Video: QNX-powered Laser Camera System for the NASA Space Shuttle

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the thing I like about working at QNX is that people use our software to create really cool stuff, like cars that talk to smartphones, and really important stuff, like medical devices that save lives.

Sometimes, though, someone uses QNX technology to create something that's both cool and important. Case in point: the Neptec Laser Camera System, or LCS.

A part of every Space Shuttle flight since 2005, the LCS is a high-precision 3D scanner that can detect the tiniest fractures in the shuttle's heat shield, even if they're only a few millimeters in size. Just as important, the LCS provides NASA with the data to determine whether a fracture poses any threat to the shuttle crew.

I promised a video, and here it is: an interview with Neptec president Iain Christie, who discusses the critical role that QNX plays in this very critical system:

To learn more about the LCS and its use of QNX technology, check out the article I co-wrote with Iain back in 2005.


BlackBerry PlayBook tablet makes Yahoo's worth-the-wait list

This just in: The QNX-powered BlackBerry PlayBook has made Yahoo's “Top 5 Gadgets Worth the Wait” list. According to the folks at Yahoo, other devices worth the wait include the Chevy Volt, the Nintendo 3DS, and, ahem, that other upcoming tablet device... :-)

Cue the video:


QNX-powered BMW infotainment systems shortlisted for Global Mobile Award

This just in: The GSMA has announced that BMW and QNX are joint finalists in the 2011 Global Mobile Awards. The two companies were nominated for the BMW ConnectedDrive and MINI Connected in-car infotainment systems, both of which run on the QNX Neutrino RTOS.

The BMW systems are up against four other products in the "Best Mobile Innovation for Automotive & Transport" category. The finalists include Nissan, Parkopedia, PSA, Peugeot Citro├źn, Vodafone, and TomTom. For details, see the complete list of nominees.

According to Rob Conway, CEO of the GSMA, the Global Mobile Awards received more than 470 submissions this year, of which 115 were shortlisted.

This year at CES, QNX showcased the ConnectedDrive system in a very cool BMW Z4 roadster. Check out this video for a guided tour of the system's mobile-office features:



CES Video: BMW Z4 roadster with QNX-powered ConnectedDrive System

If you didn't make it to CES this year, you missed out on a lot, including the ultra-cool BMW Z4 showcased in the QNX booth.

The Z4 was equipped with a QNX-based BMW ConnectedDrive system, which uses text-to-speech technology to read out emails, text messages, and other information from Bluetooth smartphones.

Okay, enough words. Grab the popcorn, dim the lights, and check out Derek Kuhn's guided tour of the Z4's mobile-office features:


10 years after: Are my telematics prognostications still roadworthy?

The year was 2001. The brave new world of in-car telematics and infotainment was still in its infancy. People were starting to realize, however, that software was going to play a huge role in this market, and that made them a little nervous.

It's easy to understand why. For most people, software was synonymous with crash-prone operating systems running on the desktop — and who wanted that kind of reliability in the dashboard?

One thing led to another, and someone asked me to write an article on the issue. Here's what I wrote, with input from some of my QNX colleagues, and I believe that much of it still applies. Among other things, the article predicted that automakers would use telematics/infotainment systems as product differentiators — have you seen a Ford SYNC commercial lately? The article also helps explain why a high reliability operating system like QNX Neutrino has since become a dominant player in the car infotainment scene.

But enough of that. Check out the article and let me know what you think:


Can Innovation and Reliability Share the Road?
     Do you ever notice how car commercials stress style over substance? Brand X, we are assured, builds excitement. Brand Y makes you want to tear off your necktie and play hookey. And Brand Z is so sporty looking that young women love to run their hands along its, ahem, spoiler.

     Of course, it often makes marketing sense to sell the sizzle, not the steak. But as it turns out, automakers have little choice. Competing brands of automobiles can have so much in common that, in many cases, a car’s styling really is the only differentiator worth flaunting.

     Imagine, then, if a technology could help automakers add real — and distinctive — value to their products. Such is the promise of in-vehicle telematics. Daimler-Chrysler certainly sees the potential: they’ve recently unveiled a hands-free telematics system that allows drivers to operate a cellphone using natural voice commands. This one feature makes communicating from your car both safer and more convenient — not a bad differentiator.

     The Chrysler system is only the beginning. The same push for product differentiation that engendered this product is driving other automakers to combine cellular technology, Internet access, GPS, and dynamic navigation into their own unique in-car systems. In fact, it’s estimated that over 20 million telematics-enabled cars and light trucks will be on the road in the United States by 2006

     This convergence of technologies could change driving dramatically. Lost your car key? Just dial a number on your cellphone, enter a password, and, presto, your door lock opens. Accident? An onboard computer could immediately dial 911 and provide the dispatcher with your exact GPS coordinates. Engine trouble? The same computer could automatically locate the nearest service center and, if you’d like, book a service appointment (after it has checked the scheduler on your PDA, of course). Multiple drivers in your family? Your virtual dashboard could change “skins” and reconfigure itself to each person’s preferences.

     All these features mean one thing: the software deployed in cars is going to get very complex. More sophisticated, in fact, that many of the applications on your desktop PC. Problem is, the software will also have to be a lot more reliable. Think about it: What do you do when your desktop OS crashes? You might curse a blue streak, but you’ll probably still buy the next version of the OS. But if your dashboard crashes? I don’t know about you, but my brand loyalty would take a dive. That’s a huge issue in the auto industry, where it takes an average of 18 years to win a customer back.

     Of course, automakers will be extremely careful about software testing; safety and regulatory issues give them no choice. Unfortunately, once software gets complex enough, no amount of testing can eliminate every bug — a problem when the software may be deployed in thousands of vehicles. More to the point, a car offers a relatively hostile environment. Desktop PCs are rarely exposed to excessive radio frequency or electromagnetic interference, but, within the car, stray interference near powerlines or transformers can affect hardware to the point that a software driver will fail.

     Automakers must do two things: a) Assume such problems may occur; and b) design their systems to recover quickly and automatically — without affecting the car’s occupants in any way. A tall order! In effect, they need to deploy high availability (HA) systems. By this, I don’t mean conventional HA designs, which typically recover from software failures by using redundant backup systems. That isn’t an option in the car market, where the cost of every bolt counts. So, rather than use redundant hardware, HA for automobiles has to implemented where most problems can occur in the first place: the software.

     What does this mean? Virtually any software process must be able to fail without affecting services provided by other processes. Moreover, the system should be able to restart any process automatically. For example, if a media player faults, the system would restart it instantly, without the driver even knowing there was a problem. Mind you, this fault-tolerance can’t apply only to applications. It has go deeper, right down to the device drivers and protocol stacks at the heart of any telematics system.

     Can automakers really do this? Definitely, provided they use the right operating system (OS) technology. They need to look closely at the OS they choose and ensure that it can provide memory protection not just for applications (the desktop approach), but for every software driver, file system, and protocol. The OS must also offer a high availability framework that can automate software recovery, without the need for a reboot. Otherwise, the phrase “car crash” may take on a whole new meaning.

     It remains to be seen just how much consumers will embrace this brave new era of talking, thinking cars. But one thing is certain. Without high availability OS technology, it won’t get past the starting line.

And there you have it. This article was published by ZDnet, Wireless Design, and one or two other publications, if I remember correctly.

By the way, the references to brands X, Y, and Z were based on actual television commercials. Can you identify any of them? I think I still recognize X and Y, but Z totally eludes me.



Engadget gears up with QNX CAR at CES

Last week at CES, Tim Stevens of Engadget dropped by the QNX booth for a chat and for a tour of the QNX CAR Application Platform.

Tim brought along his camera and shot a video showing how the platform allows cars to integrate with smartphones, tablets, and other devices. The video also provides a glimpse of how the platform helps in-car systems, such as center consoles and instrument clusters, to share information with each other.

To view Tim's video (and blog post), click here.

Tim also posted some images of the QNX CAR demo, which you can view here.


Smartphone connectivity solutions clean up at CES

If you follow this blog, you know how much I like to blab about the growing integration between cars and smartphones. Well, just to show you that I'm not totally obsessed with this theme, here's something completely different: integration between smartphones and dishwashers!

Seriously, I just came across a Techmeme article on Kenmore's upcoming line of smartphone-savvy washers, dryers, stoves, and refrigerators, which were showcased at CES. The appliances look pretty cool, but won't be available until 2012. So don't get too excited (yet) about using your BlackBerry to check whether the roast is done.

By the way, Kenmore has its own blog site, called that's genius. I just dropped by and discovered that one of the bloggers, C. C. Chapman, took this video of the QNX-powered BlackBerry Playbook while visiting CES. Check it out:

Blackberry Playbook from C.C. Chapman on Vimeo.

To read C.C.'s blog post on the PlayBook, click here.


Edmunds.com honors Audi A8 with 2011 breakthrough technology award

Choices, choices. Cars are becoming more and more intelligent, many of them bristling with electronic safety systems, smartphone integration, and other high-tech features. But if you had to name one car as being more innovative than all the others, which would you pick?

The folks at Edmunds.com have made their choice: the Audi A8 sedan. Last week, they bestowed the A8 with their 2011 Breakthrough Technology Award, which goes to the vehicle that "sets the standard for intuitive, practical and affordable technology that enhances safety and convenience for drivers and passengers."

According to Doug Newcomb, a senior editor at Edmunds, two technologies set the A8 apart: MMI Touch, the first automotive touchpad application, and Google Earth, which allows the navigation system to display a more realistic view of the driver's surroundings. Mr. Newcomb also cites other key features, including adaptive headlights, a rear-collision warning system, and last but not least, a 1400-watt B&O Sound System. To read his blog post, click here.

The MMI infotainment system in the Audi A8 is based on the QNX Neutrino OS, which serves as the software platform for approximately 20 million car infotainment systems worldwide. Audi also plans to use QNX Neutrino for its next-generation high-end infotainment system.

Here is an example of someone using the A8's MMI touchpad, which lets you input destinations names by tracing them with your finger:

And here is a photo of the navigation display:

Both these photos were taken at the 2010 QNX Automotive Summit, which took place in Stuttgart last November.

CES video: Intomobile visits QNX booth for virtual test drive

A couple of days ago, Marin Perez from Intomobile dropped by the QNX booth at CES, where he met up with QNX's Andy Gryc. Andy then took Marin on a tour of the in-booth demo, which showcases many features of the QNX CAR Application Platform.

As you'll see in Marin's video, the demo system includes a web-enabled digital instrument cluster, Bluetooth connectivity to a variety of smartphones, and support for Pandora Internet radio and BlackBerry Traffic.

As a proof of concept, the system also shows how a mobile device like the PlayBook can communicate with the center console, allowing you to control air conditioning and other in-car systems.

Here is Marin's video; you can also read his article here.



QNX-based Toyota Entune drives home with Best of CES award

This just in: Toyota Entune, the new in-car multimedia system based on the QNX CAR Application Platform, has won a CNET Best of CES award, in the Car Tech category.

The idea behind Toyota Entune is simple: to help drivers interact with mobile content and applications in a non-distracting, handsfree fashion. For instance, if you are searching for a nearby restaurant, you can simply ask Entune in a conversational fashion — no need to memorize specific voice commands.

The QNX CAR Application Platform provides the software foundation for the Entune system. According to Jon Bucci, VP of Advanced Technology at Toyota Motor Sales, “By choosing QNX CAR, Toyota was able to leverage a true automotive software platform as well as QNX Software Systems' deep production experience in automotive multimedia systems... the platform gives Toyota the flexibility to create a unique solution that brings compelling mobile content seamlessly into the vehicle.”

Entune was one of several QNX-powered automotive systems showcased at CES. These systems also included the BMW ConnectedDrive infotainment system, the Audi MMI 3D navigation system, and digital instrument clusters for the Jaguar XJ and Land Rover Range Rover.

Here's a screen capture of the Toyota Entune system:

For more screen captures, click here; for a video, click here.

For the complete list of Best of CES winners, click here.


QNX rules at CES

QNX technology showcased in systems from Audi, BMW, iControl, Freescale, ng Connect, Nvidia, RIM, Telenav, Texas Instruments, Toyota, and Visteon

March up to the South Hall of the 2011 CES conference, and this is what you see:

Photo: Andy Gryc

Yup, that's right, it's a ginormous banner of the QNX-powered BlackBerry Playbook. The banner sets the tone for a conference where it's hard to stop bumping into QNX-based systems. They're just about everywhere, including:

RIM and QNX booths (south hall, 30320): BlackBerry Playbook, BMW Z4 infotainment system, and Visteon instrument clusters for Jaguar XJ and Range Rover — all powered by QNX technology

Audi booth (north hall, 2832): Audi A8 with QNX-based 3G MMI infotainment system, featuring Google Earth

Toyota booth (south hall, MP25555): New QNX-based Toyota Entune multimedia system

Alcatel-Lucent booth (south hall, 35469): LTE Connected Car with four QNX-based infotainment systems

iControl Networks (Aria Hotel and Casino): iControl broadband home management system with QNX-powered touch screen

TeleNav (Renaissance Hotel, Five Spot room): TeleNav 3D navigation system integrated with the QNX CAR Application Platform

Freescale (Palazzo #100-106): QNX demo on new Freescale i.MX53 SABRE automotive reference design

Nvidia booth (31431): QNX demo on Nvidia system

Texas Instruments (Hilton and booth 36505) — QNX demos on BeagleBoard-xM and OMAP 3730 systems

Mind you, this isn't a complete list. I'm still tracking down other booths that might feature QNX technology. If you know of any, let me know, and I'll add them to the list.

For details on some of these demos, check out the CES overview page and the CES press release on the QNX website.

Now showing: Video of new Toyota Entune multimedia system

Yesterday, we looked at some images of the new QNX-based Toyota Entune system. But why be happy with still pictures when you can have moving ones instead?

The following video shows how Entune works with your smartphone to deliver navigation, real-time traffic, Pandora radio, and a variety of other offboard services. You can access these services through a touchscreen, as this video demonstrates, or through intelligent voice recognition.

Roll the tape...

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: finding the nearest shoe store isn't exactly a compelling use case. But you know what? I wear size 15 shoes (approx. size 48 in Europe). So, to my mind, anything that can help me find a shoe that fits is a killer app! :-)

Keeping the car relevant through mobile connectivity

Back in September, I introduced you to some approaches for integrating in-car infotainment systems with smartphones and other mobile devices. QNX has since published videos on two of these approaches, terminal mode and iPod Out.

If you'd like to drill deeper into the subject, I suggest you check out Kerry Johnson's article, "Mobile connectivity keeps the car relevant," published in November by EE Times. To read the article, click here.


First pix of Toyota Entune Multimedia System

From what I can tell, the goal of the new Toyota Entune multimedia system is pretty straightforward: allow drivers to interact with mobile content and applications in a non-distracting, handsfree fashion. For instance, if you're searching for a nearby restaurant, you simply talk to the system in a conversational fashion — no need to memorize specific commands.

To get Entune up and running, you download an app onto your smartphone; this app then allows Entune to access a variety of offboard services, including Bing (navigation), OpenTable (restaurant reservations), MovieTickets.com, Pandora, and iheartradio.

Enough blather. I promised pictures, so let's check them out. First up is the main menu, which lets you choose from the various services that Entune supports:

Next up is voice search powered by the Voice Box speech recognition engine:

Here's a screen capture of Pandora Internet radio:

And here's one of iheartradio:

The Toyota Entune system is based on the QNX CAR Application Platform; for information on the platform, click here.

For more images of Toyota Entune, click here.


New BlackBerry PlayBook demo showcases full-blown browsing experience

Yesterday, the folks at the BlackBerry channel posted a new video showcasing the "web fidelity" of the BlackBerry PlayBook. I could blabber on about the incredible, desktop-caliber browsing experience, but hey, the video says it much better than I could.

So dim the lights, grab some popcorn, and check it out:

Toyota gets "Entune" with QNX

This just in: QNX has announced that its QNX CAR Application Platform has been chosen as the software foundation for the new Toyota Entune multimedia system.

According to the press release, "Toyota Entune leverages the customer’s mobile phone... to create a rich in-vehicle experience that delivers integrated navigation, entertainment, and information services. The system also provides conversational voice recognition and in-vehicle controls that allow the customer to take advantage of these services without having to touch their mobile phone."

QNX Software Systems is a pioneer in smartphone integration for the car (see earlier posts), so I'm not surprised that Toyota chose the QNX platform for the new Entune system. In fact, I broke the story about Toyota's plans to use QNX-based infotainment systems back in 2009. The experience of working with those systems no doubt swayed Toyota's decision, as did QNX's pioneering work for the first LTE Connected Car, (see posts here and here), a specially modified Toyota Prius.

Stay tuned for photos and additional information on the Entune system.