AUTOMOTIVE MULTIMEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

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

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: http://bit.ly/cMw4f1 - Solid Q4 for PNDs, but ‘Free’ Navigation is Shaking Up Monetisation - John Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communication Service http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities http://bit.ly/8Yo4U6 - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities http://bit.ly/6FC6W7 - 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. http://bit.ly/c1Qhxz - Benchmarking the Premium In-Vehicle Experience - Chris Schreiner – Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/cRLVkz - Automotive HMI: Voice Technology and Touch Screens Have Significant Lead - John Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service http://bit.ly/a9aEgu - Chinese OEMs: Rapid Advance In Quality Bodes Well For Automotive Electronics - Kevin Mak - Automotive Electronics Service http://bit.ly/ceBUCY - 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; 51.com, 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:http://www.strategyanalytics.com/default.aspx?mod=ReportAbstractViewer&a0=5501.  


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:

 

http://bit.ly/cMw4f1 - Solid Q4 for PNDs, but 'Free' Navigation is Shaking Up Monetisation - John Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communication Service

 

http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities

 

http://bit.ly/8Yo4U6 - 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 (www.syncmyride.com/developer) 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 syncmyride.com 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 (http://bit.ly/aTbVvv). 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

http://bit.ly/cJ6dDF - #Ford’s Bite of the #Apple Shows One Path to Automotive #AppStore Success - Lanctot - blog - Strategy Analytics http://bit.ly/b9oVAt - CTIA 2010: Distraction Mitigating Apps on Display - Schreiner - Strategy Analytics

April 16, 2010 11:04 rlanctot
Delphi used the SAE 2010 World Congress event in Detroit this week to unveil D-Connect, its answer to Nokia’s terminal mode smartphone connectivity solution. D-Connect addresses an array of in-vehicle connectivity challenges – including automotive-oriented application stores - while defining a radical new vision of center stack architecture. The system architecture is described as being built around an Intel or ARM processor with a Linux kernel, common Linux packages, Genivi, ported device applications and, finally, an HMI layer. Availability of D-Connect is likely dependent on OEM adoption. For the U.S. market, its significance is its representation of Delphi’s vision of universal smartphone connectivity and arrives as the company emerges from Chapter 11. The D-Connect vision simultaneously provides center stack connectivity for any smartphone – reproducing the on-device display in its entirety on a large touchscreen display mounted in portrait mode – with separate interfaces for when the vehicle is static or in motion. When the vehicle is not moving, the display allows access to all the apps displayed on the device and allows the device to be manipulated and the apps to be accessed directly from the large display via touch or voice interface. The system was shown with a physical connection, though Delphi says the system will support Bluetooth, USB or Wi-Fi connectivity. The D-Connect vision includes Delphi’s announced intention to provide app store support. Delphi says it will certify applications to determine which will be accessible when the vehicle is in motion. When in motion, the separate HMI display will appear with large on-screen icons including “Voice Search,” “Navigation,” “View Maps,” and “Contacts.” The system appears to be positioned as an alternative to Nokia’s terminal mode, shown most recently at CeBit and at the Geneva Motor Show. Nokia’s solution similarly provides for vehicle HMI control of smartphone functions and is being developed by Nokia in conjunction with Tier Ones such as Harman, Magneti Marelli and Continental along with some OEMs. Both the Delphi and Nokia solutions are still in concept mode. The significance of the Delphi solution is magnified by its proposed use of a large portrait display in the center stack, its ability to be operating system and connectivity agnostic, its in-motion interface with app certification and its use of the Genivi operating system in conjunction with separate Linux packages. The use of Genivi and Linux is unique and represents the first demonstration of a complete solution based on the newly proposed automotive operating system. It also allows Delphi to define a new path to the much discussed in-car application store. As far as the app store is concerned, Delphi sees application downloads working strictly via the device and functioning through device connectivity – not through a direct download into the car. Delphi uses the Genivi operating system and other Linux-based applications, to interface to downloaded apps, but prefers to keep the applications themselves outside the center stack software environment. Delphi’s approach contrasts with Continental’s AutolinQ system, which brings Android into the center stack. D-Connect will connect with Android phones and applications but does not bring that code on-board.  To further build the D-Connect brand, Delphi has also chosen to name the actual phone application D-Connect.

April 9, 2010 15:04 rlanctot
The battle to dominate automotive connectivity has finally been taken on by Research in Motion (RIM) with the announced acquisition of Harman International's QNX Software Systems, a real-time operating system supplier focused on the automotive market. RIM had appeared to be sitting on the sidelines in recent months as fellow handset maker, Nokia, announced its terminal mode strategy and Apple grabbed multiple headlines for innovative in-vehicle connections from marketing partners. The acquisition of QNX gives RIM instant credibility as a leading automotive connectivity player and promises a spirited battle for automotive market share. The acquisition was announced this morning. The announcement says the two companies have reached an agreement for RIM to acquire QNX. The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is anticipated to close within 35-45 days. This strategic move is expected to further strengthen QNX's penetration in the automotive market and foster innovation for markets served by all parties. The move solves marketing challenges for both organizations. QNX's software is used in instrument clusters, head units and automotive Bluetooth solutions. The company had found tremendous success as part of Harman, which in recent years has come to dominate the luxury and near luxury segments of the automotive market. QNX is best known for its high-end infotainment software solutions used by Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, BMW, PSA, Hyundai and Chrysler, among other OEMs. As part of Harman, though, QNX's ability to break out into larger volume market segments was somewhat limited, and Microsoft had been winning most of the highest profile (and higher volume) automotive connectivity platforms including Fiat's Blue&Me, Ford's Sync and Kia's Uvo. At the same time, Apple was increasingly emerging as the automotive connectivity device supplier of choice for consumers and, by extension, OEMs as both the iPod and iPhone helped establish the iTunes App Store model as a compelling content, application and service delivery platform for the automotive market. It is true that some OEMs, such as Mercedes with its mbrace smartphone app, made allowances for Blackberry connectivity along with Apple's iPhone. But a growing number of OEMs, such as BMW, have been going out of their way to provide proprietary Apple connectors to enable the use of in-vehicle interfaces to access smartphone content. With few exceptions, Blackberry has been receiving no such support from OEMs and its devices remain enterprise-focused and ill-suited to automotive infotainment uses. While QNX's partnership with Alcatel-Lucent promises to target the complete spectrum of in-vehicle connectivity, a partnership with RIM opens up wider market opportunities for both QNX and RIM. The timing of the deal is ideal given that several OEMs participating in volume segments of the market have yet to launch branded, high-profile connectivity solutions. There is still time for a RIM-QNX collaboration capable of helping RIM vault into contention with both Nokia and Apple for automotive connectivity leadership. RIM also brings its unique global managed network added value to the proposition promising enhanced capabilities for in-vehicle applications that other handset suppliers are unable to match. It also presents a potential challenge to telematics service providers such as WirelessCar, Airbiquity and Telecommunications Systems. The importance of the in-vehicle connection has become increasingly important as consumers seek to use their smartphones in a growing variety of settings ranging from the home to the office and the car. QNX's existing position in the automotive market will instantly bring credibility to RIM's initiatives. It also introduces an entirely new value paradigm combining the virtues of device connectivity with the advantages of the managed network. The move is also a positive for Harman as it frees up the company to work with a wider range of software providers. Harman cannot afford to ignore the Genivi Alliance operating system, favored by its largest customer BMW. But Harman may also find it expedient to bid on Android- or Microsoft-based projects. Harman gains greater flexibility by decoupling itself from QNX. Of course, in reality the two companies will be virtually joined at the hip for the foreseeable future with a wide range of programs already underway and in the pipeline expected to extend for more than five years into the future. RIM, though, is likely the bigget winner. The company has been confronted with pressure to extend its operating system software to other industries such as netbooks, consumer electronics devices and, yes, automotive applications. The acquisition of QNX is an excellent door opener to these potential avenues of growth. QNX is in a similarly advantageous position to profit from wider market opportunities. Of course, while the move gives RIM a strong hand in contending for automotive connectivity opportunities it is likely that the merged company will continue to collaborate with Apple. QNX has a long history of supporting Apple in the automotive market including the most recent announcement of enhanced support for Apple iPods in the QNX Aviage Multimedia Suite.

February 10, 2010 22:02 rlanctot
While Nuance reported broad-based Q1 revenue growth across all of its divisions, growth within the mobile segment hit 12.5% YOY accounting for nearly half of total company revenue and surpassing company expectations for the segment. Nuance told analysts on its earnings call it had expected healthcare to lead revenue growth for the company. Recent wins in the mobile segment show Nuance technology moving into a wider range of applications enabling new features and functions on devices and in cars. Among higher profile wins were Ford's announcement that the next generation of Ford Sync will feature significant voice enhancements from Nuance that power the MyFord Touch driver connect technology. The next generation of Ford Sync takes advantage of Nuance’s natural language understanding to recognize more than 10,000 first level commands and provide customers with cloud-based connectivity for up-to-the-minute information and entertainment content, the company stated in its prepared Q1 earnings report comments. In addition, Nuance says TomTom recently selected Nuance text-to-speech for its navigation applications for the iPhone. Nuance recently announced that its Nuance VSuite mobile speech software is now shipping on Dell’s Mini3 Android smartphone line-up in China and Brazil. During Q1 2010, mobile royalties grew, reflecting increased unit shipments as well as increased penetration of Nuance technology on device, Nuance reported. During Q1 2010, Nuance introduced Dragon Dictation and Dragon Search for the iPhone. In addition to driving visibility, the success of Nuance’s Dragon iPhone apps has generated interest from carriers and mobile providers to deliver applications for other mobile platforms, languages and vertical markets. During Q1 2010, Nuance launched its voicemail-to-text offering at AT&T, and announced the acquisition of SpinVox, which positions Nuance to accelerate growth and expand its solutions internationally in the voicemail-to-text market, according to the company. Voicemail-to-text, in particular, was cited as a critical application to impact future company growth. Key customers and design wins in Q1 2010 included Amazon, BMW, Daimler, Harman Becker, Harley Davidson, Huawei, Hyundai, LGE, Mahindra & Mahindra, Medion, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sharp, Sony Ericsson, T-Mobile, TomTom, and Toyota.

February 3, 2010 21:02 rlanctot
With the statement: "Consumers want their devices to work together, so it is inevitable that single-vendor connected solutions will lose their interest," Pioneer's senior managing director, Akira Haeno has shoved a stake into the ground for the company's Platform for Aggregation of Internet Services (PAIS). Pioneer says this new content and services platform, set to arrive formally in mid-2010, will provide a seamless home/car/work experience for different content sources and services in conjunction with any connected device. The announcement opens doors to new market opportunities for Pioneer Electronics while also opening the company up to a new range of competitors that are already aggregating content and services. But Haeno's declaration is significant considering there are several connected devices that are otherwise closed to different content and service sources. A few that come to mind are devices from TomTom, Garmin, OnStar, and Apple. The ability to bridge all of these platforms will give Pioneer an advantage against rivals such as Airbiquity, Hughes Telematics or even UIEvolution. The PAIS platform presents open-standard interfaces for voice, navigation and maps, local search, social networking, music and radio and video and television, the company says. The interfaces enable the addition of new content and services without the added investment in proprietary solutions. Pioneer's solution is a direct challenge to the strategies of competing Tier Ones such as Visteon, Continental, and Denso among others, all of whom are offering to enable a wide range of applications. Even real-time operating system supplier QNX has had to race to deliver new application interfaces in support of its technology already deployed in 12+ vehicles. The Pioneer solution is based on Windows for Automotive and incorporates VoiceBox technology but is otherwise technology agnostic. The challenge for the content and service aggregators will be to demonstrate that their solutions are truly able to seamlessly and easily deploy new applications. Ford Motor Company and Mercedes-Benz are the first to reach the market with systems sufficiently flexible to deploy additional applications. Ford relies on smartphone connectivity, while Mercedes combines smartphone connectivity with a sophisticated back-end provided by Hughes Telematics. Ford has made a software development kit available, as has Continental for its Android-based systems. Mercedes has not released an SDK but company executives envision a day when Mercedes customers could create widgets or full applications. Competitors may see a tough choice in choosing to support or leverage the Pioneer platform, but the company is early enough to market to stake a credible claim and the solution will no doubt support Pioneer's own connected offerings.

January 20, 2010 17:01 rlanctot

The single most important automotive product introduction at CES was MyFordTouch and the related software developer kit (SDK) and application programming interfaces. Competing OEMs and their suppliers are scrambling to respond to Ford's strategy which is only manifesting today what

has been in development for five years or more. In the end, Ford has created and demonstrated an ability to design and deploy new features and functions at an unheardof pace, unmatched in the industry.

 

Ford has finally solved the automotive industry solution development logjam and has further opened up its platform for the creation of even more new applications by third parties. This "long-tail" strategy has created a competitive environment where the OEM (or supplier) that enables or is capable of enabling the most applications will win. This does not mean that every car buyer uses every application, but it does mean that there will likely be at least a few applications that every driver will want to try - hence the long tail. It also means great aftermarket opportunities, marketing angles, and customer touch opportunities for Ford and its dealer network - "come down and get your free apps!"

The Ford announcement greatly overshadowed Kia's Uvo launch, which represented a significant advance on the original Ford Sync and is based on an updated Microsoft MS Auto platform.  Similarly, the OnStar Volt smartphone integration announcement is a mere one-off feature introduction for a single expensive vehicle due much later in 2010. Though the vehicle charge status application is necessary for the electric vehicle segment, t is not a mass market concept and it was originally shown a year ago. It does show OnStar integrating smartphone funtionality for the first time, but it is not the harbinger of an open platform from OnStar.

 

The mbrace announcement from Mercedes late last year was more important because Mercedes will be launching additional smartphone applications thanks to the Hughes Telematics back-end architecture. OnStar lacks the flexibility to deploy a wide range of applications in the same manner as Mercedes.

The influence of Ford's architectural decisions is reflected in the movement of Tier Ones to enable a wide range of applications across multiple platforms and operating systems. Some examples include QNX's ConnectedCar, Continental's AutoLinQ, Airbiquity's aqLink, Visteon's connectivity platform and Denso's BlueHarmony. Continental's choice of the Android operating system, in particular, reflects the objective of opening the automotive environment to a wider software developer community. Continental, in particular, announced plans for its own Androi-based SDK for Q1 and an application store due in the second half of 2010.

 

Even telematics service providers - Airbiquity, Cross Country/ATX, Hughes, and WirelessCar - are seeking to enable and support a much wider range of applications ranging from news, weather and sports content delivery to traffic camera display and Internet radio. And social networking applications such as Twitter, FaceBook and myspace are being enabled for embedded in-vehicle use as well.

OEMs will do well to choose hardware, software, content, operating system and service providers that are capable of rapid deployment of voice and connectivity-enabled features and functions in a safe manner via a controlled vetting process. Ford is showing the way, but there will be multiple paths to this objective.