Open Access Creates Added Value for Telematics

Open Access Creates Added Value for Telematics

Myles H. Kitchen, Automotive Electronics Consultant/Analyst, at M.H. Kitchen & Associates thinks that having vehicle OEMs (of all types) provide much greater open access to telematics providers for vehicle connectivity and interaction to enable much higher user value from the telematics is essential.

In fact, open access for suppliers was a major topic at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Shows’ automotive session, Connect2Car. One of the champions for open architectures in automotive applications is John Waraniak, vice president, Vehicle Technology for Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). Aftermarket frequently gets new technology on vehicles quicker than the automakers, especially in the area of consumer electronics. So aftermarket is certainly one area that needs to be involved in open access and standards are a means to provide open access.

Connectors are one specific area that requires standardization. Do the consumer electronics products connect to automotive-based electronics including infotainment and telematics using USB or some other means? “USB might have been the answer five years ago but I don’t know what the answer is going to be three to five years from now,” says Waraniak. The answer is certainly not obvious at this point. “Is it a protocol is it a connector is it an approach to a family of connectors,” says Waraniak. “I think we have enough smart people between CEA and SEMA to help answer that.”

Waraniak views the consumer electronics items including telematics and infotainment technologies as a pyramid. “At the bottom of that pyramid is standards and commodities,” he says. “That’s the stuff that architecturally has to be the same – that you can just plug and play.” The next level above up involves commonization. The combination of standards including standard interfaces creates the platform. “At the top of that are the differentiators,” he explains. “All three of those levels have to be integrated or else they won’t play well together.”

Implementing Open Access

SEMA’s alliance with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) resulted in the Automotive Electronics Connectivity Committee (AECC). AECC’s "Connected Vehicle" project, will demonstrate automotive electronics aftermarket infotainment and safety integration at the SEMA Show 2009, Nov 3-5 in Las Vegas and at the Consumer Electronics Show Jan 7-10 in Las Vegas. The demo is a 2009 Jeep Commander equipped with a number of high-tech products from headrest video systems to backup cameras.

Waraniak spoke recently at the “The Business of Plugging In” conference held Oct 19-21 in Detroit. “A lot of my comments were about open architecture,” he says. Waraniak compares the automotive electric vehicle situation to Apple and its approach to iPod applications. “If these electric vehicles are going to be successful, you have to have open innovation and integration to drive the growth.”

Waraniak says the three megatrends of driving green, driving connected and driving safe all blend together making open access essential. “The Chevy Volt is all about connectivity and telematics,” he says. “To keep it green, smart charging, smart driving, they’ll go hand in hand.”

Open access is essential for collaboration and ongoing applications development. Some carmakers and suppliers have recognized this and have designed their systems with open access as part of the design criteria. “Ford and Continental and Microsoft saw the advantage of working together collaboratively,” says Waraniak. The list of partners involved in the Ford Sync is impressive but they have also allowed access to others to create new applications.

In its AutoLinkQ system Continental uses Google Android to provide an open approach for developing applications. The Android open source project enables third party developers to write and certify applications for the car. These added and diverse perspectives are expected to provide drivers and passengers vehicle adapted content and services to provide a unique driving experience.

Properly designed open access allows third parties to develop new applications that enhance telematics systems. This provides increased value to the automaker’s OEM system and increased satisfaction to the driver and passengers – an all around winning combination.

Randy Frank is a contributing editor at Telematics Update. Click here to let us know your thoughts on the above exclusive report, as we would like to continue this trend in order to give our readers high-level and engaging content.

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