Detailed system and semiconductor demand analysis for in-vehicle infotainment, telematics and vehicle-device connectivity features.

August 3, 2010 05:08 rlanctot
The latest salvo from the Genivi Alliance – a SWOT analysis of competing automotive operating systems – appears to cloud rather than clarify the existing automotive OS market environment. The future prospects for current and emerging players are described with little supporting evidence or insight. The report also concludes – from OEM and supplier interviews – that the Alliance’s assumptions regarding cost savings are valid without providing a detailed financial analysis of where cost savings may be achieved – ie. head count, lines of code, etc. Not surprisingly, the self-serving report concludes that Genivi will rule the market in the long term with deployments beginning in the 2013-2015 timeframe ( The report initially sets out to provide a thumbnail view of current OS market leaders Microsoft, QNX, MicroItron, Linux and Android. Going without mention are Mentor Graphics, Ubuntu, OpenSynergy, Meego or even VxWorks (currently used by Peugeot-Citroen, Nissan and Volkswagen). Also missing entirely are Genivi members MontaVista and Wind River. Ostensibly, the goal of the report is to benchmark and/or handicap these various infotainment software architectures and their influence on in-vehicle infotainment systems; and to validate the cost savings claimed for Genivi’s code-sharing/recycling model. Missing is a detailed description of the actual software architectures themselves – ie. what makes one “better” than another. What is available in the report summary seems misleading such as a reference to Microsoft Auto booting slowly, which is also a shortcoming of Android, but which is also easily overcome. Also missing is a discussion of current market forces, strategic supplier relationships, recent mergers and acquisitions or potential mergers or acquisitions. The absence of these latter aspects means that Intel’s acquisition of Wind River goes without mention as does the merger of Intel’s Moblin platform with Nokia’s Maemo OS to create Meego – rumored to have been selected by Genivi as its infotainment platform of choice. (Press and Nokia reports have quoted senior Genivi representatives stating that Meego has been chosen for this purpose - No affirmation of this selection has come from any Genivi member other than BMW.) MontaVista’s acquisition by Cavium Networks and QNX’s purchase by RIM gets no attention in the report. Neither does TomTom’s decision to adopt the Webkit OS, a platform found in other segments of the mobile market such as Palm’s Web OS. (The report fails to note Bosch’s adoption of Linux or Visteon’s embrace of Genivi, Microsoft, QNX AND Ubuntu – hedging its bets.) These oversights are more significant than they seem as they suggest a lack of awareness of the symbiosis between mobile device operating systems and automotive hardware and software architectures. Additionally, the report repeatedly refers to “risk-averse” Japanese OEMs and tier one’s being hesitant to adopt open, Linux-based platforms – including anything from Genivi to Android.  This assertion is patently absurd given Clarion’s longstanding support of Linux. The report also paints a grim picture of QNX’s market outlook, suggesting the company’s app support is “difficult to configure” and that the company can be expected to withdraw from the IVI market entirely within a short period of time. This will no doubt be news to executives at QNX’s Ottawa headquarters where headcount committed to automotive projects is on the rise as are design wins. And the acquisition of QNX by RIM opens doors to automotive-related IP (ie. traffic apps) while adding access to a massive and growing installed base (ie. probes). Unlike all of the alternatives currently in the market, QNX currently offers a range of flexible, scalable solutions future proofed to support Adobe Flash, HTML5, Flash Air and Flash 10.1 and all mobile OS's. QNX is customer friendly with support unmatched by Linux-based competitors or Microsoft. By way of contrast, OEMs implementing Microsoft are finding they must enlist the aid of third-party developers (bSquare, Elektrobit, etc.) to customize Microsoft Auto to their requirements. Microsoft has left application development entirely to its customers and their partners. It is worth noting as well that QNX’s flexibility is an advantage vis-à-vis Microsoft. Where QNX supports nearly every potential application or implementation known to automotive engineers without favor, Microsoft is likely to push its Bing search engine, Silverlight graphics and other in-house offerings. The report notes that the next generation Microsoft IVI platform, Motegi (Windows Automotive Embedded 7), will launch with Japanese OEMs, though it provides no time frame. Microsoft indeed has at least two partners in Japan – Alpine and Mitsubishi – which suggests that either Honda or Mercedes may be implementing Motegi. The report neglects to mention QNX’s recent gains in Japan, including Panasonic and Denso, showing a deeper penetration of QNX into Toyota. In fact, QNX has benefitted handsomely and rapidly from its separation from Harman – immediately attracting attention from potential Japanese and Chinese customers. Where QNX is weakest is in developer support. This is precisely where Android shines. The report summary correctly identifies existing developers working on automotive Linux implementations – ie. Parrot, Continental and Roewe – and identifies the inclination of many designers in the industry to connect with Android but to keep it out of the central stack. The report also notes Google’s disinclination to support or endorse Android for automotive implementations, but leaves the door open to an embedded future for Android. (GM is thought to be considering an open platform such as Meego or Android for a future OnStar or infotainment launch.) But this points up a fundamental gap in the report, which is the wider context of the OS debate. Android and Genivi do not line up directly with QNX, Microsoft or Linux (pick your distribution). Genivi has always been positioned as a code sharing platform for infotainment systems - as such it has never been presented as a replacement for Microsoft or QNX. Android, similarly, is being pursued as an alternative for ultra-low-cost (entry level) platforms - typically those emanating from India and China - as well as a means for implementing revenue sharing models based on mobile applications in the car. The new Genivi report marks the first time the Alliance's platform is proposed as a replacement for QNX or Microsoft or any other OS, indicating a change in strategy for the group. This is where the group may be overreaching. Presenting Genivi as a one-for-one substitute for existing real-time operating system solutions is a different proposition from offering a code-sharing/recycling platform intended to reduce development costs. Obtaining industry buy-in to this vision will take 5-10 years, by which time the market may well have moved on to the next big thing. And as an industry coalition-driven solution, Genivi arrives untested in the marketplace. The report further attempts to validate Genivi’s vision for cost-reduced platform development, saying interviewees estimated IVI deployment cost savings of up to 50%. At the same time, though, the report acknowledges that initial implementations may cost even more than incumbent solutions. Justifying or validating proposed Genivi cost savings will continue to be a tall order for the Alliance. Conclusions: The Genivi Alliance’s IVI software architecture report provides valuable insights but is rife with glaring omissions, unsupported conclusions and errant assumptions. The report oversimplifies the automotive OS ecosystem and competitive environment and underestimates the influence of some incumbent players, such as QNX, and the emerging role of content and service aggregators including TeleNav, Inrix, Airbiquity, WirelessCar, TCS, ITIS Holdings, Navteq and Hughes Telematics. A few of these content and service providers were interviewed for the report. But not a single telecommunications carrier or handset maker – outside of Nokia - was interviewed. Even more obvious than these omissions, however, was the exclusion of both Audi and the joint venture with Elektrobit - the single most prominent, influential and competing IVI platform in the industry. The oversight is obvious and unfortunate. The forces that are determining the future of the automotive IVI experience are almost entirely developing outside of the car, so a wider base of interviewees should have been considered. The single greatest weakness of the Genivi Alliance is its inward focus on the automotive industry as opposed to an outreach to the wider world of mobile devices and consumer electronics. It is possible for Genivi to “win” in the long run and “challenge” (in the report’s own words) Microsoft, but the Microsoft embedded solution will always have the advantage of developer support from across a broader range of industries and the design priorities that those other user communities will contribute. Genivi’s narrower focus is at once its greatest strength but, in the end, its Achilles heel. <!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]--> <!--[endif]--> Further insight: Smartphone Market Evolution and the Automotive Opportunity Implications – Mark Fitzgerald – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service - Automotive Connectivity: Beyond Bluetooth Solutions – Mark Fitzgerald – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service -

July 27, 2010 20:07 rlanctot
Attendees at Ford’s recent launch of the 2011 Explorer at the Newseum in Washington, DC asked company executives if they were worried about the potentially distracting aspects of the MyFord Touch voice-based interface available on the new SUV. The answer from Ford was that MyFord Touch specifically enables hands-free use of vehicle systems allowing the driver to keep hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. This is the message that not all industry participants are grasping. The smartphone is rapidly becoming a platform for delivering safety systems into vehicles and yet leading governmental and non-governmental bodies continue to declare their opposition to the use of mobile devices in cars. The National Safety Council, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation (Ray LaHood) and the American Automobile Association have all declared their opposition to mobile phone use in cars. Public authorities should speed, not impede, the path of technological progress. If smartphones can deliver safety to drivers faster than embedded systems or DSRC-based systems requiring billions of dollars in infrastructure investment, so be it. And new applications from companies such as ImaginYze and Global Mobile Alert, among many others, are making advanced safety technology available via smartphone apps. Fortunately, none of this opposition to mobile phone use in cars has produced national or even local legislation banning mobile phone use altogether. Most laws only go so far as to either ban texting and driving or to require hands-free devices. In some states, teen drivers are forbidden to use mobile phones while driving. Nevertheless, the campaigns continue, including Oprah Winfrey’s NoPhoneZone. Germany probably has the best solution in allowing mobile phone use in a car but forbidding the touching of the phone while driving. This seems like an effective and appropriate solution especially since it allows the driver to continue to benefit from the growing range of applications that provide for enhanced safety. Throughout the world the race is on to bring advanced safety systems to cars. The European Union most recently detailed their plans to mandate safety technologies. One can only hope the EU will not proceed to define which technology is used, as in the case of eCall. If there is anything that has slowed down the advance of connected safety systems in European cars it has been the pursuit of a mandated technology on top of the application mandate. Meddling governments – operating with the best of intentions – have repeatedly intruded on new technology development and instead of stimulating innovation and competition have quashed both. In the case of eCall, the in-band modem technology selected by the EU arrives as an already outdated solution that continues to be resisted at the Federal, OEM and public service access point levels. (In contrast, the U.S. is already well on the way to defining and deploying far more flexible digital solutions as part of its Next Generation 911 initiative - European research initiatives ranging from SISTER ( – which looks at satellite-based safety solutions – to AKTIV ( – which looks at the efficacy of embedded cellular technology for safety apps – to TeleFOT ( – which is assessing nomadic device-based safety systems all reveal the range of available solutions capable of fulfilling the newly-minted EU program of safety system mandates (  Even Ertico’s ADASIS, the Advanced Driver Assist Systems Interface Specification Forum ( has been considering smartphone-based solutions. At the most recent ADASIS meeting a solution was presented as part of a separate presentation showing a solution from ImaginYze ( offering an augmented reality lane departure warning solution based on a forward facing smartphone camera – a solution long in development - for portable navigation devices - from companies such as Navigon and Elektrobit. (Since its most recent meeting - July 5th - ADASIS has released a specification for map-based ADAS applications - But it doesn’t stop there. About a dozen applications ( have been launched around the concept of limiting mobile phone use in a moving vehicle, most notably Zoomsafer. Interestingly and maybe not surprisingly some of these companies have turned to commercial opportunities to enable safe use of mobile phones for fleet drivers.  Global Mobile Alert offers yet another application suited to both passenger vehicles and commercial applications. A $24.99 (per year) download for Android phones, which just launched two weeks ago, Global Mobile Alert is an application that uses a digital map as a sensor to warn drivers of approaching traffic lights, and school zones or railroad crossings, among other hazardous conditions (  The Global Mobile Alert (GMA) crash avoidance application is the first of its kind and can be deployed in a smartphone or licensed for navigation systems or in-vehicle telematics systems. GMA provides audible alerts when a moving vehicle approaches an intersection at a dangerous predetermined speed. The objective of the application is to overcome driver distraction. (GMA licenses Navteq data for its application, although even Navteq's database does not include every single traffic light, but Navteq was the only available source of this data.) Of course, systems have been tested and are in development to allow a smartphone to actually be aware of the status of upcoming traffic lights. This is not something the GMA app is capable of, but is likely to be available commercially in the near future. Interestingly, an almost identical solution to GMA is in development within the IntelliDrive community using DSRC technology – instead of a map – to alert drivers to oncoming vehicles at dangerous interections. Of course, the DSRC technology, which is years from being deployed, has a wider range of implied applications in that it enables vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. In conclusion, government authorities will do well to do their best to avoid unintended consequences in their legistlative activities. The EU no doubt intended to speed the arrival of eCall by getting involved in the standards-setting process. All parties would agree today that the reverse has occurred. Similarly, in the drive to save drivers from distraction and the resulting fatalities, injuries and property damage, elected officials should be mindful of the distraction mitigating capabilities of smartphones. The source of the problem is the source of the solution.

July 26, 2010 11:07 rlanctot
Porsche is changing horses in the stolen vehicle recovery department, opting for Autotxt’s stolen vehicle recovery solution for the 911, Boxter and Cayman, according to industry sources. The change may be coming as a result of Autotxt’s new architecture which enables a single electronic control unit (ECU) to provide a wide range of vehicle diagnostic and remote control capabilities in addition to vehicle tracking. An official announcement is expected later this week. This single ECU solution from Autotxt has the potential to transform the relationship between the driver, the smartphone and the car, providing an enhanced opportunity to sell stolen vehicle recovery systems in the context of a low-cost smartphone-based telematics application. The technology has implications for customer and dealer relationships as well as for broader branding and marketing purposes. It also creates a new path for app distribution to drivers. Finally, the announcement shows Porsche taking one step closer to the inevitable introduction of telematics. Porsche has had a telematics system in place, ready to launch, for many years. The choice of Autotxt move the company that much closer to that decision while providing an in-place solution to satisfy the European eCall mandate. The Autotxt solution for Porsche - which will supplant the existing offering from Cobra Automotive - provides for both reactive and proactive stolen vehicle notification and recovery. In the reactive mode, the vehicle owner must notify the service provider, Autotxt, when the vehicle has been stolen. In the pro-active, or early-warning, application, the service provider is notified of any unauthorized vehicle movement at which point the driver is contacted. The Porsche application – which is a dealer install - may also offer the same functionality provided by Autotxt for Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin. Those implementations use the driver’s Bluetooth-enabled phone as the driver identification tag. Alternatively a keyfob can be provided. The system allows for up to seven Bluetooth driver IDs. Porsche is still evaluating this provision. The Autotxt offering is unique in the flexibility of its ECU. Like other modules coming into automobiles for related tracking, tolling and telematics applications, the Autotxt device is deeply embedded in the vehicle with access to the controller area network (CAN) codes. Autotxt expects to make available by Q2 2011 a smartphone application for remote vehicle control and diagnostics. Autotxt executives expect to be able to provide remote control functionality including remote activation of heating and air conditioning, windows, door locks and remote starting along with data logging and vehicle diagnostics. The multifunction ECU, therefore, can become an event data recorder as well as an eCall or bCall platform while also gathering and distributing data on overall vehicle operation available to either the driver or the dealer or both. The device could also handle trip reporting, battery status for electric vehicles and a wide range of location-aware applications. In this way, the car maker retains control of the in-vehicle connectivity experience in contrast to the widely reported terminal mode approach of conveying the smartphone HMI into the car. Autotxt expects to have versions of its system available for Android and other platforms by the middle of next year. The Porsche deal is global in scope as are the implications of the ongoing Autotxt development activities.

June 27, 2010 14:06 rlanctot
Presenters at Freescale’s Technology Forum sought to clear the air on some fundamental automotive development questions. Chief among the topics debated at the event were operating system trends generally and Android specifically, and the emergence of automotive application stores. Representatives from OnStar, Kia, Hyundai, and Visteon as well as system integrators such as IAEC all agreed that apps are coming to cars. It does not appear to matter whether they are built-in, brought in or beamed in. They are coming. To cope, auto makers will confront the challenge with a few key priorities in mind: Safety Liability In-vehicle HMI Branding Security OEMs say they need to ensure that the vehicle can be operated safely; that liability issues are pre-empted; that key elements of in-vehicle HMI are properly integrated; that branding messages are preserved and not superseded; and that the security of the on-board systems and the customer’s information are maintained. For these reasons, OEMs will be seeking assistance to establish validation processes and criteria for apps coming into the vehicle. Liability stood out among these issues as a point of disagreement. While OEM representatives say car makers will be blamed for any app failure, and dealers will be forced to cope with these complaints, non-auto industry executives thought consumers would simply blame the app maker, telecom carrier or handsets supplier. Unfortunately, car makers cannot afford to gamble that they won’t be blamed for failures. Because of the magnitude of this task, OEMs are already adding staff for software development while partnering with third party developers to create their own approved, branded solutions. While some applications are being developed in house, most development activity is taking place within the software developer community to OEM specifications. The long-term implications of these developments are monumental when the need for software updates is taken into account. It also means that OEMs are in many instances taking on the role of being their own tier ones – a function first defined by Ford with the launch of Sync. Ford has pioneered and, some say, mastered the strategy of acting as general contractor for its Ford Sync system with its growing community of software developers and service providers. Companies such as Kia Motors, Hyundai Motor America and Toyota Motor Sales all have followed suit with varying degrees of success. OnStar has made no secret of the fact that it is hiring technicians and expanding its supplier eco-system as it modifies its hardware and software model to make room for the app phenomenon. Hardware tier ones such as Delphi, Continental, Visteon and Johnson Controls are attempting to step into the general contractor role as well, offering to play the role of application certifiers. The acceptance of these appeals remains to be seen. Visteon and QNX demonstrated application store and content aggregation platforms at the Freescale Technology Forum. Visteon’s solution was built on Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux distribution. QNX’s offering was based on its own OS, although QNX is able to implement ann Android-based solution, if required, via its abstraction layer. Other automotive software suppliers on hand at the event included Canonical, Mentor Graphics, Wind River, Green Hills and Microsoft. Given the rapid growth in developer support for Android and its proliferation in the mobile market, it is logical that there be a connection to the app store debate. Suppliers to the automotive industry continue to debate the question of Android in the car. But several presenters at the Freescale Technology Forum suggested the question was moot, not only because Android was simply another version of Linux, which is already widely distributed in the car, but because the automotive platform is already being implemented. Lingering objections to Android appear to boil down to two issues, according to a Freescale executive at the Technology Forum: boot time and versions. Android can take as long as 40 seconds to boot, as anyone who owns an Android phone can attest. Android supporters say the millisecond boot times required by automotive specifications can be achieved with hardware and software workarounds. With regard to the multiplying versions of Android, it is true that the platform is still at least partially in the hands of Google and new versions arrive on a regular basis. Additionally, the priorities for the propagation of new versions are governed by the exigencies of the mobile, not the automotive, marketplace. Android supporters say it is hard to imagine that any operating system platform will not be subject to change and updating, hence this objection does not appear to hold water. Freescale has waded into the debate with developer support for Android applications for mobile devices. Freescale has an i.MX51 evaluation kit with Android OS board support package (BSP). Freescale says its BSP is ready to be adapted to select i.MX platforms. “The i.MX51 multimedia applications processor running Android is an excellent platform for building a high-performance, low-power and cost-effective mobile device that successfully passes the Android Compatibility Test Suite (CTS).” According to an executive from Intrepid Control Systems (ICS), which has created an Android application - Sensor Spy - for extracting sensor data from a vehicle for triggering mobile device functions, Google retains control over access to a few aspects of Android including the Android Market, access to specific Google APIs, and access to cloud features such as voice recognition and push technology. But the ICS executive pointed out that Android can be used for its APIs and tools and that a home screen can be used to hide Android from the end user (via Mentor Embedded Inflexion UI). The ICS executive proceeded to describe how the Android model works concluding that Google TV may be an ideal automotive application. In conclusion, he pointed to the Android-based SAIC InkaNet optional connectivity platform introduced for the Chinese market earlier this year as the first automotive Android implementation. Indications in the industry are that it is only the first of many to come. Conclusion: App stores are a reality in the automotive marketplace. But automotive app stores will differ from the Apple App Store or Android Market. Automotive applications will have to be properly vetted for liability, security, HMI, safety and branding. For this reason, it is unlikely that car makers will be able to implement off-the-shelf application solutions. Car makers will be forced to create new supplier relationships and a new eco-system to support the app store model. They will be forced to do this in the context of an ill-defined path to revenue generation (from selling apps? from selling app-related enhancements or content?) in the hope that app stores will stimulate vehicle sales or as a customer-driven defensive response to the proliferation of smart phones and smart phone connectivity platforms in the automotive industry. The message from the Freescale Technology Forum: Like it or not, automotive app stores and the Android OS have arrived. Additional insights: - InkaNet – Mobile-Based Infotainment Comes To Chinese Autos - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service - Kevin Mak - Enabling Technologies Forecasts A to E - Wireless Device Strategies - Bonny Joy - Automotive Semiconductor Demand Forecast 2008 - 2017: Datafile - Automotive Electronics Service - Chris Webber - Nokia and RIM Push Into Automotive as 'Apps' Competition Mounts - Automotive Multimedia and Communications  Service - Joanne Blight Intrepid Control Systems - Android OS for Infotainment: Advantages of an Open Architecture -

June 20, 2010 08:06 rlanctot
It’s difficult to comprehend the schizophrenia of the automotive industry unless you’ve been living with it for longer than you can remember. One minute OEMs are embracing suppliers, the next they are beating them into the earth, forcing down their margins. The latest manifestation of this schizophrenia (some may call it give and take) is the contest over infotainment operating system dominance. Which automotive OS is best? Which is gaining? Which is losing? Does anyone care? The questions are all serious ones and they reflect the struggles at tier one suppliers to determine which operating systems to support. The issue was highlighted, yet again, at the annual Fachkongress Elektronik in Ludwigsburg last week. At the event, Audi voiced its support for QNX, Microsoft restated its devotion to the automotive industry as part of its wider embedded software initiative, and BMW announced its first Genivi implementation for a MY2013 vehicle program. But might these commitments shrivel in time as so many others before them have? What’s new in the current debate is the increased assertiveness of OEMs. OEMs are no longer content to take whatever a tier one supplier may deliver. In addition, there is a perception that the operating system represents a potential point of cost reduction. OEMs are taking charge in a variety of ways including specifying the operating system in the RFQ, creating a coalition for sharing and re-using code as in the case of Genivi, or getting into the system integration business itself as in the case of Audi’s venture with Elektrobit. This new assertiveness on the part of OEMs has placed tier one suppliers in a bind. For many of these organizations, software and, by extension, the operating system, has represented the special sauce that the tier one brings to the RFQ proposition. From a tier one supplier’s perspective, the OEMs are seeking to strain that special sauce, which translates roughly as added value or cost, draining it of its value and ultimately diminishing the justification for an expensive solution. OEMs are hiring software engineers and programmers the way they used to hire line workers and tier one suppliers are feeling the pressure. The usual schizophrenia enters the picture when tier one’s try to make sense of what OEMs say they want. OEMs say they want open source software – as in the case of the Genivi Alliance built around Linux – yet they say, generally, that Android (also based on Linux) is too open. They say they prefer closed software systems – as in the case of Microsoft or QNX – but not too closed. It is a clever supplier, indeed, that can make sense of these conflicting messages. But with five-year development cycles in mind, hard decisions must be made. The fundamental criteria for evaluating operating systems break down to: Developer support Cost Flexibility Security Stability Cross Platform Functionality Long-Term Viability Independence All of the available operating system platforms have their merits and are competitive on each of these criteria with some notable exceptions. But it is worth considering the relative merits of each of the most popular platforms. Android is considered by many OEMs and suppliers to be “too open” – by which is meant vulnerable to attack. Android is supported most notably by Continental and Parrot and, indirectly, by a rapidly growing developer community and a growing range of hot selling handsets, Android is an OS to be reckoned with regardless of the qualms regarding its openness. And the widening use of an abstraction layer of code in automotive systems has rendered moot most security concerns. Our sources at Strategy Analytics say RFQs requiring Android have already been awarded. There is a broader battle surrounding Android in that the technology is being extended to a wide range of consumer electronics categories including televisions, netbooks and tablet PCs. Google’s promotion of Android into other domains places the Linux-based OS in direct confrontation with Microsoft and Apple which also have designs on the consumer electronics OS market. The fact that Android is being leveraged to facilitate connectivity to the wider device eco-system makes it an attractive choice for auto makers. Even GM/OnStar is considering Android for its next generation platform. Nevertheless, industry resistance persists. When it comes to automotive operating systems, though, Strategy Analytics recommends a dispassionate consideration of the relevant criteria and all signals suggest Android is a legitimate contender for future automotive platforms. Genivi is a Linux-based, industry-coalition driven OS intended to reduce development costs for OEMs by re-using and sharing software code. Genivi inspires both respect and anger in the industry. But, again, Strategy Analytics recommends a dispassionate evaluation. Genivi inspires respect because it has been promulgated by Intel and BMW, which have attracted a broad coalition of OEMs, tier ones and second and third tier suppliers. It inspires anger because coalition members of lesser status feel their influence is diminished. Most industry participants feel they must “participate” in the Genivi coalition so as not to miss out on any business opportunities with the leaders of the coalition: Intel, BMW and GM. At the same time, skepticism abounds regarding the length of time required for Genivi to impact the industry, the motives of the founders, and the internal decision-making processes of the organization. The impact of Genivi can probably best be compared to the influence of Autosar or JasPar. These initiatives unfolded over many years with the true nature of their impact only recently becoming clear. A typical benchmark to put Genivi into perspective, is the 10 years it took for Nokia’s “terminal mode” technology to reach the market as a commercial standard. As for the motives of the Genivi founders, it is simply to share and re-use code with the intention of reducing the cost of development. Leading Genivi participants expend a great deal of energy emphasizing the limited amount of software code that will be impacted by this sharing, but second- and third-tier players in the organization remain suspicious. BMW’s announcement at the Ludwigsburg event of te first vehicle implementation of Genivi for model year 2013 was momentous for the organization and the industry. But industry sources say the entry nav version of the platform in question – BMW’s NBT, for Next Big Thing – is being built around an nVidia processor. NVidia is not a participant in Genivi. Even in its first implementation, Genivi is raising questions about the solidarity of its coalition. (The premium NBT package will be QNX-based on an Intel platform.) Linux, in all its forms, appears to be the most popular operating system in the industry. Linux benefits from not having the support of any large organization with an industry shaping agenda. As an open source platform it is perfectly malleable and well-suited to a rapidly changing marketplace and technology eco-system. Linux is open and yet not perceived as representing a security risk and it is showing up in a growing range of systems and devices both within and outside the automotive industry. As in the case of Android, developer support is strong, and some tier ones previously working in older platforms, have begun shifting to Linux, as the safe choice. Robert Bosch and Clarion/Hitachi are just two of many suppliers that have turned to Linux even as they weigh other options. Visteon has been showing Ubuntu implementations during and since the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Microsoft, meanwhile, has one of the hottest hands at the OS table. The company routinely points to its two-million unit success with Ford Sync and its one-million unit (and counting) achievement with Fiat’s Blue&Me, with similar expectations for the soon-to-be-launched Kia Uvo platform. But Microsoft still struggles with a legacy of suspicion in the automotive industry. Car makers and OEMs frequently express their concern that the automotive industry is an afterthought for Microsoft. Microsoft has fostered this thought process by shuffling executives into and out of the automotive group. At the Ludwigsburg event the newest head of the Embedded Software group, Kevin Dallas, had his debut making a forceful statement for the Microsoft platform. In spite of any concerns about Microsoft's devotion, suppliers Alpine and Mitsubishi in Japan and Continental and Magneti Marelli in Europe have profitably embraced the platform. Microsoft can rightfully claim perhaps the widest developer support in the software industry. The company’s Bing search initiative is making impressive gains and its developer tools are widely supported. Microsoft even has its own alternative to Flash, called Silverlight, which is expected to see automotive implementations in the near future. Where Microsoft is weak, at least at the moment, is in the mobile market. Where Android has been able to counter Apple’s growing influence in mobile phone operating systems, Microsoft is struggling. Microsoft’s influence on the automotive market would no doubt be greater at this time if the company could point to a stronger position in the handset market. For now, Microsoft will be content to support individual OEM customers. Building on its success at Ford and Fiat and anticipated gains at Kia, it is likely that Microsoft will have a new OEM partner to announce within the next year. Chrysler and Mercedes are the most obvious but not the only candidates for a future announcement. QNX is in the strongest position it has ever been in in the automotive OS market. Harman’s design wins over the past five years have created a monumental backlog of premium infotainment implementations that will keep the company busy for the foreseeable future. At the Ludwigsburg event, QNX gained the endorsement of Audi as a critical element in its strategic plans. The company can also lay claim to the support of Panasonic and Denso, reflecting strong relationships with Chrysler and Toyota. QNX is perceived by many in the industry as being vulnerable for its lack of developer support and its lack of influence beyond the automotive market. But these perceptions may be subject to revision following the company’s acquisition by RIM. RIM creates instant credibility for QNX in the mobile market and QNX for RIM in the automotive market. In its current form, QNX is challenged by the need to keep pace with new drivers for mobile devices arriving on the market on a weekly basis. Microsoft and Android have the luxury of actually providing the drivers to many of these devices. QNX will gain from its RIM relationship, but the challenge will be to expand the capabilities of its operating system without increasing its system requirements. It is clear, though, that QNX has already gained a significant boost from its separation from Harman, making it easier for competing tier ones to adopt the platform. Conclusion The ongoing automotive operating system debate is complex and not easily resolved. Even aging platforms such as Micro-Itron or VxWorks (Nissan, PSA, Volkswagen) continue to persist and most vehicle infotainment systems and devices use multiple operating systems. In fact, the typical car might have a dozen or more operating systems processing information. The automotive business is not a zero sum game. Even at the Ludwigsburg event last week, new OS players Mentor Graphics and OpenSynergy were on hand taking in the latest industry developments even as they are laying the groundwork to make their own impact. Strategy Analytics can only recommend that industry executives make their OS decisions dispassionately and avoid prejudice and suspicion. There is plenty of business to go around and a win by one OS is not a defeat for another. Additional insight: Global OE Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems Forecast 2009-2017 - Joanne Blight - Global Automotive OE Audio/Visual (A/V) Systems Forecast 2009-2017 - Joanne Blight -

June 16, 2010 08:06 rlanctot
While major media and cable companies talk about four screen strategies the telematics industry is abuzz over the emergence of a three screen world. This was never more clear than at last week’s Telematics Update event in Novi, Mich. From OEMs to tier ones, software and service providers, the focus is on leveraging handsets, head units and the Internet to create closer and more profitable customer relationships. Companies on hand preaching the three-screen gospel included Nokia, Continental, Airbiquity, WirelessCar, RealVNC, QNX, Google, ATX, Tweddle Group Technologies and Parrot. The solutions demonstrated and debated point the way to a more connected experience in the car where the customer can access vehicle related information from outside the vehicle or on a phone or online when away from the vehicle. Even meta data provider Rovi and HMI supplier TAT offered their contributions to the three-screen vision. Nokia described and defended its terminal mode technology, a European-oriented campaign built around what some term a “screen scrape” transfer of a smartphone’s display along with a shift of device control to the vehicle HMI. Nokia intends to equip all of its smartphones with terminal mode technology by early 2011 and is working through the CE4A coalition to coordinate tier one head unit implementation of the technology throughout Europe, where Nokia’s market share is strongest. Using similar technology, RealVNC showed development tools for extending terminal mode technology into a wider range of devices and markets. While Nokia claimed to have two competing handset makers interested in the terminal mode solution, RealVNC’s more agnostic approach offers a suitable alternative. Airbiquity promoted its in-band modem technology by extending the platform to include a customized user interface, tied to the user’s mobile phone, along with app store functionality and location and user-relevant advertising messages. Airbiquity is increasingly taking on the role of a content aggregator, tying together content and applications in a single user interface. Airbiquity's Bluetooth-based approach was presented as a powerful and low-cost data-over-voice/packet alternative to packet-only solutions which require a payment for dial-up networking or SPP monthly service fees. Airbiquity estimates that OEMs deploying packet-only solutions will limit themselves to 20% of the penetratable market of which only 3-5% will have extra carrier service plan for BT DUN/SPP packet connectivity. On top of the data-over-voice solution, Airbiquity is layering its Choreo cloud service for both consumer and commercial markets. Airbiquity says Choreo allows OEMs to convert the car to an IT platform, creating a global infrastructure for content and service delivery. WirelessCar has also stepped into the content aggregator role, showing a clever vehicle-to-smartphone integration providing some basic vehicle control functionality and information access. The WirelessCar solution suggested the long-anticipated realization of a vehicle portal also accessible via smartphone for sharing vital vehicle data with the owner. OnStar has found this approach, with key vehicle status information, to be a valuable tool for driving customer traffic and service revenue via the dealer channel. To drive home its message, WirelessCar led a panel discussion with Ericsson and Cybercom, representing the wireless carrier and software integration perspectives on the implementation of a three-screen world.  Actually, WirelessCar has been pushing and demonstrating this concept for at least three years. Tweddle Group Technologies – the combination of Tweddle Group with UIEvolution’s former automotive division – is also looking to fill the content aggregator role. The company brings to the table its long history in the owner’s manual business – which itself is transitioning to electronic delivery – along with a relationship with Pandora. The Tweddle solution, which allows for the delivery of text and video content - via head unit or handset - related to vehicle systems has intriguing possibilities if integrated with CAN inputs such as alerts or other status messages. Tweddle has yet to marry these two sources of data, but the concept is certainly a powerful one. QNX has also envisioned sharing vehicle status information with the driver via on-board displays. The QNX LTE Car demo includes a “Virtual Mechanic” for providing the driver with images of vehicle systems and their status. Given Toyota’s recent disastrous recalls, the opportunity for these types of systems to catch on is strong. For its part ATX was demonstrating its new application for integration with Mercedes Benz’s TeleAid telematics service. The app provides for some basic vehicle control along with the ability to remotely send a destination to the vehicle’s navigation system. Continental’s AutolinQ concept may be a little ahead of its time in promising an on-board app store experience in an Android operating system environment. While car makers and suppliers have broadly embraced a variety of Linux distributions, Android is still running up against some industry prejudice over the issue of vulnerability to hacking and other perceived weaknesses. Industry buzz suggests that Android is being accepted and even specified in some RFQs, which is certainly a promising development for Continental. The growing Android momentum in the automotive, mobile and even consumer electronics markets suggests that Continental is on the right track. In support of its campaign, Continental announced an eco-system of solution providers contributing to the platform including Ygomi, Inrix, Navteq, Navigon and Deutsche Telekom. Continental will no doubt be flexible regarding these relationships if it means sacrificing a partner to obtain a new contract. But at least now the Continental vision has been clarified as a fully evolved proposition. Delphi executives attended the event, but did not demonstrate their own connectivity platform: D-Connect. Delphi has been vocal in its support of connectivity to Android devices, but resistance to building Android into the head unit. Since D-Connect has not been publicly announced it is hard to predict how Delphi’s final implementation will arrive in the market. Tier two Parrot showed chipsets optimized for mobile device connectivity including the latest Bluetooth protocols and Wi-Fi. Android also figures prominently in Parrot’s plans including some active programs, according to the company. Google announced additional “Send to” partners at the event – OnStar and Ford. For Google, the message for the industry is that it is a cloud-based world. Applications are no longer launched for desktop computers, they are launched on and for the Internet. Google’s recommendation is clearly that car makers facilitate cloud connections either on board or via mobile devices. OnStar, with the most powerful brand in the telematics industry, faces perhaps the greatest challenge in developing a cloud-oriented strategy. Not only must the company integrate its infotainment and telematics teams – long at odds over key applications such as Bluetooth connectivity and navigation – it must also reposition a brand identified almost entirely in relation to safety and security, not entertainment. The path is far from clear, but the promise of additional revenue from dealer service work to content consumption and, overall, a tighter relationship with the customer has car makers and their suppliers working overtime. All agree, at last, that the future lies in three screens. Leading the way are OnStar and Ford, each of which has defined its own three-screen strategy. BMW and Daimler are the next logical candidates to implement the handset-head unit-Internet approach. All of which points to common elements in future telematics solutions including: app stores (accessible via all three screens), vehicle control (across and between platforms), access to vehicle status information (all screens), content aggregation partner and back-end system provider, cloud-based content and services, and provision for multiple-handset compatibility. The emergence of these common threads are helping to clarify the future deployment of telematics systems speeding the delivery of in-vehicle connectivity. *Editor's note: Airbiquity executives suggested amending the strategy to FOUR screens. This week, Microsoft's embedded software division touted a FIVE screen strategy at the Fachkongress Elektronik in Ludwigsburg. Further insight: - Solid Q4 for PNDs, but ‘Free’ Navigation is Shaking Up Monetisation - John Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communication Service - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities - Smartphone Market Developments Shaking Up Automotive Strategies - Lanctot - Automotive Multimedia and Communications

May 19, 2010 20:05 rlanctot
Cypress Semiconductor’s announcement of the availability of automotive qualified TrueTouch capacitive touchscreens and LIN capable CapSense touch-sensing controllers promises a sea change in automotive console designs. While designers and engineers around the world continue to debate the relative merits of touch screens vs. voice, steering wheel and other interfaces, the advance of touch screen technology is rapidly settling the issue in favor of touch.Strategy Analytics analysis of the automotive and mobile device markets shows a steady shift in favor of touchscreens in multiple geographies. The reason for the movement is obvious given Strategy Analytics consumer research showing clear user acceptance and preference for touch screen technology. The industry is responding, however slowly. Another rationale for touch screen implementation is the greater flexibility for accessing applications and allowing a wider range of features and functions within those applications. The importance of the Cypress announcement needs to be considered in view of recent console designs and demonstrations as well as longer term industry trends. The BMW i-Drive, Audi MMI and other controller-type interfaces take advantage of the natural positioning of the right arm and hand on the center console. These configurations are designed to allow the primary LCD display be located as high in the dashboard as possible – far from the driver and NOT touch enabled. Of course, these interfaces allow for a broad simplification of the dashboard HMI configuration – with many fewer buttons and switches. The trouble is that controller-style interfaces still require too much checking of the screen to make selections or to move through multi-level menus. While the positioning of the screen is intended to reduce the change in focal length for the driver, it is not mitigating the inherent distraction. Tesla Motors, for one, is moving the touch screen closer to the driver and increasing its size to 14 inches and using a portrait configuration. Johnson Controls and Delphi have taken similar approaches in demonstration systems. But Delphi went one step further at the recent SAE event by positioning the display more or less in the console beneath where the driver’s arm will rest. By positioning a touch screen display in the console, the system removes the need for the controller interface completely. Some car makers are even combining a touchpad device – as in the case of Audi’s recent introduction able to recognize drawn characters – with a second display in the dash thereby providing some redundancy and/or a means of previewing inputs before they are selected. Delphi takes the concept a step further still by having a completely different HMI for when the vehicle is at rest vs. when it is in motion. In other words, different functions are available in the two different modes. (Smartphone applications, for example, are accessible when the vehicle is at rest.) As more consumers become increasingly familiar and comfortable with touch screens – rapidly proliferating in the mobile device segment thanks to the iPhone and Android-based devices – auto makers are finding greater acceptance for these interfaces in cars. Console-mounted touch screens will also enable easier access to a wider range of vehicle functions as well as location aware applications. With a touch-enabled display in the console, the driver will no longer have to reach out for the center stack. All applications and content will be right at the finger tips – again, with a second display mounted in the dash as a reference prior to making selections. Cypress may be the first, but will not likely be the last to bring capacitive touch technology to the automotive market. The advantages of wider design options, reduced distraction, enhanced functionality and potential cost savings mean that – well, resistance is futile. Cypress says the TrueTouch controllers are the industry’s first automotive-qualified capacitive touchscreen solution. The CY8C2x345 CapSense controllers pair analog resources with automotive industry standard LIN communication support, making the devices the ideal system controllers to interface with analog and capacitive touch-sensor inputs, and to control backlight LEDs and haptic actuators while communicating over the LIN bus. Cypress also announced that Grace Semiconductor in Shanghai, China has been qualified to fabricate automotive-grade CY8C2x345 CapSense controllers that adhere to the AEC-Q100 standard, ISO/TS 16949 quality management standard and Cypress’s Zero Defect manufacturing system. Cypress says its solutions are available in single-touch, multi-touch gesture and multi-touch all-point offerings and provide the ability to track multiple fingers simultaneously. The TrueTouch solutions are able to control screen sizes up to nine inches. They are designed for use in control panels, GPS and infotainment displays. Cypress says CapSense proximity sensing offers a detection range up to 25 cm, saving power by activating an interface only when needed. The devices are ideal for interior automotive applications such as audio, navigation, AC control and lighting control, as well as exterior applications such as trunk release and passive keyless-entry buttons, according to the company. The newly qualified CY8CTMG120 multi-touch gesture and CY8CTMA120 multi-touch all-point controllers are available for sampling in 56-pin QFN packages. The newly qualified CapSense products include the LIN-capable CY8C2x345 devices, available for sampling in A grade (-40C to 85C) in 28-pin SSOP packages with the 48-pin SSOP packages planned in Q3 2010. All products are expected to be in full production in Q3 2010. - Benchmarking the Premium In-Vehicle Experience - Chris Schreiner – Automotive Consumer Insights - Automotive HMI: Voice Technology and Touch Screens Have Significant Lead - John Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service - Chinese OEMs: Rapid Advance In Quality Bodes Well For Automotive Electronics - Kevin Mak - Automotive Electronics Service - Vehicle Entertainment and Navigation User Evaluation: 2010 Lexus LS460 - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights

May 17, 2010 15:41 Kevin Mak

At the 2010 Auto China (Beijing) show, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) launched the InkaNet 3G Intelligent Network Travel System – an infotainment platform designed in association with the mobile telecommunications operator, China Unicom, and the mapping vendor, AutoNavi.  Similar infotainment systems in operation elsewhere include FIAT Blue&Me, Ford Sync and Kia Uvo, whereby the car interacts with a Bluetooth-enabled mobile handset, which in turns connects with the Internet (with 3G and possibly WiFi connectivity) to provide a wide range of services for the driver.  These services include:

  • Email and SMS messaging.
  • Flight, hotel and train bookings.
  • Hands-free telephone calls.
  • HMI customization.
  • Internet radio, e.g. Pandora.
  • Mobile music streamed playback.
  • Navigation directions.
  • News headlines.
  • Photo sharing, e.g. Flickr.
  • Social networking, e.g. Facebook, Twitter;, QZone, Renren in China
  • Touch screen control.
  • Tourist information.
  • Traffic information.
  • Voice control.
  • Weather updates.

InkaNet will be first deployed as an optional extra on the newly-launched Roewe 350 compact sedan.    This development is significant for a number of reasons:  This is the first deployment of the Android open source software platform in an automobile.  *Adoption of the Continental AutoLinQ system has not yet been announced publicly.  Open source software platforms offer:

  • Flexibility, thus could be in a better position to satisfy customization requirements from OEMs that wish to bring about brand differentiation from their competitors.
  • Could enable inputs from third parties, thus raising the potential for faster development, as this could have been the case in InkaNet.
  • Growing mobile handset adoption of the Android platform may encourage consumer uptake of this infotainment system.

Competing software platforms include QNX, which began to release its source codes in 2007.  This company has recently been sold to RIM, a handset manufacturer.  This is one of the earliest deployments of this type of infotainment system in China.  *Ford China has also launched its Chinese-language Sync system on its models.  In 2009, China became the world’s largest car market by unit volume sold.  According to Strategy Analytics Wireless Practice, China is also experiencing growth in 3G and smartphone handsets, as the majority of web browsing is done through mobile handsets.    Therefore, the growth potential for such infotainment systems looks promising, if offered at a reasonable price.  This could also be the case for related services and systems feeding from InkaNet, such as connectivity systems, Chinese language software and voice control systems.  The use of the handset will also lower the barrier towards the adoption of certain related systems, such as navigation, that were previously the exclusive domain of the luxury car segment.  If proven successful, future prospects for the traditional, embedded infotainment system look bleak and that automotive vendors may need to seek further developments with mobile handset connectivity.  It may also put pressure on PND players to move into mobile telephony.  This system was wholly developed by Chinese players.  While there are many global vendors already operating in this market sector – Continental (AutoLinQ), Delphi, Denso (BlueHarmony), Google (navigation on the new Audi A8), Microsoft and Visteon – it shows that even domestic players have the technical know-how to develop such an advanced system.  This means that global vendors will have to work even harder to win new business from an already increasing level of competition, such as from new players based in the emerging markets.  However, InkaNet was developed from a consortium of key domestic players (in automotive systems, mobile telephony and navigation) – highlighting the importance of collaborations in the industry.   Strategy Analytics has published an Insight report on increasing quality by Chinese domestic OEMs and the potential increase in automotive electronics demand in the Chinese market:  

May 5, 2010 12:05 rlanctot

Telmap has flipped the switch on its direct to consumer smartphone navigation strategy shifting entirely to the white label approach the company has pursued for many years with operators. The company expects the new positioning to give it a competitive edge vis a vis Nokia and Google and vault it into a global leadership position.


Prospects were looking bleak for Telmap when industry heavyweights Google and Nokia began offering free navigation applications for smartphones. Google made the application available as a download for iPhones and, more recently, Android-based phones, while Nokia recently began including navigation on its handsets.


The Telmap strategy overturns both of these approaches by working through wireless operators, a strategy pursued by both TeleNav and Networks in Motion (now part of TeleCommunications Systems) in the U.S. But Telmap is taking the approach on the road with partners throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America.


Telmap is taking a three pronged approach providing:


1)      An off-board application with local search and navigation that can function with all operating systems;

2)      A location platform with APIs to facilitate the distribution of any and all location applictions;

3)      A Web-based application that allows for desktop management of location applications and synchronization with the phone.


The initial launch of the new positioning will manifest in O2 Germany delivering 30 handsets by the end of May all equipped with the Telmap technology. In fact, Telmap says it is already seeing 500-1000 new activations per day based on the new approach.


The white label is ideally suited to the shift, in Europe, to a bundled model for applications and services. Navigation is increasingly being provided at no charge, so the model has shifted to enabling different billing and payment methods for selling enhanced content and applications.


The white label strategy gives Telmap a strategic edge because it allows the operators to introduce a cross-platform solution that can be advertised and promoted across their entire handset line-up regardless of handset supplier or operating system. Telmap hopes operator support will help juice its subscriber base, which currently stands at approximately 1M in Europe and 1.5M globally.


And operators are keenly interested in exploiting the location opportunity because, thus far, the margins have been quite high, according to Telmap executives. To keep that revenue flowing, Telmap is enabling integration with ultra local content and services such as Coyote safety camera apps in France and road charging services in the U.K.


Additionally, the free Telmap application allows for premium upsells and a variety of booking and payment methods along with advertising. And by using the same platform across the entire line, operators retain control and customers can communicate and network with one another.


The gamble for Telmap is that the operator-centric approach will trump the Nokia handset-side approach and the Google app-store strategy. The concept of leveraging operator advertising and promotional support is a powerful one. Google tried to take its Nexus One handset directly to the market only to knuckle under to operators in the past week.


The strength of the strategy is reflected in the tight relationships between Networks in Motion/Verizon and TeleNav and AT&T/T-Mobile/Sprint in the U.S. These partners are working on additional enhancements to the navigation and location platform which is producing millions of subscribers and hundreds of millions in revenue.


From a branding standpoint, location applications will come to define and differentiate the operators and a cross-platform solution makes it much easier to leverage and control. The attraction of the Telmap approach is already apparent as the company touts among its operator supporters: Vodafone, O2 Telefonica, Orange Group, Singtel Group, IUSACell, Pelephone, Cellcom, Mobilcom, and Boost Mobile, among others.


Of course, tiny Telmap is taking on industry giants in Nokia and Google and regardless of the strength of its strategy lacks the brand awareness and marketing clout of either of these companies. But the shift away from a consumer direct strategy to white label is probably the last best chance for Telmap to move into the front rank of LBS market leaders. And the company is investing heavily in ultra-local tie ins across the many countries around the world where it competes.


Wild cards remain in the battle for dominance of the location aware marketplace. One such wild card is the creation of superior traffic information from probe data. Google’s initial efforts to convert Droid phone user data is beginning to get attention and RIM (following its QNX acquisition) is likely to be the next company to bring a probe-enhanced traffic service to the market. Nokia (Navteq) and Apple will likely be next leaving Telmap to ponder whether it can convert its operator relationships into a superior traffic solution of its own.


With the smartphone navigation market ruled as it is by a confluence of advancing technology and consumer preferences, only two things are certain: change and Telmap’s determination not to raise the white flag.


Further Insight: - Solid Q4 for PNDs, but 'Free' Navigation is Shaking Up Monetisation - John Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communication Service - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities

April 20, 2010 13:04 rlanctot
Just as companies such as Delphi, Nokia and Apple are enabling in-vehicle HMI control of smartphone applications, Ford Motor Company is turning interface implementation up a notch with its new Sync AppLink, which will allow voice control of Android and BlackBerry smartphone apps. Sync AppLink will be available as a downloadable software program on the 2011 Fiesta, due later this year. The launch will test the limits of in-vehicle HMI technology for enabling safe access to social networking applications. Reading text messages or emails and responding with predetermined messages has already been enabled in Ford vehicles, but demonstrations of OpenBeak, which allows steering wheel controls to scroll through Twitter messages, suggest a more potentially distracting proposition though safer than using the mobile device's own voice controls or touchscreen. First demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in January of this year, AppLink will enable voice control of the Pandora music service, Stitcher Internet radio content manager and Orangatame’s OpenBeak Twitter interface. Ford is simultaneously launching its Mobile Application Developer Network ( for enabling the development of Sync-enabled applications. Ford says it will introduce AppLink on all Sync-equipped vehicles next year, as well as provide interoperability with the iPhone and other smartphones. The company also says updated versions of each app, incorporating the Sync application programming interface (API), will be available through Android Market and BlackBerry App World for customers to download. Ford’s delivery platform, therefore, includes both its own Website and the handset maker app stores. Ford says that as Sync-enabled versions of existing apps are released into the app stores, users will be prompted to download the latest version upon connection. Ford’s strategy clearly indicates that the company will handle the certification of application for use with Sync even if it is not the creator of all of the applications. While Ford’s 2M vehicle addressable user population is the largest in the automotive industry, the launch of developer support will be the ultimate test of Ford’s ability to attract third parties to its platform. Ford says interested developers can submit innovative ideas, and sign up for the latest information and news about the Sync application programming interface (API) and software development kit (SDK). The package will allow developers to modify existing applications and create all-new apps that can successfully interface with Sync. Ford says it is completing beta-testing on the SDK. Once beta-testing is complete, a broader release of the development tools is planned for later this year. The company says one of its development partners created a Sync-enabled version of its app just three days after receiving the development tools. Conspicuously missing from the Ford announcement is a provision for safe operation or more limited use of a smartphone in a vehicle. The recent CTIA show in Las Vegas highlighted a range of applications intended to restrict or modify smartphone usage in a moving vehicle. Ford may want to consider fast-tracking one of these applications in deference to concerns expressed in Washington. Ford has embraced the anti-distracted driving messages emanating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ford’s 911 Assist application actually received an early endorsement from the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). But whether this new applications will be blessed by government safety authorities remains to be seen. According to a report in USNews, NHTSA director Ray LaHood contacted Ford CEO Alan Mulally directly to have a particular ad removed, which depicted what appeared to be a distracted driver using Ford's Sync ( Ford complied with the request, but USNEWS says LaHood is still opposed to the Ford Sync solution. Additional Insight: Nokia and RIM Push Into Automotive as 'Apps' Competition Mounts - #Ford’s Bite of the #Apple Shows One Path to Automotive #AppStore Success - Lanctot - blog - Strategy Analytics - CTIA 2010: Distraction Mitigating Apps on Display - Schreiner - Strategy Analytics