LinkedIn Question: What’s driving the development of … infotainment systems?

Question from John Day:

What’s driving the development of integrated communications/infotainment systems?  Have enabling technologies made it easy to develop in-vehicle systems or is real engineering expertise still necessary?

Answer:

I believe the need for these systems has been around for quite some time. As always-on connectivity has increased in people’s lives the expectation and need for in-car connectivity has increased while the technology itself lagged.

As for the recent spike in telematics and infotainment solutions… I believe this is driven by a number of things.

1) The reduction in hardware costs associated with these technologies has made it more feasible to include in vehicles, particularly lower cost vehicles (so the features aren’t limited to only high end vehicles).
2) Increased customer experience / intelligence (driven primarily by increased exposure through mass market consumer technologies) makes introducing technologies into the car easier. That is, customers are more familiar with the technology and less ‘scared’ of it.
3) Increased wireless connectivity and 3G coverage have made thin-client / cloud based architectures feasible reducing both development and delivery costs (e.g. mobile platform has taken off for cell phones).
4) Web 2.0 technologies have enabled previously unavailable avenues for development that have reduced cost, time to market and expertise required. Ford Sync’s recently introduced API is probably the best example of how web server technologies can open up the automotive environment and make it more accessible for application development by the mass market.

To answer you question directly, I think the answer is that both sets of development skills will be required in the future. In particular the OEMs will require both traditional engineers ready to integrate the technology into vehicle systems, but will also need engineers capable of utilizing the latest in software development techniques to enable the user community to expand the application base quickly.

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