Smartphones and Embedded Systems

We know that apps are coming to the car and that movement is no doubt led by smartphones like the iPhone and Nexus One.  Over at Telematics Update Andrew Tolve discusses, ‘The Smartphone: Friend or Foe of In-car Infotainment?” My take away from the article is that the answer is, it’s both…and I would tend to agree.

The growth of app stores has gotten users accustomed to the model of downloading and installing apps and provided a platform for developers to effectively sell their applications.  This no doubt benefits automotive systems.  For years automotive systems have been limited and confusing, but as the market becomes more savvy it becomes easier and easier to introduce complicated technologies to the vehicle.  The sheer volume of apps and developers means that as OEMs adopt these advanced technologies the applications will be readily available for users.

Mobile apps and the availability of wireless connectivity have been tied in a chicken and egg problem for a long time, but now the race is over. The smartphone provides a platform for apps and 3G connectivity is every enough for the masses to take advantage.   All the web technologies that drive mobile and web2.0 apps also benefit the automotive systems as the connected car becomes another internet portal with a few special quirks (like 4 wheels and an engine).

Tolve argues that the rapidly changing face of smartphones requires constant updates to in-vehicle systems and that this is a point in favor of using embedded systems rather than one that is brought in (like on a smartphone).  While I agree overall, I believe that the goal of in-vehicle systems should be to get to the point of supporting almost the same level of flexibility as a smartphone.  Granted, the vehicle hardware is almost required to have a longer lifecycle than a mobile device (for example, it’s much harder to upgrade wireless connectivity in a car than it is to buy a new phone), but just about everything that isn’t hardware should be able to be updated over the air (or at least through software updates on a USB stick).

OEMs will have to figure out ways to shorten the lifecycle of infotainment / navigation hardware (even if not to the level of mobile devices) while also taking full advantage of all the potential benefits of new software technologies.  So, the smartphone is both friend and foe to the automotive telematics.

It’s an interesting article overall and definitely worth a read.  Click through to Telematics Update for the whole thing.

via [Telematics Update]

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