Q&A: Telematics, infotainment and the future of the smartphone

Q&A: Telematics, infotainment and the future of the smartphone

Lars Boeryd has held engineering and marketing positions for semiconductor solutions targeted at medical, aerospace, industrial, wireless and automotive applications. Over the last 10 years, his focus has been on bringing GPS and wireless connectivity solutions to the automotive telematics markets. Boeryd talks to TU’s Susan Kuchinskas about the impact of the smartphone on telematics and infotainment.

CSR Technology creates wireless solutions for the auto industry that seamlessly integrate smartphones and in-vehicle systems. Are smartphones just a bump on the road to fully embedded connectivity? Or will they continue to be an important component of infotainment systems?

Being able to connect and access content in your smartphone—and you could expand that to include other nomadic devices, such as tablets and iPods/MP3 players—will be increasingly important. For example, you may want to play music from your smartphone instead of the CD player; you'll also want to access Internet radio that way, leveraging your smartphone data plan. We are getting so dependent on our phones for everything we do, and we have so much information on them, that being able to conveniently access that information in a safe way is a long-term phenomenon. (For more in Internet radio, see Telematics and the rise of in-car Internet radio, part I and Telematics and the rise of in-car Internet radio, part II.)

Where does that leave tier 1s?

There will be multiple models. There are things that are done really well in the head unit. For example, navigation is done better when integrated into the head unit, providing a fully integrated audio and display experience, leveraging access to vehicle sensor information, the local map database that provides the opportunity for more accurate positioning, and continued access to navigation even when you're not connected. But there are also other expectations that have to be met, like having access to your own media, your personality, your favorite applications, in essence ‘your stuff’ into the car, and you expect to have access to this while driving.

The challenge is, How do you get access to ‘your stuff’ in your nomadic device while driving in a safe way? We don't want drivers to interact directly with the phone when they're in the driver's seat, and we do not want them to interact with the nomadic devices at all unless it is safe to do so. Supporting and controlling this access from the head unit is the best way to address these types of security concerns, and that requires the smarts of the tier 1s and OEMs to solve. (For more on smartphones and infotainment, see Industry insight: Telematics and apps.)

What approach do you think has the best prospects for that?

There are two methods we're looking at and supporting right now. First, we're working with Livio Radio to enable remote control of the smartphone via Bluetooth from the head unit display. They have an API, the Livio Connect API, which enables the head unit application to connect to the smartphone application via Bluetooth, controlling it and getting data from it through the wireless connection. This is in addition to the audio stereo profiles already supported by Bluetooth. We've integrated this API into a variant of our Roadtune Bluetooth stacks that we offer to the market pre-integrated and validated; e.g., by supporting the Livio Connect API over Bluetooth our customers can easily develop and support applications where consumers can browse through song lists and/or Internet radio stations, select songs or a radio station of choice, start and stop the music, save titles and/or provide thumbs ups/downs for future reference, all without ever touching the application running on the smartphone directly. (For more on Livio, see Livio Radio: How apps get into cars.)

What's the other approach?

The Livio solution requires that the smartphone application and the corresponding head unit application both support the Livio Connect API in order to create the end-to-end solution. An alternate method is to simply replicate the smartphone screen on the touchscreen head unit display to view and control the applications running on the smartphone. This solution is called MirrorLink and is best supported via WiFi, as the required data rates exceed those available over Bluetooth.

Are some of your customers enabling that?

There is very strong interest in both of these approaches. Some of our customers are in development integrating these solutions, but I can't disclose who they are at this time.

What are the advantages of the MirrorLink strategy?

As long as both the smartphone and the head unit supports MirrorLink, any application that you have on the handset can be replicated and controlled from the head unit; there is no need to have matching applications on the head unit and smartphone both supporting a common Livio Connect API for control and access of the smartphone application. On the other hand, MirrorLink requires a higher bandwidth WiFi connection, and obviously, WiFi penetration in the car is nowhere near where we are with Bluetooth today.

UBI solutions have now been on the market for a while, but reaching higher levels of market penetration is the key to sustainable success. What's the best way to accomplish this?

That’s a good question that is being asked at frequently at UBI events. There are many reasons why UBI has not yet taken off, while it still holds lots of promise. Among those are the costs of the OBD dongle, the costs of accessing vehicle bus information and providing a wireless link back to the insurance company, the barrier of installing it and initiating the service, conflicting state laws, and privacy concerns among others.

There are many opportunities to add utility to the UBI services by expanding the capabilities of the simple OBD dongle to a camera/GPS/Bluetooth-enabled platform. We are seeing a growing market for mobile data recorders in Asian markets such as Korea and China, whereby the user continuously records and geotags the events on the road using GPS and camera technologies. This information is available in case of an accident to help determine fault.

In Korea, customers are incentivized to start using this system in return for insurance discounts. This type of system could be expanded to provide ADAS-like capabilities such as lane departure, detection of obstacles or pedestrians, and driver authentication. With the emergence of Bluetooth Smart, new opportunities open up to allow people with medical conditions who would otherwise not be allowed to drive, or whose insurance rate otherwise would be exorbitant,  to be monitored and supported while driving. (For more on UBI, see Industry insight: Insurance telematics.)

Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU.

For more on smartphones and infotainment, see Industry insight: Telematics and apps.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2012 on December 4-5 in San Diego.

Coming up in 2013: Consumer Telematics Show 2013 on January 7 in Las Vegas, V2X for Auto Safety and Mobility Europe 2013 on February 19-20 in Frankfurt, Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2013 on March 19-20 in Amsterdam, Insurance Telematics Europe 2013 on May 8-9 in London and Telematics India and South Asia 2013 on June 5-7 in India.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports on In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Report, Human Machine Interface Technologies and Smart Vehicle Technology: The Future of Insurance Telematics.

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