need a supplier, like QNX, that’s deeply committed to the success of their projects, and that can provide the expert engineering services they need to meet start-of-production commitments. No shrink-wrapped solutions for this crowd.

Then, there’s the experience of using QNX technology to build automotive systems — or any type of system, for that matter. Take the QNX OS, for example. Its microkernel architecture makes it easier to isolate and repair bugs, its industry-standard APIs make it easy to port or reuse existing code, and its persistent publish/subscribe technology offers a highly flexible approach to integrating high-level applications with low-level business logic and services.

And last, there’s the experience of using systems based on QNX technology. One reason we build technology concept cars is because words cannot express the rich, integrated user experiences that our technology can enable — experiences that blend graphics, acoustics, touch interfaces, natural language processing, and other technologies to make driving simpler and more convenient.

Nor can words express the sheer variety of user experiences that our platform makes possible. If you look at the QNX-powered infotainment systems that automakers ship today, it soon becomes obvious that they aren’t cookie-cutter systems. Rather, each system projects the unique values, features, and brand identity of the automaker. For evidence, look no further than GM OnStar and the Audi Virtual Cockpit. They are totally distinct from each other, yet both are built on the very same OS platform.

On a personal note, I must mention one last form of experience: that of working with my QNX colleagues. Because that, to me, is the most wonderful experience of all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

One day I’ll be Luke Skywalker

Cyril Clocher
What happens when you blend ADAS with infotainment? Guest post by Cyril Clocher, business manager for automotive processors at Texas Instruments

As we all begin preparing for our trek to Vegas for CES 2015, I would like my young friends (born in the 70s, of course) to reflect on their impressions of the first episode of Lucas’s trilogy back in 1977. On my side, I perfectly remember thinking one day I would be Luke Skywalker.

The eyes of young boys and girls were literally amazed by this epic space opera and particularly by technologies used by our heroes to fight the Galactic Empire. You have to remember it was an era where we still used rotary phones and GPS was in its infancy. So you can imagine how impactful it was for us to see our favorite characters using wireless electronic gadgets with revolutionary HMIs such as natural voice recognition, gesture controls or touch screens; droids speaking and enhancing human intelligence; and autonomous vehicles traveling the galaxy safely while playing chess with a Wookiee. Now you’re with me…

But instead of becoming Luke Skywalker a lot of us realized that we would have a bigger impact by inventing or engineering these technologies and by transforming early concepts into real products we all use today. As a result, smartphones and wireless connectivity are now in our everyday lives; the Internet of Things (IoT) is getting more popular in applications such as activity trackers that monitor personal metrics; and our kids are more used to touch screens than mice or keyboards, and cannot think of on-line gaming without gesture control. In fact, I just used voice recognition to upgrade the Wi-Fi plan from my Telco provider.

But the journey is not over yet. Our generation has still to deliver an autonomous vehicle that is green, safe, and fun to control – I think the word “drive” will be obsolete for such a vehicle.

The automotive industry has taken several steps to achieve this exciting goal, including integration of advanced and connected in-car infotainment systems in more models as well as a number of technologies categorized under Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that can create a safer and unique driving experience. From more than a decade, Texas Instruments has invested in infotainment and ADAS: “Jacinto” and TDAx automotive processors as well as the many analog companion chips supporting these trends.

"Jacinto 6 EP" and "Jacinto 6 Ex"
infotainment processor
A unique approach of TI is our capability to leverage best of both worlds for non-safety critical features, and to provide a seamless integration of informational ADAS functions into existing infotainment systems so the vehicle better informs and warns the driver. We announced that capability at SAE Convergence in Detroit in October 2014 with the “Jacinto 6 Ex” processor (DRA756), which contains powerful CPU, graphics multimedia, and radio cores with differentiated vision co-processors, called embedded vision engines (EVE), and additional DSPs that perform the complex ADAS processing.

For the TI’s automotive team, the CES 2015 show is even more exciting than in previous years, as we’ve taken our concept of informational ADAS to the next step. With joint efforts and hard work from both TI and QNX teams, we’ve together implemented a real informational ADAS system running the QNX CAR™ Platform for Infotainment on a “Jacinto 6 Ex” processor.

I could try describing this system in detail, but just like the Star Wars movies, it’s best to experience our “Jacinto 6 Ex” and QNX CAR Platform-based system in person. Contact your TI or QNX representative today and schedule a meeting to visit our private suite at CES at the TI Village (N115-N119) or to immerse yourself in a combined IVI, cluster, megapixel surround view, and DLP® based HUD display with augmented reality running on a single “Jacinto 6 Ex” SoC demonstration. And don't forget to visit the QNX booth (2231), where you can see the QNX reference vehicle running a variety of ADAS and infotainment applications on “Jacinto 6” processors.

Integrated cockpit featuring DLP powered HUD and QNX CAR Platform running on a single “Jacinto 6 Ex” SoC.
One day I’ll experience Skywalker’s life as I will no doubt have the opportunity to control an intelligent and autonomous vehicle with my biometrics, voice, and gestures while riding with my family to the movie theater playing chess with my grandkids, not yet a Wookiee.

Monday, December 15, 2014

QNX celebrates crystal anniversary in automotive

Long-term success in the auto market relies on a potent mix of passion, persistence, innovation, and quality. And let's not forget trust.

Imagine, for a minute, that you are a bird. Not just any bird, but a bird that can fly 11,000 kilometers, non-stop, without food or rest.

That’s hard to imagine, I know. But the bird in question — the bar-tailed godwit — is very real, and its ability to fly across vast distances is well documented. Every year, as winter approaches, the godwit lifts off from its breeding grounds in Alaska, bears southwest, and doesn't stop beating its wings until it touches down in New Zealand. Total uninterrupted flight time: 216 hours.

The godwit epitomizes indomitable drive, infused with a dose of pure stick-with-it-ness. Qualities that, to me, characterize QNX Software Systems’ success in the auto market — a story that took flight 15 years ago.

Bar-tailed godwit: long-distance champion
© Andreas Trepte
It all started in 1999, when Motorola and QNX unveiled mobileGT, an automotive reference platform based on the QNX Neutrino OS. For the first time, QNX publicly threw its hat into the automotive ring. Mind you, QNX was already busy behind the scenes: 1999 also marked the first year that QNX technology shipped in passenger vehicles. It’s been a steady climb ever since, and you can now find QNX technology in tens of millions of vehicles.

There are many technical reasons why QNX has become a premier software provider for the automotive market. But for automakers and their tier one suppliers, technology alone isn’t enough. They also need to know that, as a supplier, you are deeply committed to the success of their projects — like the flight of the godwit, bailing out halfway isn’t an option. They also need to trust that, when you say you’ll do something, you will. And that you’ll do it on time. Even if you have to cross an ocean to do it.

In short, you might enter this market because of your skills and passion, but you thrive in it because you behave as a real partner, working in concert with your customers and fellow technology suppliers. That’s why I refer to our fifteenth anniversary in the car business with the same language used to describe a fifteenth wedding anniversary. Because we’re committed, we’re passionate, and we’re in for the long haul.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The power of together

Bringing more technologies into the car is all well and good. The real goal, however, is to integrate them in a way that genuinely improves the driving experience.

Can we all agree that ‘synergy’ has become one of the most misused and overused words in the English language? In the pantheon of verbal chestnuts, synergy holds a place of honor, surpassed only by ‘best practices’ and ‘paradigm shift’.

Mind you, you can’t blame people for invoking the word so often. Because, as we all know, the real value in things often comes from their interaction — the moment they stop acting alone and start working in concert. The classic example is water, yeast, and flour, a combination that yields something far more flavorful than its constituent parts. I am speaking, of course, of bread.

Automakers get this principle. Case in point: adaptive cruise control, which takes a decades-old concept — conventional cruise control — and marries it with advances in radar sensors and digital signal processing. The result is something that doesn’t simply maintain a constant speed, but can help reduce accidents and, according to some research, traffic jams.

At QNX Software Systems, we also take this principle to heart. For example, read my recent post on the architecture of the QNX CAR Platform and you’ll see that we consciously designed the platform to help things work together. In fact, the platform's ability to integrate numerous technologies, in a seamless and concurrent fashion, is arguably its most salient quality.

This ability to blend disparate technologies into a collaborative whole isn't just a gee-whiz feature. Rather, it is critical to enabling the continued evolution and success of the connected car. Because it’s not enough to have smartphone connectivity. Or cloud connectivity. Or digital instrument clusters. Or any number of ADAS features, from collision warnings to autonomous braking. The real magic, and real value to the consumer, occurs when some or all of these come together to create something greater than the sum of the parts.

Simply put, it's all about the — dare I say it? — synergy that thoughtful integration can offer.

At CES this year, we will explore the potential of integration and demonstrate the unexpected value it can bring. The story begins on the QNX website.

Monday, December 8, 2014

First impressions are the most lasting

Lynn Gayowski
Lynn Gayowski
Preparations for 2015 CES in January are in full swing at QNX Software Systems, both in and out of the garage. Thus, with fond memories in mind, the time has come to graduate our 2014 technology concept car, based on a Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, to a CES Car of Fame. The Mercedes will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was the first technology concept car I got to experience hands-on since joining the QNX team.

If I were to describe this concept car with one word, I would choose "user-centric". (I love how hyphens can really help in these succinct situations.) We designed the infotainment system and digital instrument cluster with a vision to help drivers interact in new and seamless ways with their vehicles. This concept car is a great example of how QNX technology can enable a more natural user experience.

As we hum a few bars of Sarah McLachlan's classic I Will Remember You, let's look back at some highlights.

The first thing that catches your eye is the matte exterior and stylish lines, exuding just a soupçon of James Bond:

QNX 2014 technology concept car - exterior

But let's get to the technology. At 21" by 7" the touch screen is a showstopper. It brings a rich, graphical interface to both driver and passenger. This is where you can really see the user-centric design, with options to control the infotainment system with the touch screen, physical buttons, a jog wheel, or voice commands:

QNX 2014 technology concept car - infotainment system

We really wanted to use the car to highlight the flexibility of the QNX CAR Platform and how customers can easily modify features using the platform's pre-integrated technologies. A great example of this is the car's navigation system. The car actually has 4 different navigation solutions installed, demonstrating how automakers can choose a solution best suited for a particular geography or language. EB Street Director is featured in this photo:

QNX 2014 technology concept car - navigation

The infotainment system may wow you, but don't forget about the cluster. The Mercedes has a dynamically reconfigurable digital instrument cluster that can display turn-by-turn directions, notifications of incoming phone calls, video from the car's front and rear cameras, as well as a tachometer, speedometer, and other virtual instruments, at a full 60 frames per second. The cluster can even notify you of incoming text messages on your phone. Simply push a steering-wheel button, and the system will read the message aloud, so you can keep your eyes on the road.

QNX 2014 technology concept car - cluster

Another cool feature is the cluster's "virtual mechanic" which lets you access vehicle info like tire pressure, brake wear, and fuel, oil, and windshield fluid levels:

QNX 2014 technology concept car - virtual mechanic

What car of the future would be complete without connectivity? A custom "key fob" app allows you to remotely access system maintenance information, control the media player, locate the car on a map, and perform a number of actions like starting the car and opening window. This cross-platform HTML5 app can run on any smartphone or tablet:

QNX 2014 technology concept car - key fob

As an overall view of the Mercedes, one of my favourite pieces is this video by Sami Haj-Assaad of AutoGuide, where he takes a look at the design and features of the car. His closing quote really sums up the innovation showcased: "The infotainment industry is going through a huge upgrade, with QNX leading the charge."

I hope you enjoyed the 2014 QNX technology concept car. Watch for the reveal of our 2015 technology concept car January 6 at CES in Las Vegas!

Cast your vote: which CES show car, past or present, should get a makeover at this year’s show?

Lynn Gayowski
Lynn Gayowski
2015 CES is only a few weeks away! This year in addition to showcasing a new technology concept car, we'll have some exciting updates to one of our existing vehicles. Before we unveil which vehicle will receive its CES facelift, we want to hear from you.

Starting today, through Monday, January 5, cast your vote on which CES show car, past or present, from QNX Software Systems you would most like to see revamped at this year's show. We will announce the results on Tuesday, January 6 – the first day of the show. Here is our full list of cars:

What will it be — the BMW Z4 Roadster or the Bentley Continental GT? Perhaps it's the LTE Connected Car based on a Toyota Prius or the Kia Soul that we had on display last year?

Let the voting begin!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Beyond the dashboard: discover how QNX touches your everyday life

QNX technology is in cars — lots of them. But it’s also in everything from planes and trains to smart phones, smart buildings, and smart vacuum cleaners. If you're interested, I happen to have an infographic handy...

I was a lost and lonely soul. Friends would cut phone calls short, strangers would move away from me on the bus, and acquaintances at cocktail parties would excuse themselves, promising to come right back — they never came back. I was in denial for a long time, but slowly and painfully, I came to the realization that I had to take ownership of this problem. Because it was my fault.

To by specific, it was my motor mouth. Whenever someone asked what I did for a living, I’d say I worked for QNX. That, of course, wasn’t a problem. But when they asked what QNX did, I would hold forth on microkernel OS architectures, user-space device drivers, resource manager frameworks, and graphical composition managers, not to mention asynchronous messaging, priority inheritance, and time partitioning. After all, who doesn't want to learn more about time partitioning?

Well, as I subsequently learned, there’s a time and place for everything. And while my passion about QNX technology was well-placed, my timing was lousy. People weren’t asking for a deep dive; they just wanted to understand QNX’s role in the scheme of things.

As it turns out, QNX plays a huge role, and in very many things. I’ve been working at QNX Software Systems for 25 years, and I am still gobsmacked by the sheer variety of uses that QNX technology is put to. I'm especially impressed by the crossover effect. For instance, what we learn in nuclear plants helps us offer a better OS for safety systems in cars. And what we learn in smartphones makes us a better platform supplier for companies building infotainment systems.

All of which to say, the next time someone asks me what QNX does, I will avoid the deep dive and show them this infographic instead. Of course, if they subsequently ask *how* QNX does all this, I will have a well-practiced answer. :-)

Did I mention? You can download a high-res JPEG of this infographic from our Flickr account and a PDF version from the QNX website.

Stay tuned for 2015 CES, where we will introduce even more ways QNX can make a difference, especially in how people design and drive cars.

And lest I forget, special thanks to my colleague Varghese at BlackBerry India for conceiving this infographic, and for the QNX employees who provided their invaluable input.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Words to the wise: discover, integrate, trust, and experience

Lynn Gayowski
Lynn Gayowski
It's hard to believe that 2015 CES is right around the corner. And like elves in Santa's workshop, we've been hard at work on our awesome show demos — which includes a new technology concept car and updates to one of our reference vehicles (more on that later).

At the heart of our CES presence, from our booth theme to show demos, will be four words that encapsulate the key values that QNX Software Systems delivers — discover, integrate, trust, and experience. Each week leading up to CES, we'll highlight one of these words and outline how it relates to the core of QNX Software Systems and its technologies.

We're kicking off the series tomorrow so be sure to check back to read our latest blog post.