Genivi and automotive platforms

March 24, 2009

 

At Cebit, QNX, Microsoft and Genivi all revealed their visions for a common automotive reference platform that would cut costs, accelerate time to market, reduce costs and just make the world a better place. I won’t take the time to review each offering in detail as there has already been a fair bit of coverage from the media.   

 

 

In these articles, one thing struck me as particularly interesting. People are now identifying software as the single most important element in automotive systems going forward. I agree wholeheartedly. I spend a lot of my time lining up third party software vendors to meet the myriad requirements demanded by OEMs for upcoming model years.  It is no trivial task. Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, points of interest, remote update, internet radio, multi-media, device connectivity, speech recognition – the list goes on and on. Thankfully there are software companies that specialize in each of these areas.

 

The notion of a common automotive reference platform comes up a lot these days, even more so since the economy tanked and everyone has to do more with less. Ideally the vendors serving each of these very different areas would work cooperatively to shoulder the burden of integration and testing – a consortium of like minded industry players coming together to build something that could be used by all. A truly open, standards-based organization where the ultimate output would allow the automotive industry to choose exactly what functionality, features and vendors it wanted to work with. That’s very powerful stuff.

 

Genivi is a consortium that is being driven by a handful of automotive Tier ones and a couple of OEMs but only one silicon vendor and one software vendor. There is only one software vendor in the consortium today. My understanding of automotive requirements suggests that even a huge software giant couldn’t possibly hope to address everything needed, even if they had the next 50 years to get it done. I guess that’s where this community they talk about will have to help a lot.

 

I’m not suggesting that QNX CAR is the perfect solution either but at least it does encompass a rapidly growing number of software vendors and offers support for all the major automotive silicon choices out there today.  It is not a standard, per se, although the underlying operating system is POSIX compliant and brings the benefit of providing a standard API. It is open to pretty much everyone and its goal is to provide a set of pre-integrated, auto hardened technologies under a business model that promotes its use for prototyping and product development.

 

Now to be fair, I don’t actually know a lot about the details of how Genivi plans to roll out their platform. I’m not invited.

 

Romain

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QNX CAR – the start of something big

March 2, 2009

When I got back from CES earlier this year I mentioned that one of my goals at the show was to share the QNX CAR vision. I saw a lot of nodding heads when I described a model where QNX and select members of its ecosystem could work together to pre-integrate our respective technologies. I saw a lot of eyes light up when I described an engagement model where automotive Tier oness and OEMs could leverage this pre-integration to get started on their designs.

 

On the 24th of February, QNX formally launched the QNX CAR program. If you visit the new page (www.qnxcar.com) you can get lots more information on the program, how it works and what’s available for round one. You will also see an image of a bunch of lego blocks and a slick sports car. This graphic really distills the essence of the QNX CAR program.

 

Historically software and silicon vendors selling into automotive have worked loosely together and have left the task of integration to the Tier one. We have all been guilty of selling a bunch of lego that can be fit together somehow but have never provided the instructions on how to build the final product. QNX CAR changes that in several ways.

 

By working together to pre-integrate technology into the QNX CAR environment, QNX and its ecosystem are jumpstarting our collective customers’ designs. They can now bypass the initial integration work and focus on higher level, value added development. We are finally providing the instructions on how the lego fits together.

 

This alone would be pretty cool but we have also been working with our partners to sort out the initial licensing. Under QNX CAR, evaluation of 3rd party technology no longer involves working with every company involved. Customers can engage directly with QNX to get their hands on all the bits and pieces involved. It’s simple, straight forward and easy. 

 

Add to this that the program is available at no charge and that QNX silicon partners are throwing hardware into the mix. For the first time ever, developers can get started on their prototyping just by being accepted to the program. That’s it. That’s all.

 

All this brings me to the point I raised in the title. This is just the beginning. On March 12th the QNX CAR Foundry27 project will go live and participants will be able to access the first wave of third party technology along with QNX middleware.

 

You can be sure that this is only the start. We’ve been working with a longer list of partners around all sorts of technology. Check out the Foundry27 project on the 12th but come back soon. You’ll see a growing list of technologies spanning 2D/3D nav, city view, remote over the air software updates, points of interest and more. Exciting times…

 

Romain


Black Ice, CES and the Future of Infotainment

January 20, 2009

One morning last week the traffic on the way to work was terrible. A commute that normally takes 25 minutes took well over an hour so I had some time to think about what I seen and heard at CES recently.  

 

I drive a 2001 BMW 3 series and when I bought it, it came with a high end radio and CD player.  The radio can display the name of the song playing at any given time – a truly innovative feature way back in 2001J.

 

 

bmw-radio2 

 

 

Fast forward to CES 2009 and now companies are providing voice recognition systems with natural language capabilities, media management, 3D navigation, off-board navigation with points of interest and other fascinating technology all aimed at making infotainment systems more and more useful and interactive. Companies are even working on remote update capabilities over wireless that will allow you to keep up to date with all the latest and greatest features.

 

All these nifty technologies create a bit of a problem for the automotive Tier 1s. People want them and the OEMs are specifying them for next generation head units. The Tier 1s are now faced with the daunting task of integrating many advanced features into their infotainment systems. This is a non-trivial undertaking and it gets worse with each new function added to the mix.

 

QNX has been listening. We went to CES to promote a vision to our ecosystem – a vision where we all work together to integrate our respective technologies and provide a unified platform to our customers. Our partners must have been hearing the same thing because they bought into the vision – lock, stock and barrel. 2009 will be an exciting year for all of us as we work towards executing on this platform.

 

So what does this have to do with black ice? The extremely cold weather we had last week caused ice to form on the roads. As you can imagine, that made driving pretty treacherous. There was a big accident on the highway and I spent 30 minutes trying to travel one kilometre.

 

Sometimes I take a slightly different route in the morning. If I had taken this alternate route, I would have avoided the traffic jam altogether. All I needed was someone on the radio to mention that the traffic was bad and I would have been fine. Somebody should invent something that helps people avoid traffic jams!

 

As it turns out, Telecommunication Systems, one of the partners I met at CES, does provide traffic information as part of their remote navigation offering. You actually get real time traffic data along with points of interest and other useful information all served up dynamically. If I had known about the traffic I would have taken the alternate route and saved myself half an hour. Of course I would have missed out on learning all the names of songs playing on my radio…


The iPOD, the Zune and Gracenote

December 30, 2008

 

It is probably obvious to everyone that the iPOD changed the world. Introduced in October 2001, over 150 million iPODs have been sold at last count and that number continues to grow rapidly. The Microsoft Zune, a relative newcomer, is also enjoying brisk sales. People are now able to take their music with them anywhere they go and listen whenever they want.

 

Automotive OEMs are reacting to the portable media phenomena and are providing connectivity for these devices into automotive head units. What was the exclusive domain of the aftermarket is now becoming mainstream. People can plug their iPODs, Zunes and even USB sticks into the car and play their music back over their car stereos.

 

Taking it one step further, we are starting to see cars with hard drives on-board. People can now download their music to their cars – turning them into giant portable media players on wheels.

 

images1

 

OK, well maybe that’s a stretch but portable media is definitely becoming a big part of the automotive experience going forward.

 

With several family members (and their friends) often sharing a single vehicle, a lot of content can find its way into the car. That content is likely to be pretty diverse and not everybody in the family necessarily likes everybody else’s taste in music. I like alt rock and jazz, my wife likes pop and my in-laws like country. Download all this content into the car and you run the risk of listening to music you can’t stand. Cruising along at 70 miles per hour, you can either put up with it or start fighting with your stereo to make it go away – a risky proposition.

It seems the ability to manage your content intelligently would be a good thing to add to the mix. Gracenote brings exactly this to the market. They provide the ability to organize and navigate large music collections. Gracenote software analyzes and recognizes tracks and organizes them by genre, by artist and even by album. With over 1600 pre-defined genres you can quickly narrow down the style of music you feel like listening to, even in the most eclectic of music collections.

 

One of the coolest features of their product is called “more like this”. The “more like this” command creates customized playlists based on the current song. Its not to far off the concept I described recently when I blogged about Pandora. The seed song is used as a starting point and Gracenote then builds a playlist. If you like what you hear, you can save the playlist and if you don’t, you can start again.

 

Like Pandora, they deliver not only the music but also all the metadata associated with the music. You can check out album art, lyrics, artist biographies and even album reviews – although you probably shouldn’t be reading album reviews on the freeway.

 

The QNX Gracenote solution will be on display in the Gracenote booth at CES. If you happen to be attending, stop by and have a look – and a listen.

Romain 


What it means: Foundry 27 & The Intel C++ Compiler Professional Edition for QNX Neutrino RTOS

November 28, 2008

intel_compiler_image

Hello to the QNX Developer Community!

This is my first blog to you about the goings on in our ‘Tertiary Matters’.

Ostensibly this post is to let you know we just added a link in the Bazaar, on Foundry27, to the new beta edition of The Intel C++ Compiler Professional Edition for QNX. Hereafter referred to as the Intel Compiler.

But “Hey what?” you may be saying to yourself, “Foundry?@, Bazaar?)*% Bizar?^%.”

So let’s take a step back and refresh you on what we’re up to at QNX and why the posting of the Intel Compiler is important. But first the disclaimer:

Whenever they let me out of the office, I always preface to customers and partners that I have the distinction of being the only philosophy major on our product roadmap team. I am decidedly untechnical and highly philosophical. So, my postings will lean on the side of trying to understand what things mean, greater significance and the like. I’ll leave the technical drill downs to the experts. Now a few facts:

In September of 2007 we launched Foundry27 (F27), our community portal and introduced our hybrid software model of published source coupled with commercial licensing. In the first year we achieved the following portal milestones:

  • 21, 000+ developers
  • almost 600 posts per month
  • 43 Active Projects: including 5 silicon, 3 community, 2 customer, 14 public

Based on the activity we see and comparative benchmarks, the transition to our new business model has been a tremendous success!

In 2009 we’re looking forward to the first community code drops, new silicon vendor developed BSPs, and rewards and incentives for your participation in Foundry27. We’re even looking at the possibility of interactive hardware roadmaps where you, the developer, can provide input into what hardware you would like prioritized in our development labs.

What’s the significance of the Intel Compiler showing up on Foundry27? It means that the QNX community is thriving,  attracting investment from hardware vendors so that you can benefit from a healthy and vibrant QNX ecosystem.

I hope you’ll request the beta of the Intel Compiler and give us feedback – let us know if it improves your development efforts on the Intel Architecture. You can find it here – follow this link to the Bazaar and then scroll down to Cross Development Tools:

http://community.qnx.com/sf/wiki/do/viewPage/projects.bazaar/wiki/Software_Directory

Initial reports are glowing.

Best, Kroy