Thursday, April 30, 2015

The CLA 45 has landed!

Megan Alink
Europe, your day has come! After five years of showcasing our technology concept cars primarily in North America, we’ve bid farewell to the Mercedes CLA 45 and sent it across the pond to our colleagues in Germany. Over the coming year while the Mercedes resides in Europe, our customers — and anyone who’s just mesmerized by slick, pre-integrated automotive tech — will have a chance to check the car out at a number of public events. (Stay tuned to for more details as these events arise.)

Witness the unboxing:

The CLA 45 emerges into the light at Bremerhaven.

On land and settling in nicely.

So beautiful! We can't wait for a whole new continent to see it for themselves.

Interested in a sneak peek at the inside of this gorgeous vehicle? Read this blog from Lynn Gayowski, or get up close and personal with the digital instrument cluster in this one from Paul Leroux. For more photos, see our Flickr album.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

We showed you so

QNX has been building NFC functionality into concept cars since 2011. Now, with the advent of automotive-grade tags and chips, NFC may be coming to a dashboard near you.

Paul Leroux
Why does QNX transform vehicles like the Maserati QuattroPorte GTS, Mercedes-Benz CLA45, and Bentley Continental into technology concept cars? I can think of many reasons, but three stand out. First, the cars allow us to demonstrate the inherent flexibility and customizability of QNX technology. If you could put all of the cars side by side, you would quickly see that, while they all use the same QNX platform, each has a unique feature set and a distinctive look-and-feel — no two are alike. This flexibility is of immense importance to automakers, who, for reasons of market differentiation, need to deliver a unique brand experience in each marque or vehicle line. Alf Pollex, Head of Connected Car and Infotainment at Volkswagen, says it best: “the QNX platform... enables us to offer a full range of infotainment systems, from premium level to mass volume, using a single, proven software base.”

Second, the cars explore how thoughtful integration of new technologies can make driving easier, more enjoyable, and perhaps even a little safer. Case in point: the Maserati’s obstacle awareness display, which demonstrates how ADAS systems can aggregate data from ultrasonic and LiDAR sensors to help drivers become more aware of their surroundings. This display works much like a heads-up display, but instead of providing speed, RPM, or navigation information, it offers visual cues that help the driver gauge the direction and proximity of objects around the vehicle — pedestrians, for example.

Look ma, no menus: At 2012 CES, a QNX concept car
showcased how NFC can enable single-tap Bluetooth
phone pairing.
Third, the cars explore solutions that address real and immediate pain points. Take, for example, the pairing of Bluetooth phones. Many consumers find this task difficult and time-consuming; automakers, for their part, see it as a source of customer dissatisfaction. So, in 2011, we started to equip some of our concept cars with near field communication (NFC) technology that enables one-touch phone pairing. This pairing is as easy it sounds: you simply touch an NFC-enabled phone to an NFC tag embedded in the car’s console, and voilà, pairing with the car’s infotainment system happens automatically.

Prime time
NFC in the car holds much promise, but when, exactly, will it be ready for prime time? Pretty soon, as it turns out. In a recent article, “NFC looks to score big in cars,” Automotive Engineering International points to several vendors, including Broadcom, NXP, Melexis, and ams AG, that have either announced or shipped automotive-grade NFC solutions. NXP, for example, expects that some of its NFC tags and chips will first go into production cars around 2016.

Mind you, NFC isn’t just for phone pairing. It can, for example, enable key-fob applications that allow phones to store user preferences for seat positions and radio stations. It can also enable use cases in which multiple drivers operate the same vehicle, such as car sharing or fleet management. The important thing is, it’s moving from concept to production, marking one more step in the seamless integration of cars and smartphones.

Did you know…
  • BMW embeds NFC tags not only in its cars, but also in print ads.
  • IHS has predicted that, in 2018, global shipments of NFC-equipped cellphones will reach 1.2 billion units.
  • NFC World publishes a living document that lists all of the NFC handsets available worldwide.

Monday, April 27, 2015

QNX rolls out new wireless framework

Framework abstracts the complexity of modem control, enabling embedded developers to upgrade cellular and Wi-Fi hardware without having to rewrite applications.

Paul Leroux
Building cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity into a vehicle is never trivial (read: it can be an outright headache). Take, for example, the large amount of software needed to manage a cellular modem. The software needs to monitor and control power consumption, ensure data throughput and reliability, minimize call drops and call-setup failures, and manage modem reset and recovery — because even the best modems crash.

To complicate matters, modem technology for embedded systems is evolving quickly. Development teams need the freedom to upgrade to newer, more capable modems, without having to rewrite or redesign their applications. Likewise, they need the flexibility to choose the best modem for a particular region, product line, or price point.

Enter the QNX Wireless Framework, which QNX Software Systems released last week. Designed to simplify system design, the framework encapsulates the complexities of modem control through an easy-to-use application programming interface (API). Moreover, the API remains consistent across wireless modules and chipsets, allowing systems to quickly support new cellular or Wi-Fi products from vendors such as Gemalto, Sierra Wireless, Telit Wireless Solutions, and u-blox.

The QNX Wireless Framework can scale to meet a broad range of product requirements.

The QNX Wireless Framework is built on technology already deployed in millions of BlackBerry devices, supported by hundreds of mobile carriers, and field-proven in complex wireless environments. Better yet, it's backed by a dedicated, world-class team of wireless experts with hundreds of person-years of experience building carrier-grade mobile products.

To learn more about the QNX Wireless framework:
  • download the webinar on applying smartphone wireless technology to connected embedded systems

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

We’re blushing!

By Megan Alink, Director of Marketing Communications for Automotive

The folks over at TU-Automotive announced their awards finalists today, and what a day it has turned out to be! QNX Software Systems has been declared a finalist in two categories:

  • TU-Automotive Influencer of the Year: Andrew Poliak, Global Business Development Director, QNX Software Systems
  • Best Mobility Solution Industry Newcomer: QNX Software Systems for the QNX Wireless Framework

Andrew Poliak
A 15-year veteran of QNX, Andrew Poliak is one of the leading experts in the automotive software industry and a trusted advisor and spokesperson for media and analysts on trends and issues, including in the areas of safety, security, ADAS, infotainment, instrument clusters, mobile connectivity, and telematics. On a daily basis, Andrew works with automotive manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers around the world to help bring new infotainment systems to market. His work has paved the way to our recent achievement of >50% market share in automotive infotainment. You can follow Andrew on Twitter here and read some of his latest thoughts on automotive trends here, here, and here.

The QNX Wireless Framework was developed by a team of mobile wireless experts with hundreds of person-years of experience building advanced, carrier-grade mobile products. The platform helps automotive OEMs enrich the driving experience by adding cellular and Wi-Fi technologies to enable over-the-air updates, deliver access to cloud-based services such as maps, navigation, and voice recognition, and address new regulatory requirements including eCall (Europe), Simrav (Brazil), and GLONASS (Russia). Read more about the QNX Wireless Framework here or check out our webinar.

You can find the complete list of categories and finalists on the TU-Automotive site. Congratulations to all the other finalists, and we’ll see you at the awards dinner!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Keeping it fresh for 35 years

By Megan Alink, Director of Marketing Communications for Automotive

Recently, my colleagues Paul Leroux and Matt Young showed off a shiny new infographic that enlightens readers to the many ways they encounter QNX-based systems in daily life (here and here). After three-and-a-half decades in business we’ve certainly been around the block a time or two, and you might think things are getting a bit stale. As the infographic shows, that couldn’t be further from the truth here at QNX. From up in the stars to down on the roads; in planes, trains, and automobiles (and boats too); whether you’re mailing a letter or crafting a BBM on your BlackBerry smartphone, the number and breadth of applications in which our customers deploy QNX technology is simply astounding.

For those who like some sound with their pictures, we also made a video to drive home the point that, wherever you are and whatever you do, chances are you’ll encounter a little QNX. Check it out:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Building smartphone-caliber connectivity into cars

Paul Leroux
Implementing cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity in a vehicle is never trivial. But with the right technology, the task can become a lot simpler.

When it comes to selling cars, just how important is connectivity? Can the services provided by connected cars, such as Internet radio, remote diagnostics, and real-time traffic information, influence vehicle buying decisions? And if so, how much?

In 2014, telecom giant Telefónica decided to find out. In a survey of 5000 consumers, the company found that 71% of respondents were interested in using, or were already using, connected car services. Other studies report similar findings. Parks Associates, for example, found that 78% of people who already own a connected car will demand connectivity features in their next vehicle.

Of course, “connected car” means different things to different people. It could, for example, refer to a car that has a built-in cellular modem, or to a car that uses the driver’s smartphone to access online services. Moreover, the features offered by my connected car may differ completely from the features offered by your connected car. But no matter what form it takes, or what applications it enables, connectivity in the car can be a challenge to implement. In a recent blog post on LinkedIn, Roger Lanctot of Strategy Analytics attests to this difficulty, stating that nearly every car maker seeking to implement connectivity has stumbled on issues ranging from bad connections and poor user interfaces to interminable delays.

Consider, for example, the challenge of embedding a cellular modem in a vehicle — or any other embedded device, for that matter. Initializing and managing the modem requires a large set of software that, among other things, must:

  • handle modem reset and recovery, because even the best modems crash
  • monitor and manage power consumption to optimize current draw
  • ensure data throughput and reliability
  • reduce or eliminate call-drops and call-setup failures

The challenge doesn’t stop there. Network operators, for example, are paying more attention to M2M connections on their networks, thereby increasing the demand for operator-approved modems and modules. Meanwhile, system designers may need to swap out modems to target different regions or price points, or to take advantage of newer, more capable modem technology. The goal, then, is to implement a flexible, future-proofed design that can accommodate such changes with a bare minimum of fuss.

Enter a new webinar hosted by my colleagues Karen Bachman and Leo Forget. In “Applying smartphone wireless technology to connected embedded systems,” they will examine the challenges of embedding wireless connectivity and explore how to address these challenges through software frameworks developed for smartphones and other mobile devices. True to the title, Karen and Leo will look at use cases not just for automotive, but for other industries as well, such as medical and industrial. The bulk of the conversation, though, will focus on common issues that embedded developers face, regardless of the device type they are building.

Attend this webinar to learn about:

  • Applications that stand to benefit the most from wireless connectivity
  • Challenges and complexity of bringing connectivity to cars and other embedded systems
  • Potential security and privacy risks introduced by wireless connectivity, including unauthorized access and unencrypted data transfer
  • The benefits of creating flexible products that easily accommodate advances in modem technology

Here are the webinar coordinates:

Applying smartphone wireless technology to connected embedded systems

Thursday, March 26, 2015
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm EST
Register: TechOnLine

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Long time, no see: Catching up with the QNX CAR Platform

By Megan Alink, Director of Marketing Communications for Automotive

It’s a fact — a person simply can’t be in two places at one time. I can’t, you can’t, and the demo team at QNX can’t (especially when they’re brainstorming exciting showcase projects for 2016… but that’s another blog. Note to self.) So what’s a QNX-loving, software-admiring, car aficionado to do when he or she has lost touch and wants to see the latest on the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment? Video, my friends.

One of the latest additions to our QNX Cam YouTube channel is an update to a video made just over two and a half years ago, in which my colleague, Sheridan Ethier, took viewers on a feature-by-feature walkthrough of the QNX CAR Platform. Now, Sheridan’s back for another tour, so sit back and enjoy a good, old-fashioned catch-up with what’s been going on with our flagship automotive product (with time references, just in case you’re in a bit of a hurry).

Sheridan Ethier hits the road in the QNX reference vehicle based on a modified Jeep Wrangler, running the latest QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment.

We kick things off with a look at one of the most popular elements of an infotainment system — multimedia. Starting around the 01:30 mark, Sheridan shows how the QNX CAR Platform supports a variety of music formats and media sources, from the system’s own multimedia player to a brought-in device. And when your passenger is agitating to switch from the CCR playlist on your MP3 device to Meghan Trainor on her USB music collection, the platform’s fast detection and sync time means you’ll barely miss a head-bob.

The QNX CAR Platform’s native multimedia player — the “juke box” — is just one of many options for enjoying your music.

About five minutes in, we take a look at how the QNX CAR Platform implements voice recognition. Whether you’re seeking out a hot latté, navigating to the nearest airport, or calling a co-worker to say you’ll be a few minutes late, the QNX CAR Platform lets you do what you want to do while doing what you need to do — keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Don’t miss a look at concurrency (previously discussed here by Paul Leroux) during this segment, when Sheridan runs the results of his voice commands (multimedia, navigation, and a hands-free call) smoothly at the same time.

Using voice recognition, users can navigate to a destination by address or point of interest description (such as an airport).

At eight minutes, Sheridan tells us about one of the best examples of the flexibility of the QNX CAR Platform — its support for application environments, including native C/C++, Qt, HTML5, and APK for running Android applications. The platform’s audio management capability makes a cameo appearance when Sheridan switches between the native multimedia player and the Pandora HTML5 app.

Pandora is just one of the HTML5 applications supported by the QNX CAR Platform.

As Sheridan tells us (at approximately 12:00), the ability to project smartphone screens and applications into the vehicle is an important trend in automotive. With technologies like MirrorLink, users can access nearly all of the applications available on their smartphone right from the head unit.

Projection technologies like MirrorLink allow automakers to select which applications will be delivered to the vehicle’s head unit from the user’s connected smartphone. 

Finally, we take a look at two interesting features that differentiate the QNX CAR Platform — last mode persistence (e.g. when the song you were listening to when you turned the car off starts up at the same point when you turn the car back on) and fastboot (which, in the case of QNX CAR, can bring your backup camera to life in 0.8 seconds, far less than the NHTSA-mandated 2 seconds). These features work hand-in-hand to ensure a safer, more enjoyable, more responsive driving experience.

Fastboot in 0.8 seconds means that when you’re ready to reverse, your car is ready to show you the way.

Interested in learning more about the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment? Check out Paul Leroux’s blog on the architecture of this sophisticated piece of software. To see QNX CAR in action, read Tina Jeffrey’s blog, in which she talks about how the platform was implemented in the reimagined QNX reference vehicle for CES 2015.

Check out the video here: