The year 2015 promises to be the year in which CarPlay and Android Auto drive smartphone connectivity to the centre stage in Automotive Infotainment. As AllGo’s business becomes increasingly dominated by Automotive Infotainment, I have decided to start this new series of blogs at our website with the theme “Automotive smartphone connectivity”.
What is smartphone connectivity and why is it a big deal?
We have all experienced phones being connected to our cars for music playback and Bluetooth phone calls. Then how is “smartphone connectivity” anything new? Smartphones have downloadable apps, and this capability brings a whole new dimension to the automotive world.
As consumers get used to downloadable apps via smartphones, consumer expectation from the infotainment systems of cars has undergone a dramatic transformation. Not only do consumers now expect a big touchscreen as a standard offering in infotainment systems, they also desire access to the App ecosystem, be it for navigation or internet radio or location based services or social media. This has posed a unique challenge to the car makers – while smartphones undergo radical changes every year, customers buy and keep cars for many years. How does the car maker then keep pace with the ever changing customer expectations driven by the smartphone evolution?
Enter “Screen projection” technology! “Screen projection” stands for the technology wherein the display content of the automotive head unit is generated by the smartphones. This “projected screen” is designed to take care of automotive specific concerns like driver distraction, while providing access to the plethora of apps that are available in the smartphone. The screen projection technology also allows the automotive head units to control the smartphone apps through touch, buttons and steering wheel controls. Another big benefit of this interface is the access to Voice Recognition technology running in the smartphones, as Voice Rec usage is far more relevant in a car.
Each of the leading smartphone ecosystems is creating this technology: CarPlay is Apple’s screen projection technology, while Android Auto Projection is Google’s. MirrorLink is the screen projection technology proposed by a consortium of automotive industry and phone makers. Ford pioneered Smart Device Link which, while not exactly screen projection, allows another way for smartphone apps to generate a car specific UI and be controlled by the head unit.
How are we positioned in this market?
The fast pace of change in the smartphone technology poses a challenge to the auto industry: The auto industry design cycles are typically 2 years whereas the life time of a new smartphone technology may itself be 2 years! This is where a company like AllGo comes in. By investing in early implementations of the latest in smartphone connectivity, AllGo provides the ability for the auto industry to do late design changes and still meet the exacting quality demands.
We were one of the early implementers of CarPlay technology. We have customers who are already in production with our CarPlay implementation. We are also working closely with Google for Android Auto Projection technology. We are a core member of the Car Connectivity Consortium which develops the MirrorLink specification, and actively contribute to this industry led standardization effort.
Our relationship with the smartphone industry giants and active participation in MirrorLink development, coupled with our investment in leading edge software implementations of these technologies, allow us to meet tight mass production deadlines while maintaining high quality.
Once the smartphone connectivity takes a firm hold, availability of a new target customer base will spawn a new breed of apps focused towards the car and its unique needs. Many of the apps will focus on the driver’s needs for entertainment, connectivity and navigation. Others may offer applications that allow the car OEM to connect to the hundreds of sensors in the car and harvest the information for pro-active maintenance as well as other forms of revenue generation. A side effect of this app evolution will be the creation of new legal issues with respect to driver distraction and automaker liability, especially in a market such as US.
Next step in the auto infotainment evolution will be how the embedded OS battle shapes up. As customers get used to apps in the car, OS ecosystems with a rich set of apps will be the ones of choice. That leaves us with iOS, Android and also Windows. But will the auto makers give up control of the infotainment OS and thereby the customer experience?
Only time will tell! This promises to be an exciting year.
Wish you all a happy, healthy and productive 2015!