Telematics Update interviews Alistair Adams, Business Development Manager for Nokia’s Qt Application and UI Framework product.

Telematics Update interviews Alistair Adams, Business Development Manager for Nokia’s Qt Application and UI Framework product.
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What does your company do?

About 18 months ago, Nokia bought a Norwegian company called Trolltech, developers of the widely used open source C++ Application and UI Framework called Qt. Qt is a set of developer libraries for the easy design of software applications and is best known in the Linux community as the basis for the KDE desktop. Qt is also used in a surprising variety of places, such as in Google Earth, in the custom software tools built by animation studios for making animated films and special effects, and in all the EDA vendors’ software design tools for designing the latest ICs. The Qt framework includes a rich variety of classes for application development, including user interfaces, application logic, database access, networking, XML and OpenGL. The growth in embedded devices prompted Nokia to buy Trolltech in order to accelerate software development across its range of devices. My job, my department's job, is to promote Qt to customers external to Nokia in order to grow the developer ecosystem and get more people using the software and to obtain feedback to make Qt even better.

How do you differentiate your offerings from your competitors?

Qt is very easy to learn. This is by design. The development team goes through several iterations to make sure every Qt class is intuitive and consistent, resulting in higher productivity for software developers. When I joined Trolltech, I was struck by how happy all the customers were with our product. People would walk up to our booth just to say how they loved the product and to share the great things they were building. It’s not often a product creates that sort of response. One person even said that Qt made C++ programming fun.Qt is designed to work on many operating systems. For example, in the automotive world, a variety of OSs are used; Linux, WinCE, QNX, VxWorks, and Qt runs on all of these. Any code written for one OS will run on the other with just a recompile. This flexibility is a great benefit to customers who might be planning an evolution of their OS strategy. They can switch OS but not lose out on their existing software investments. More than 100 engineers are extending the value of Qt today, including, most recently, animation, multi-touch and gestures, features that are expected by today’s consumer. There are other frameworks, but none have the engineering resources that Qt has.

What partnerships are you currently forging? What industry milestone are working towards achieving?

We are working towards having the automotive industry standardize on Qt for building infotainment systems, so we're partnering with companies that know Qt and the automotive industry and that can help us penetrate key accounts in this space. As an example, we recently worked with Cybercom and Mocean Labs to create the HMI for the GENIVI Reference demonstrator. It was an amazing effort that put the whole HMI together in less than four weeks. We also work with all the major silicon providers to ensure that Qt works really well on their chipsets.

Which trends will impact the industry the most in the coming years and why?

The connected car has been talked about a lot, so I’ll leave that out for now. What has struck me is the sheer computing power being designed into the next gen vehicles. There are some really amazing roadmaps for the CPUs being planned for automotive, so it’s what you can do with that that’s going to be interesting. We're going to see a lot more emphasis on voice recognition as a way to manage potential driver distraction and this will absorb some of this computing power. Driver assistance technologies like radar detection, backup sensors and cameras will also use a lot of this power, and then you’ll see virtualization—partitioning the processor to run two OSs, one for safety critical items, the other for infotainment.

Nokia is an integral part of our upcoming event The Consumer Telematics Show 2010 on January 6th 2010. Could you tell us what key topics or issues Nokia will be discussing with the industry at the show?

There are two key topics. One is that software is becoming more open. When Nokia bought Trolltech, it added an LGPL license to Qt and opened up its source code repository so anyone can create a branch, make modifications and submit them back to the core code base. We publish our roadmap and developers regularly blog about what they are working on. This fully transparent way of working is a key part of being a contributor in the open source community. The automotive industry is quite conservative but it is slowly getting its head around open source concepts. Adopting open source will help it create the increasingly complex systems being designed into cars in a cost-effective and timely manner. A phone is a personal device containing music, photos, navigation. I want to play the music on my phone and in my car. I want to be able to use my phone’s navigation for driving and then switch to pedestrian navigation after I’ve parked the car. Nokia’s vision addresses the full lifecycle of phone-to-car connectivity, from simple Bluetooth interfaces to how to let a phone use a car's display and I/O devices. We’re calling this Terminal Mode and will be showing it on the Nokia booth at CES.

Which gadgets/gizmos/cars are on your Christmas wish list?

I'm prodding my boss to get me the new Nokia N900. Then I'll have to figure out how I can retrofit my old BMW with a modern infotainment system and connect the N900 to it using Terminal Mode. My other favorite device is the Nokia e71, a rugged and dependable email road warrior.


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