AUTOMOTIVE MULTIMEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

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

May 27, 2010 13:05 rlanctot
Among the many untold stories in the telematics industry, the tale of Volvo OnCall and Orbcomm stands out, especially in the context of this week’s SISTER workshop on satellite communications and intelligent transport technologies, which took place in Brussels. What might, for Volvo, have become a visionary hybrid implementation of satellite and cellular technology for a telematics system for the U.S. market was undone by Orbcomm’s bankruptcy filing in 2000.   In retrospect, it is both understandable and deeply disappointing that no other automotive telematics planner chose to follow the Volvo path. Maybe decision makers saw the Volvo experience as a cautionary tale instead of as the inspiration that it actually represented.   Maybe if the European Union had taken a closer look at what Volvo was dreaming up they might have included satellite technology in their eCall plans. Alas, the EU did not include satellite technology in eCall which may be why the SISTER initiative was founded as the first association with the mandate to evaluate the possibility of integrating satellite technology to enhance the complete range of ITS technologies including eCall, road user charging, map updating, dangerous goods monitoring and enhanced Galileo services. SISTER concludes its research activities and will publish its recommendations next month.   Back in the mid-1990’s, Volvo was considering the inclusion of Orbcomm’s low-earth orbit satellites as a backup communication channel to cellular TDMA and Amps technologies. The company was willing to include satellite in spite of the obtrusiveness of the required antenna technology of the time.   Today, Volvo offers cellular-only telematics throughout Europe with short-term plans for a U.S. launch of a similar system. Orbcomm, meanwhile, has recovered and is a supplier of telematics technology to Volvo Trucks under the Dynafleet brand. Orbcomm is in fact a leader in the modest but growing hybrid – satellite-cellular - connectivity business.   The absence of satellite technology from existing automotive telematics solutions, especially for emergency applications, is extraordinary given the purpose of such systems. The EU regularly makes inflated claims of the life-saving ability of eCall systems to summon assistance from emergency responders. Chief critics of eCall are quick to point out that passing motorists frequently make the first reports of accidents rendering eCall messages redundant.   Where eCall could have an impact, though, is in the event of accidents occurring in rural areas, where cellular coverage is wanting. In fact, some say that the most severe accidents and injuries often occur in these circumstances. This is obviously where satellite technology could make a difference.   The good news is that the EU is finally looking at the integration of satellite technology at least as an idea, if not as part of the existing eCall specification. Even better news lies in the fact that this consideration is taking place after the demise of Worldspace and following the allocation of spectrum for DVB-SH satellite technology. The SISTER program is also taking place at the very onset of the European Galileo system which has direct application for all location-related ITS applications. In fact, satellite navigation is the most widespread of current satellite applications and is expected to lead the way in satellite integration into a wider range of services. The arrival of Galileo promises to deliver better than 10cm location accuracy potentially suitable for road pricing and lane keeping applications and possibly for map updating. SISTER workshop representatives foresee $43B in cumulative financial benefits - combined revenue and savings - from the integration of enhanced satellite navigation technology. Potential sources of these gains include: fuel consumption reduction, travel time reduction, air pollution reduction, CO2 emission reduction, cost savings due to congestion reduction and cost savings from decreased injuries. Current satellite technologies available in Europe, and elsewhere around the world, offer both superior location information delivery but also the ability to deliver audio and video content. Outside of Volvo, the only other company to foresee the arrival of this value proposition was Hughes Telematics.   Hughes proposed a hybrid satellite-cellular telematics system nearly five years ago that not-coincidentally included a DVB-SH component originally to be provided by Ico Global Communications. These plans were interrupted, at least in part, by Ico’s filing for bankruptcy. (Sound familiar?)   Nevertheless, the Hughes vision called for a consumer-targeted telematics system integrating emergency response, roadside assistance and concierge services along with entertainment content delivery. In fact, Ico was making its own plans to introduce aftermarket and portable devices for audio and video content. Ico has two DVB-SH competitors in the U.S., TerreStar and SkyTerra, both of whom will eventually be in position to offer the same telematics and infotainment solutions envisioned by Ico. Like Ico, TerreStar has a satellite deployed and in its final phase of testing. The large TerreStar satellite - which allows for smaller footprint device antennas - is capable of spot-beam coverage of the U.S. for two-way voice and data. The TerreStar satellite is suitable to eCall and commercial applications or for rural areas that lose terrestrial cellular networks during natural disasters. Sirius XM's satellite network has also been put to use for telematics applications including traffic and weather. Sirius XM also recently acquired the assets of Worldspace, meaning the European satellite radio provider could some day participate in telematics opportunities. Worldspace competitor Ondas has deals in place with several European OEMs, but no satellites. It’s been a long road, but the reality has finally caught up with the vision. The so-called S-band DVB-SH spectrum allocation for Europe was awarded to Eutelsat and a joint venture partner SES Astra. (Ico was one of the other bidders and is still mounting a legal challenge to the award.)   DVB-SH offers the ability for bi-directional communications for low-bandwidth ITS applications – available by the end of 2010 – along with some limited two-way communications to be launched in 2011. But DVB-SH expects to realize the prospect of entertainment content delivery for embedded, aftermarket and portable devices. This capability is important given that several SISTER participants expect that telematics services will have to be bundled with entertainment content to be attractive to consumers.   The recommendation of at least one presenter at the SISTER workshop was that all vehicles operated by public authorities should be connected via satellite, that all commercial fleet vehicles should be similarly connected and that, ultimately, all consumer vehicles should be linked via satellite. Some combination of public and private funding will surely be necessary, but the anticipated benefits to road safety and traffic management have already been proven by SISTER’s experiments.

May 22, 2010 15:05 rlanctot
A grand experiment is unfolding in the traffic reporting industry around the simultaneous confrontation between and combination of GPS probe and handset signaling data for traffic flow analysis. Both technologies offer the promise of transforming traffic data from an annoying and often disappointing proposition to a more precise and satisfactory experience. But push is about to come to shove in North America – with three pending OEM RFQs in play. The results of these OEM evaluations will likely have a global impact on the traffic data processing industry. To recap, current traffic data consists of: 1. GPS-based fleet data – derived mainly but not exclusively from commercial vehicles 2. Public data – loop sensors and other traffic tracking systems installed and managed mainly by public authorities 3. “Journalistic” data – incident inputs from emergency responders and private sources GPS probe and cellular hand-off data is, in essence, a fourth layer that is of increasing importance to traffic reporting and interpreting systems. The other key element, of course, is the secret sauce added by the aggregators and processors of this data. The aggregators and processors are of several types including those that aggregate a single type of data, such as AirSage or IntelliOne that process cellular handoff data, or that combine several different types of data, such as Inrix or ITIS Holdings, or that provide a system or a tool for processing or for publishing multiple data feeds, such as MILE (MobileInfo.Life Europe) Traffic and Travel, Gewi or PTV. Inrix is a fourth type of provider in offering a platform for both service and content aggregation – including traffic. Inrix has also been a pioneer, along with Navteq’s Traffic.com, in combining multiple real-time and historical traffic data into a predictive traffic model. This strategy has been adopted by others, most notably TomTom. MILE Traffic and Travel is unique for its model of licensing its data processing technology. TomTom is also best known for its pioneering work in integrating both cellular hand-off data (from Vodafone) and GPS probe data (from its Live Service subscribers). TomTom’s success in turning cellular hand-off data into a compelling solution in mobile devices has been an inspiration for both the emerging GPS probe market players (TCS, RIM, Google, Nokia Navteq, etc.) and the cellular hand-off companies. (ITIS claims to be the first to achieve this integration in a commercial solution.) The impending integration of both GPS probe data and cellular handoff data is a test for the industry to see if it can finally get the traffic data solution right. At stake are the hearts, minds and wallets of hundreds of millions of drivers using mobile devices and embedded navigation systems to seek out the most efficient means of getting from point A to point B. GPS probe data is renowned for its accuracy and increasing pervasiveness, as public authorities in multiple geographies have begun requiring GPS technology on handsets for emergency response purposes. The problem with GPS, though, is its impact of device power consumption. Because of this, many users choose to turn their GPS signals off when not in use. In contrast, cellular hand-off data is truly pervasive. While more difficult to interpret and notorious for the incidence of false positives, cellular hand-off data is unmatched for the sheer volume of data generated. For this reason, companies playing the cellular hand-off game, such as TomTom, MILE Traffic and Travel and AirSage, have an edge in the next wave of traffic data solutions. The only implemented solutions thus far have been TomTom’s industry-leading HD Traffic offering in Europe and Westwood One’s more limited use of AirSage data as an enhancement to its own traffic reporting products. AirSage is unique in its recent successful efforts to bring together data from multiple carriers. The company recently added Verizon to its existing Sprint relationship and is poised to deliver the first multi-carrier solution for North America. AirSage and other North American players have long been delayed in their efforts to deliver a cellular hand-off solution in North America due to the more heterogeneous carrier networks. The good news for these companies, though, is there is a significant business in logistics to be derived from the location data (for shipping, traffic management, store and cell tower locatin selection) and location-based advertising solutions are also beginning to emerge. The turning point for the industry likely lies in pending North American RFQs at BMW, Toyota and OnStar. From luxury vehicles to mass market movers, drivers have let car makers know that the current crop of traffic solutions are not cutting it. The information on the display does not correspond with the events unfolding in front of the windshield. The outcome of these OEM evaluations will likely determine the direction of traffic data processing for years to come. Additional Insights: http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 – Nitesh Patel - Navigation and Location Opportunities http://bit.ly/aoQdpd - North America Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 – Nitesh Patel – Wireless Media Strategies http://bit.ly/aHhWeV - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel - Wireless Media Strategies http://bit.ly/cc6O9K - PND Owners Unlikely to Discontinue Using Their Device - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/c5f65I - Automotive and Portable Navigation Market Forecast 2008-2016 - Joanne Blight - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems http://bit.ly/b5W8ZS - Nokia and RIM Push Into Automotive as ‘Apps’ Competition Mounts - Joanne Blight - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems http://bit.ly/9NoM13 - From Probes to Crowd to Community to Ads – Traffic Data Evolving Rapidly - Roger Lanctot - blog - Global Automotive Practice

May 18, 2010 16:05 rlanctot
The business of capturing and reporting real-time traffic data is on the verge of a deluge of data from millions of GPS probes. From Google to RIM to TCS, TeleNav, Nokia/Navteq and others, the integration of handset GPS data feeds will transform the industry and alter consumer acceptance of traffic data. The importance of this development is the fact that consumers surveyed by Strategy Analytics, time and again, indicate that traffic data is the single most important application on their portable device followed closely by navigation. This is no surprise to marketers who are keen to target customers potentially on the move from one place of business to another and seeking to get there in the most efficient manner possible - which is to say, the supplier that delivers the highest quality real-time traffic data will have a privileged marketing platform for delivering advertising messages. But the onset of traffic data enhancements, though happening swiftly, will unfold as part of an evolution of traffic data that will progress from the combination of public and fleet data of today, to the aggregation of GPS data and crowd-sourced inputs, to the traffic “communities” of the near future. This transition will test the current market leaders and could shuffle the leadership ranks, but it will also reveal new opportunities for information and content sharing. Among the industry leaders watched most closely is Nokia Navteq. With the largest number of mobile devices deployed, Nokia is in the most powerful position to leverage GPS probe data. (Editor's note: updated info from Nokia Navteq follows) Navteq is using GPS probe data to enable accelerated expansion of its Navteq Traffic coverage including primary and secondary roads. The company says probe data is an integral part of its global probe data strategy. Navteq is currently collecting and integrating Nokia probe data records for Navteq Traffic in Belgium, Brazil, France, Finland, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada with plans to expand. The company expects to benefit from the growing variety of connected devices also using Navteq data and services. Navteq says that nearly 23M processed probe records are integrated into Navteq Traffic monthly in the U.S. in major metropolitan areas including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, San Francisco and Seattle. Worldwide, Navteq is collecting 3B probe records including Nokia data and anticipate a doubling of that figure by the end of 2010. Most executives in the industry now agree that TomTom’s HD Traffic solution, built around cellular signaling data and TomTom’s Live Service subscriber probe data, is the state of the art for real-time traffic data. The service is available in six European countries including Germany, where this analyst has used it side-by-side with RDS-TMC data. Nothing this analyst has seen has come close to the apparent completeness and accuracy of the real-time traffic data reporting on a connected TomTom. Long accustomed to incorrect traffic information delivered on a variety of embedded and mobile devices, I found the HD Traffic solution to be a revelation. In several days of driving on autobahns throughout Northern Germany it never once told me I was in a “stau” when I wasn’t or vice versa. Traffic information that contradicts reality continues to be the industry bugaboo. Just as important, the TomTom solution doesn’t rely solely on color-coded roads. The key interface is the barometer on the right hand side of the screen which shows the distance to the next point of traffic congestion and the anticipated delay. At this point in the evolution of traffic information delivery, color codes don’t cut it. They are nothing more than a distraction. With the arrival of mobile phone navigation applications the industry is poised to take a leap forward and sideways at the same time. The leap forward is the potential to replicate the HD Traffic experience on more navigation platforms. The sideways move is that this leap is taking place in connection with a device offering a much smaller screen for delivering up-to-date traffic information to drivers. In addition, with so many new players integrating new data sets for the first time there is bound to be confusion and user interface missteps. After all, if it were easy to convert mobile phone data into real-time traffic feeds this problem would have been solved a long time ago. To remove any doubts about the rising influence of mobile phone navigation, one need look no further than the recent financial reports of TeleCommunications Systems (TCS) – which acquired Networks in Motion – and TeleNav – which completed its initial public offering last week. In its earnings call, TCS said it expects $55-$65 million in mobile phone navigation subscription/sales revenue in 2010 and ongoing revenue growth of 30 percent/year going forward. TeleNav reported that it had 14.5M navigation subscribers/customers (up from 11M at the end of September 2009) and revenue of $122M for the nine month period ended March 30th, a growth rate of 59 percent. While TCS says it has 5-6 percent penetration of its addressable carrier customer base and anticipates increasing that to 30-50 percent, TeleNav claims a 20-25 percent rate of penetration. TeleNav, TCS and TomTom are all seeking to build their subscription bases as swiftly as they can which has led to discounting and bundling, thereby impacting average revenue per user (ARPU). All three companies have indicated a disinclination to share their ARPU figures. TCS has been coy about disclosing the size of its subscriber base. It remains to be seen if TeleNav and TomTom will continue to be forthcoming about their subscriber numbers. All of these numbers are vital to discerning consumer preferences for different business models and could serve as a competitive advantage for these early movers. The integration of anonymous handset signaling data currently used by TomTom, is likely to be supplanted by handset GPS data feeds. And the availability of GPS data feeds has greatly lowered the barriers to entry to the traffic business. Any company from industry titans such as Inrix and rising heavyweight Google to scrappy start-ups like Skobbler (which recently became the first navigation supplier to use OpenStreetMaps) can introduce a mobile phone application that will immediately start reporting GPS data for integration in a real-time traffic platform. Industry executives agree that the GPS data is more accurate an easier to process than hand-off data. That does not mean that signaling data will go away, especially since TomTom continues to use it, but it does represent a change that could ultimately manifest in changing user preferences if the “quality” or accuracy of one type of data is found to be or perceived to be superior to the other. Miles Traffic and Travel – a consortium of ITIS Holdings (U.K.), Infoblu (Italy) and MediaMobil (France) – is also making use of cellular hand-off data and has been chosen by BMW as its traffic data provider for Europe. MT&T is positioning itself as the first challenger to TomTom’s HD Traffic solution. All industry participants agree that the aggregation and integration of hand-off data is a non-trivial exercise. Case in point, AirSage and IntelliOne have been trying to deliver anonymous hand-off data in a commercial solution for years with no success to date. But even the arrival of handset data will not represent the “end of the road” in the evolution of real-time traffic data. The next step is already apparent in the quiet emergence of aha mobile, Telmap, Waze, TrafficTalk and other potential players seeking to build communities around the delivery of traffic and routing information. Aha mobile’s content and services aggregation platform serves as a front end for the full range of Internet-accessible content, including traffic and navigation information. Aha mobile’s traffic solution, though, allows drivers to share geo-coded traffic observation inputs with one another – in other words, an aha mobile user could literally share with fellow travelers what he or she is seeing out the car window. The aha mobile solution represents the same kind of ultra-local location data that Telmap is  trying to provide with the location aware services that are part of its navigation application. Waze also creates a community around traffic, navigation and the creation of the navigation map. For its part, TrafficTalk is seeking to build user communities around specific commuting corridors where drivers can share voice inputs regarding traffic conditions in their immediate vicinity. Today, the industry is poised for the next round of the shoot out at the OK Traffic Corral. All the major players have new ammunition in the form of handset GPS data and the emergence of this new source of data is creating new competitors and new opportunities. But this enhancement to traffic information is just another bend in the road which will lead to traffic information communities sharing on-the-ground information which will transform the industry yet again and set the stage for the next advance. Additional Insights: http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 – Nitesh Patel - Navigation and Location Opportunities http://bit.ly/aoQdpd - North America Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 – Nitesh Patel – Wireless Media Strategies http://bit.ly/aHhWeV - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel - Wireless Media Strategies http://bit.ly/cc6O9K - PND Owners Unlikely to Discontinue Using Their Device - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/c5f65I - Automotive and Portable Navigation Market Forecast 2008-2016 - Joanne Blight - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems http://bit.ly/b5W8ZS - Nokia and RIM Push Into Automotive as 'Apps' Competition Mounts - Joanne Blight - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems

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 13, 2010 16:05 rlanctot
A heated debate over driver distraction animated an otherwise placid confab of the Networked Vehicle Association (NVA) in Palo Alto recently. The distracted driving discussion was led by an attorney and a representative of the National Safety Council (NSC). The significance of the exchange was rooted in the debate over safe use of mobile phones in a moving vehicle. But, of course, with the participation of the NSC the very issue of using any mobile device in a moving vehicle was called into question. The NSC is in favor of an outright ban on all mobile phone use in automobiles. On the legal front, a representative of the Gowlings law firm described how laws were introduced to prohibit radios in cars when car radios were first introduced in the 1920’s. These proposals were defeated, but they laid the groundwork for the current debate. Interestingly, the argument that won the day for preserving the right of the radio to be built into the car was safety. Radios were perceived as preventing accidents by keeping drivers awake. Vehicle and entertainment technologies have changed but the grounds for allowing mobile phone use in the car remain the same – safety. Mobile phones used by motorists are responsible for many more emergency calls than embedded telematics systems. For this reason alone, it makes sense for legislators and the industry to find ways to preserve the right of a driver to use a mobile phone. But the debate over using devices in a moving vehicle has changed with the passing of 80 years since the introduction of car radios. Thanks to 30 academic studies of driver distraction and mobile phone use, a variety of organizations, including the NSC, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the National Research Council, have all concluded that talking on a phone held to the ear is cognitively equivalent to using a hands-free device. The NSC executive at the NVA event further described the types of studies – including brain scans etc. – and the outcomes – including the concept of tunnel vision experienced by distracted drivers. The significance of the findings of these studies, according to the attorney, is that they serve as the precursor to legal action which is the first step on the path to legislation. The findings of the various studies, as detailed by the attorney, included: NHTSA: Lower number of fatalities in states with primary legislation banning cellphone usage while driving; AAA: Degree of driver distraction no greater than tuning a car radio; Carnegie Mellon: MRI scans and simulation demonstrate impaired sensory and motor function equivalent to DWI; Highway Loss Data Institute: No change in loss data due to legislation vs. states without cellphone bans, but study concedes loss data may be inaccurate due to corresponding unmeasured rise in hands-free usage. The findings that have been used to oppose any mobile phone use in a moving vehicle, in turn, are countered by at least three industry studies that conclude that hands-free use of mobile phones is a safe and effective measure to counter distraction. But even the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found no reduction in distraction-related accidents from mobile phone bans. (The standard response from the anti-mobile phone community is that no states in the U.S. have introduced a complete ban on mobile phones that includes a ban on hands-free operation. Hence, existing laws banning phone use but allowing hands-free operation are not true bans and therefore the data cannot be used as an argument against bans.) The NSC representative at the NVA event remained adamant throughout that any and all mobile phone use in the car ought to be forbidden. The attorney concluded that the status of case law was fairly fluid and was influenced not only by the emotional element of fatalities resulting from distracted driving incidents, but also by research. The likelihood of an outright phone ban, though slim, cannot be completely ruled out. But a ban is likely to be unworkable and a step in the wrong direction, especially when considering that existing embedded telematics systems with their on-board phones would be rendered illegal. In an ideal world, the technology problem of managing mobile phone use in a car ought to be resolved with a technological solution, particularly considering that if a mobile phone ban were instituted drivers would find workarounds. The good news is that smartphone applications - such as Zoomsafer and tXtblocker - have been introduced to mitigate distractions from mobile phone use in cars (see Additional Insight below) and auto makers and suppliers - such as Mercedes Benz, Denso and Volvo - have introduced applications that monitor driver behavior to identify and counter driver distraction and drowsiness. In fact, one solution that is available, though not yet built into any systems that have reached the market, combines driver monitoring with a conversational avatar. The concept takes the Mercedes Benz driver drowsiness alert feature to another level by integrating and alerting the call center when a drowsy driver is detected such that, following escalating warnings, the call center can contact the driver to prevent an accident. Alternatively, the system, created by Great Changes – which owns the transportation license for Cognitive Code’s Silvia avatar, can engage the driver in an artificial intelligence-assisted conversation. The irony is that the NSC executive pointed out in his presentation that multiple studies show that it is safer to drive with a passenger. Interaction with a passenger helps keep the driver focused and alert. The Great Changes solution fulfills that requirement and the proactive call center alert aspect is a unique realization of the kind of safety enhancements promised by telematics technology. In conclusion, the attorney at the NVA event suggested that all industry participants monitor distracted driving developments closely, take into account human ingenuity and resolve in creating workarounds for technological safeguards, standardize and continuously evolve standards for telematics, and develop new “low driver impact” user-machine interfaces. Indeed, telematics should be seen as a potential remedy for driver distraction issues and as a safety enhancement to vehicle design. Under the NSC regime even embedded phones – as in OnStar, mBrace or BMW Assist – will be banned. Additional Insight: http://bit.ly/d3FQbQ - CTIA 2010: Distraction Mitigating Apps on Display – Chris Schreiner http://bit.ly/bbhqGj - Voice HMI: Connected Car Opportunities and UX Best Practices - Chris Schreiner

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.

February 10, 2010 20:02 rlanctot
Harman International

Harman announced a return to profitability for its fiscal second quarter in an earnings call earlier this week. In that call, the company detailed its marketing plan which could be taken as a blueprint for the entire industry – particularly the company’s inroads into larger volume mid-segment vehicle categories.

Harman is pursuing emerging market opportunities in China, Brazil and India with local development and manufacturing presence – including a $1B revenue target for China by 2015. The emerging market initiative is reflected also in a targeted shift of engineering/R&D balance from 99% high capital and cost (HCC) markets to 60% HCC, and manufacturing/assembly from 81% HCC to 50% HCC by 2012.

The company expects to maintain its luxury segment leadership while leveraging its previously announced “scalable system” strategy, which has already contributed to a Toyota European design win for MY2011. The scalable system is part of an initiative targeting what Harman sees as a $5B high-growth, mid-segment market opportunity reflecting the company’s desire to capture a broader portfolio of business.

In that regard, Harman wants to pioneer energy-saving GreenEdge technologies for hybrid and electric cars in partnership with Intel and Texas Instruments developing solutions to reduce power consumption by 75% including high efficiency speakers, one of the few objectives the company has yet to realize in the marketplace. Similarly, the company is working with Lotus Engineering on Active Noise Management solutions for hybrid, electric and conventional vehicles to address impending legislation regarding pedestrian safety. Noise management will also apply to in-cabin noise cancellation and reduced weight and CO2 emissions. And Harman is also targeting advanced driver assist systems, an entirely new segment for the company.

In its earnings call the company mentioned winning $2B of additional business, expanding its contract portfolio to $10B, a figure the company claims is the largest in the industry. Included in its current and recently executed order book are:

->     Infinity branded audio systems for next-generation Chrysler SRT series high-performance vehicles;

->     Launch of Mark Levinson premium surround sound for MY10 Lexus GX 460;

->     Launch of JBL premium sound for MY11 Toyota Sienna in U.S.;

->     Launch of Harman Kardon Logic 7 HD system with Range Rover for MY10 mid-model year introduction;

->     Launch of Ferrari 458 Italia equipped with Harman audio and infotainment;

->     Exclusive Haman Kardon sound lounges at BMW brand centers in Munich and Berlin;

->     Press launch of Harman/Lotus Engineering HALOsonic sound synthesis technologies;

->     Selected by BMW for next gen, high-end “Professional infotainment system for all new platforms including BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce;

->     Selected by Daimler for next gen Comand infotainment system for new Mercedes S-Class and C-Class models;

->     Selected by Toyota to provide Harman next gen scalable infotainment for vehicles sold in Europe beginning MY11;

->     Selected by Toyota to provide premium JBL branded audio for 4Runner and Land Cruiser in the U.S., Europe and Middle East and the MY11 Siena in U.S.

All of this contributes to what Harman estimates as 45% global branded automotive audio market share, with Bose at a distant 25%. Harman’s branded audio solutions are used in more than 200 car platforms from 12 OEMs shipping more than 2M audio systems annually. Sources indicate that this 500,000 units/quarter pace is actually approaching 1M units/quarter – a pace that will no doubt be stimulated by the recent Toyota wins and future higher volume segment wins.

The pace of launches has eased somewhat for Harman, which may help explain the return to profitability as profits cusually come later in the program cycle. The company hit a peak of six program launches in FY08, followed by five in FY09. The programs for those years included Mercedes, PSA, Porsche, Audi, BMW, SSangYong, Chrysler and Hyundai. Going forward, Harman says it will have four launches in FY10 (including Audi, Mercedes and BMW (2)), three in FY11 (Toyota, Mercedes and Chrysler) and one in FY12 (BMW), before ramping up again in FY13 with four: Harley-Davidson, Mercedes and BMW (2).

The company further notes the evolution of its infotainment architecture:

1997: SH1/16MB – Tuner/CD/Navi – Turn-by-Turn

2002: SH3/32MB – MMI2000 – VxWorks – Tuner/CD/DVD – Phone/SDS – MOST25 – 2D/2.5D Map

2008: SH4/512MB/1024 – MoCCA Framework – QNX CAR Platform – Tuner/CD/DVD – Phone/SDS – MOST50 – 3D Map – Internet Connectivity

2012: Intel Atomm/1GB – MoCCA & DSI 2.0 – QNX CAR – Tuner/CD/DVD/Blu-Ray – Phone/SMS/Email – MOST150 – NDS Navi – Enhanced 3D Map – Internet.

Worth noting in the architectural evolution is the growing role of both QNX (CAR Platform) and Intel (Atomm) as well as the onset of Internet connectivity - pioneered by BMW - Blu-Ray, MOST and enhanced navigation features, many of which will revolve around 3D and augmented reality implementations.

Overall, Harman appears to have emerged victorious from its cost cutting regimen with fewer European facilities but with a profitable organization in place pursuing business building initiatives throughout Europe, Asia and the U.S. The most significant business transformation of all, though, will be the Toyota wins. Not even Toyota's recent marketing stumbles can tarnish this achievement and how its will transform Harman's operations and growth profile.


January 13, 2010 16:01 rlanctot

Genivi Challenges Automotive OS Duopoly, Disrupts Business Models

 

The Genivi Alliance had a coming out party at the Consumer Electronics Show this week. Aside from the formal launch of the alliance at CeBIT in the winter of 2009, the organization has chosen smaller stages from which to tell its story and attract additional partners. At the CES show, however, Visteon raised the Genivi flag high in introducing new automotive infotainment solutions.

 

Genivi is currently positioned in the industry as an alternative to Microsoft and QNX as an automotive operating system for a range of cockpit applications. The business models of these three organizations differ significantly, though, and the objectives of the Genivi Alliance are not strictly related to taking the place of either of Microsoft’s automotive OS offerings or QNX. The stated objectives appear more closely aligned with reducing development costs for OEMs and, more recently, may include shifting ownership of intellectual property to the OEMs as well.

 

QNX and Microsoft are not the only operating systems available to automotive suppliers. There still remain multiple Linux distributions – including the recently emergent Android being positioned for automotive applications by Continental - as well as versions of M-Itron. But when it comes to the development of the most advanced automotive cockpit systems on the road today, QNX and Microsoft are dominant.

 

When it comes to business models, the two companies differ significantly. Microsoft has a reputation for being expensive, but mitigates the expense with marketing dollars. QNX takes a more traditional approach to software licensing and is a much quieter player in the market, from a marketing or marketing dollars standpoint. Microsoft has found success in both the high-end infotainment segment and the low end (Ford Sync, Fiat Blue&Me).

 

QNX has seen much of its deployments in the luxury segment in connection with parent Harman International, but has also had its share of success in Bluetooth solutions, instrument clusters and GM’s OnStar system. QNX’s most recent success has centered on its work with Lexus and parent Toyota which appears to have opened the door to additional business in Japan. QNX claims in excess of 12M cars deployed with its software.

 

The Genivi strategy, rooted in the shared-code model of Linux, is designed to speed product development by identifying and distributing those layers of operating system code that are identical across platforms. Of course, all operating systems have an element of shared code, but the Genivi approach creates a “star chamber-like” panel of alliance members that vet new additions to the underlying shared code, presumably leaving ample room for alliance members to differentiate their solutions in higher levels of the software stack such as HMI are other application-specific areas.

 

Genivi had its CES debut in the Visteon booth. While one physical platform was shown based on an Intel ATOMM processor, executives said it could be swapped out for solutions from competing silicon suppliers such as Renesas or Freescale, depending on the customer requirement. This is one element of the Genivi platform, like other industry platforms it is intended to allow virtual plug-n-play swapping of processors and other system elements.

 

Visteon executives noted that the initial release, Genivi 1.0, occurred December 17 and the organization is now in the midst of a 21-business day review by its membership. Genivi announced that it surpassed the 50-member mark before CES including such significant partners as Renesas and Nissan. The Genivi 1.0 review is to be completed Jan. 21. During the period of the review the Board of Genivi may receive, via its executive director, any potential member claims of IP which were not contributed by the member under the terms of the IPR policy that they feel are infringed upon with the candidate release. The review period is also indeed to perform a careful review of the documentation of inbound and outbound licensing of the components included in the release. In no notifications occur, the board is expected to vote in a meeting Jan. 27 to release Genivi 1.0. Otherwise, the Board may delay until IP notifications are research and resolved or until license documentation is complete.

 

Because Genivi is so new, rumors continue to swirl around critical business model issues such as IP ownership by OEMs implementing Genivi solutions and around the extent to which it may creep into upper levels of the software stack such as HMI and the application level. For now, the industry will have to wait for its chance to see the first implementation.

 

Genivi will coexist in the market with both QNX and Microsoft including in some of the same systems. This is true for Android as well, which will not replace QNX or Microsoft in the short run. In the end, while additional versions of Linux will continue to emerge and find a place in the automotive market, the duopoly of Microsoft and QNX is likely to persist for some time. Genivi stands to have its greatest influence over time as additional layers of code are added. Participants in the alliance will be watching most closely to see that their value add contribution is preserved.


January 4, 2010 05:01 rlanctot

The marketing battle between traffic service providers will continue into 2010. The good news is that 2009 firmly established the value of traffic data. The turning point came with the introduction of multiple mobile phone navigation solutions, most of which arrived through the aegis of the application store model pioneered by Apple. But new, unusual and creative solutions will arrive in 2010 and change the existing balance of power.

 

Users of these new navigation systems and the developers quickly discovered that reliable traffic information was the real killer app that mobile users were seeking. In the process they discovered that to deliver reliable travel times they needed a wide variety of traffic data including real-time, historical, predictive and incident data. Unfortunately, one of the key sources of traffic data – radio and television stations with cameras, ‘copters and spotters to report incident information – have suffered in the current downturn. In fact, there are anecdotal indications that radio stations are dropping traffic reporting. A model for delivering nationwide incident data that was previously fueled by advertising and sponsorships is becoming frayed at the edges as TV and radio advertising suffer.

 

Traffic.com, ClearChannel and Westwood One/SmartRoute, among others, are all seeking new funding, new business models or new owners in a bid to preserve or enhance their market positions. In the meantime, Google has barged into the market with its own traffic data raising questions over the viability of incumbent players. Google’s entry into any market raises these questions, although the reliability or robustness of Google’s traffic solution has yet to be proven. Inrix, on the other hand, has not based its model on sponsorships or advertising and, as a result, has for the most part avoided the negative impact of the downturn in advertising activity. But with Google getting into the traffic data aggregation and algorithm business, no traffic data supplier is safe including Microsoft's ClearFlow.

 

Of more immediate concern than Google entering the traffic market is the changing role of mobile-phone based navigation. Google is a player here as well, but it has more company in the form of Networks in Motion and TeleNav and their carrier partners. (TelMap's efforts in Europe have been hindered by the fragmented nature of the market and the negative impact of roaming charges.) While companies such as Cellint, AirSage, and IntelliOne have been seeking to integrate cell-tower triangulation data for probe traffic inputs, expect the carriers to introduce GPS-based probe data in the new year – representing a key added-value advantage. GPS-based probe data derived from mobile phone handsets will not replace triangulated data, which will always represent the greatest volume of “anonymized” location data, but the GPS data is likely to be more timely and accurate, critical to traffic reporting and analysis. The GPS-based data will likely require opt in participation vs. the triangulated data which to date has been applied involuntarily.

 

Still, good probe data is almost worthless without incident data. Without incident data the system is unable to interpret slowed or stopped traffic – ie. is it weather, volume, construction, a fallen tree limb, an uphill grade? The battle for reliable traffic data will come down to good incident data. This means the industry will see vastly enhanced probe data in 2010, but the gap between reliable flow and reliable incident data will suddenly become much clearer.

 

Through all the enhancements to traffic reporting consumers have been expressing their interest in better and more timely information and, in particular, more real-time incident information. As an example, RDS-TMC is notorious for the 5-10-15-minute delays in incident reporting, sometimes worse. Drivers want to know what is happening in real time.

 

In 2010, drivers will begin to get real-time information. Whether that information comes from Twitter, TrafficTalk, Aha Mobile, Waze, TrafficLand or some other solution is not clear. What is clear is that drivers want to know BOTH what has happened in the past and what is happening now. But what they really want to know is what is happening right in front of them.

 

The solutions will come in 2010 from three key sources: mobile-phone-based crowd-sourced info, traffic cameras and, perhaps, vehicle-mounted cameras. The challenges to delivery include the creation of traffic reporting “crowds,” something TrafficTalk, Waze and Aha Mobile are working on; and camera input interpretation and delivery platforms. Developments in 2009 clearly indicated that drivers must spend less time looking away from the road to navigation interfaces. More information must be conveyed via voice.

 

Traffic information suppliers will still be looking at a combination of subscription-based and sponsored traffic information. Consumers have clearly indicated a willingness to pay for traffic data, both in Strategy Analytics surveys and in the combined 10 million subscribers to Networks in Motion, TeleNav and XM/Sirius traffic information.

 

The industry will see some outlandish innovations ranging from delivering traffic camera info to mobile phones to – in 2-3 years – aftermarket in-vehicle cameras to capture traffic incidents. Two things are clear. Better incident data is required and solutions are in the pipeline.