HTML5 in the car: Hello cross-platform, goodbye vendor lock-in

Is HTML5 the next big thing in car infotainment? Hear what Andy Gryc of QNX has to say in this new video, which explains why the HTML5 standard may leave proprietary solutions in the dust. (Don't have time to watch the whole thing? Then at least watch the bloopers at the end. If nothing else, you'll find out why Andy is such a gas to work with.)

My QNX friends tell me this is the first installment in a new video series on HTML5 and the car. So stay tuned.


QNX-based nav system helps Ford SUVs stay on course down under

This just in: SWSA, a leading electronics supplier to the Australian automotive industry, and NNG, the developer of the award-winning iGO navigation software, have created a QNX-based navigation system for Ford Australia. The new system has been deployed in Ford Territory SUVs since June of this year.

To reduce driver distraction, the system offers a simplified user interface and feature set. And, to provide accurate route guidance, the system uses data from an internal gyroscope and an external traffic message channel, as well as standard GPS signals. Taking the conditions of local roads into account, the software provides a variety of alerts and speed-camera warnings; it also offers route guidance in Australian English.

The navigation system is based on the iGO My way Engine, which runs in millions of navigation devices worldwide. To read NNG's press release, click here.

SWSA's new nav system for the Ford Territory is based on the Freescale
i.MX31L processor, QNX Neutrino RTOS, and iGO My way Engine.

This post originally appeared in the QNX auto blog.

Qt developers can now target QNX Neutrino RTOS with commercial licensing and support from Digia

QNX medical demo equipped
with a Qt-based user interface
(see video, below)
This just in: Digia and QNX Software Systems have announced that Digia will provide developers who target the QNX Neutrino RTOS with licensing, support, and services for the Qt Commercial development framework. This is welcome news for anyone who wants to use Qt and the QNX Neutrino RTOS in a commercial device or application.

If you're new to Qt, it's a popular framework for writing applications and graphical user interfaces. More to the point, it's a cross-platform framework: You can write your applications once and deploy them across multiple desktop and embedded operating systems, without having to rewrite your source code.

This "write once, deploy across" feature helps explain why a number of QNX customers — particularly those in the medical industry — have been asking for commercial Qt support. In fact, both Qt and QNX Neutrino have a proven history in FDA-approved devices. It's no surprise, then, that the QNX concept team used Qt to build the user interface for their medical device demo, pictured above.

To get a feel for how the concept team integrated the Qt UI with QNX Neutrino, check out the whitepaper, "Persistent Publish/Subscribe Messaging in Medical Devices". And to see the Qt-equipped medical demo in action, check out this video filmed at the Embedded World Conference in Nuremburg. Among other things, the video showcases some nifty BlackBerry PlayBook integration.



QNX-powered OnStar FMV drives home with CES innovation award

This just in: The OnStar FMV aftermarket mirror, which brings the safety and security features of OnStar to non-GM vehicles, has won a coveted CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award.

To clinch this award, a product must impress an independent panel of industrial designers, engineers, and trade journalists. Speaking of impressions, it seems that OnStar FMV also made a hit with the folks at CNET, because they've chosen it as one of their Top Holiday Shopping Picks for 2011.

If you haven't already guessed, OnStar FMV uses QNX Neutrino as its OS platform. It also uses the QNX acoustic processing suite, which filters out noise and echo to make hands-free conversations clear and easy to follow. The suite includes cool features like bandwidth extension, which extends the narrow-band hands-free signal frequency range to deliver speech that is warm and natural, as well as intelligible.

Have time for a video? If so, here's a fun look at FMV's features, including stolen vehicle recovery, automatic crash response, turn-by-turn navigation, hands-free calling, and one-touch emergency calling:

This post originally appeared in the QNX auto blog.


What has the QNX auto team been up to?

Well, let's see:



Green cars need to learn the fast-boot boogie

It's funny how things happen in three's... or at least two's.

Earlier this morning, I came across photos of the ESB Sundancer, a concept electric vehicle showcased at the first Symposium on Low Pollution Power Systems Development, in 1973. The symposium aimed to promote greener vehicles, especially those that didn't rely on gasoline or diesel oil. Unfortunately, gas was dirt cheap, so the Sundancer and other vehicles shown at the event never gained traction.

A few minutes later, I visited the QNX auto blog, only to discover that my colleague Nancy Young had just posted an article on — wait for it — the need for green in automotive. Holy Synchronicity, Batman!

But here's the thing: Nancy doesn't talk about battery technology, or fuel efficiency, or any of the other topics you expect to find in a "green automotive" article. Instead, she discusses why infotainment systems need to boot quickly.

What's the connection? Well, I'm not going to spoil the ending for you. Read the post and find out.


30 years of QNX: Celebrating a decade of Eclipse

Correct me if I'm wrong, but until Eclipse came along, the software industry didn't have a standard platform for developing applications in C and C++. This was certainly true in the embedded market, where almost every OS vendor offered their own proprietary development environment.

As a wise man once said, what a dumb approach. Vendors wasted time reinventing the wheel, when they could have focused on innovative tools that offered real value. Meanwhile, developers had to learn a new toolset every time they worked with a different OS. Doh!

Folks at QNX knew this situation had to change. Which explains why Dan Dodge, the company's CEO, became a founding steward of Eclipse.org, the consortium responsible for creating the Eclipse open-source tooling platform. It also explains why Sebastien Marineau, the company's VP of engineering, became the first project lead of CDT, the C and C++ development environment for Eclipse.

QNX's contribution didn't stop there. The company also donated a large amount of source code and developer time to the CDT project. As a result of these and other community efforts, Eclipse CDT subsequently became the C/C++ platform of choice for IBM, Ericsson, Texas Instruments, and other multi-billion dollar organizations.

Eclipse CDT also formed the basis of a major new QNX product, the QNX Momentics Tool Suite. More importantly, the platform gave QNX more freedom to innovate, particularly when it came to tools for debugging and optimizing multi-core systems. In fact, these multi-core tools garnered several awards, including:
  • Eclipse community awards, best developer tool, 2007
  • EDN China innovation award, 2007
  • Embedded World embedded AWARD, 2006
Here, for example, is a screen capture of the system profiler for the QNX Momentics Suite. The profiler is displaying CPU activity for the 4 cores of a quad-core processor:

Eclipse is ten years old this month. If you're interested in its history, or in crashing an Eclipse birthday party, check out out the Eclipse website.


Can HTML5 keep car infotainment on track?

True story: When a train on the Trans-Mongolian Railway crosses from Mongolia into China, it must stop and have all of its wheel assemblies replaced. Why? Because the track gauge (distance between the rails) is 1520 mm in Mongolia and 1435 mm in China. Oops!

The rail industry realized long ago that, unless it settled on a standard, costly scenarios like this would repeat themselves ad infinitum. As a result, some 60% of railways worldwide, including those in China, now use standard gauge, ensuring greater interoperability and efficiency.

The in-car infotainment market should take note. It has yet to embrace a standard that would allow in-car systems to interoperate seamlessly with smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. Nor has it embraced a standard environment for creating in-car apps and user interfaces.

Of course, there are existing solutions for addressing these issues. But that's the problem: multiple solutions, and no accepted standard. And without one, how will cars and mobile devices ever leverage one another out of the box, without a lot of workarounds? And how will automakers ever tap into a (really) large developer community?

No standard means more market fragmentation — and more fragmentation means less efficiency, less interoperability, and less progress overall. Who wants that?

Is HTML5, which is already transforming app development in the desktop, server, and mobile worlds, the standard the car infotainment industry needs? That is one of the questions my colleague, Andy Gryc, will address in his seminar, HTML5 for automotive infotainment: What, why, and how?. The webinar happens tomorrow, November 15. I invite you to check it out.

This post originally appeared in the QNX auto blog.


What has the QNX auto team been up to?

Well, let's see:



Using persistent publish/subscribe (PPS) messaging in medical devices

A QNX-based medical demo
equipped with PPS messaging
and a Qt user interface.
In early 2010, I published two posts (here and here) on persistent publish/subscribe messaging, aka PPS. The posts explored the advantages of PPS over other forms of interprocess communications (IPC) and why it makes automotive instrument clusters, smart energy panels, and other devices easier to develop, maintain, and upgrade.

In a nutshell, PPS lets you create loosely coupled designs based on asynchronous publications and notifications. This “decoupling” offers a great deal of flexibility, allowing you to delay final decisions on module connection points and data flow until runtime. Because such decisions don’t have to be hardcoded, they can be adapted as requirements evolve; they can even change dynamically as the system runs.

It's almost 18 months later, and the two posts remain in the top 10 of my most popular articles. Just one problem: Neither post discusses how PPS could be applied to medical devices — Quelle horreur!

Fortunately, my QNX colleague Justin Moon has filled the gap with the article "Persistent Publish/ Subscribe Alleviates Development Pains in Medical Devices." Read it here in Medical Electronic Device Solutions (MEDS) magazine.


Some people drive me to distraction

Hey, have you ever panned your camera? It's really easy: You just track a moving subject with your camera and then squeeze the shutter while both you and the subject are in motion. It's a great technique for creating images that evoke a sense of speed, which makes it popular among photographers for Motor Trend, Car and Driver, and other automotive magazines.

When you pan, you never really know what kind of image you're going to get. Often, the results are interesting. And sometimes, they're downright interesting. Take this shot, for example:

Now, holding a cellphone while rocketing down the highway is just plain wrong. To anyone who does it, I have one thing to say: "You're endangering other people's lives for the sake of a f***ing phone call. Where the hell do you get off doing that?"

But look at this guy. He's isn't holding a phone, but a coffee — even worse. Just imagine if he gets into a situation that demands quick, evasive action. He will, in all likelihood, hold on to the cup for fear of burning himself. Whereas if he had a phone, he would simply drop it and put his hand back on the wheel.

Admittedly, I have no data to prove that coffee cups pose a greater evil than cellphones. But the core issue remains: Cellphone use is just one of many factors that contribute to driver distraction. In fact, research suggests that cellphones account for only 5% of distraction-related accidents that end in injury.

So, even if every cellphone on the planet disappeared tomorrow, we would still have a massive problem on our hands. To that end, my colleagues Scott Pennock and Andy Gryc suggest a new approach to designing vehicle cockpit systems in their paper, "Situational Awareness: a Holistic Approach to the Driver Distraction Problem."

The paper explores how system designers can use the concept of situational awareness to develop a vehicle cockpit that helps the driver become more aware of objects and events on the road, and that adapts in-vehicle user interfaces to manage the driver’s cognitive load.

It's worth a read. And who knows, perhaps someone, someday, will develop a cockpit system that detects if you are sipping something and tells you what you need to hear: "Dammit Jack, put that cup down. It's not worth endangering other people's lives for the sake of a f***ing latté."

This post originally appeared in the QNX auto blog.


Video: QNX Hits the Airwaves with NTP Audio Routers

Imagine running a multinational radio service that broadcasts 1,500 hours of programs a day, in almost 60 languages, with transmitters that reach every nook and cranny of the globe — from Tirana, Albania to Houston, Texas.

That, in a nutshell, describes China Radio International, one of many international broadcasters that rely on QNX-powered audio routers from Danish company NTP Technology A/S.

Serving an audience of millions calls for seriously reliable equipment. It's no surprise, then, that NTP's audio routers are engineered for 24/7 operation, with self-monitoring capabilities, module hot-swapping, redundant power supplies, and, of course, the QNX Neutrino OS.

Why QNX? Because it offers the fault-tolerant software architecture that NTP needs to achieve nonstop operation. It also provides the realtime performance to handle multiple feeds and signals simultaneously, and the dynamic upgradeability to support new features without service interruptions.

Enough from me. Grab the popcorn, dim the lights, and listen NTP's Mikael Vest describe the challenges of modern broadcasting, and how QNX technology helps address them:

Before I go, I have to mention how much we enjoyed working with Mikael. When I cold-called him about doing a video, he immediately said yes. No hesitation, no maybe's, just a let's-do-it attitude. And when it came time to shoot the video, Mikael came through with flying colors, despite suffering from a flu to end all flus. A real trooper and a great guy.

For previous posts on NTP, click here and here.