QNX comes to embedded world

Every year, QNX Software Systems makes a big splash at the embedded world conference (which, for some reason, is spelled all lowercase), and this year is no different.

The QNX booth will showcase demos of the QNX medical reference design, the QNX CAR Application Platform, and the iControl home management platform. Meanwhile, QNX engineers will deliver presentations on realtime scheduling, debugging, and safety-critical design. It all starts tomorrow, March 1.

For the full skinny on QNX at embedded world, check out the QNX website.

By the way, here is a photo of the conference hall:

And here is a photo, taken inside the conference hall, of the QNX CAR demo:

I hope to post more photos (and possibly videos) from the QNX booth over the coming days.


QNX VP showcases multitasking prowess of BlackBerry PlayBook

Hey, check out this video of Sebastien Marineau, VP of engineering at QNX, as he explains how the multi-core capabilities of the QNX Neutrino OS allow the BlackBerry PlayBook to run multiple apps simultaneously:

Technically speaking, QNX Neutrino's advanced support for symmetric multiprocessing, or SMP, makes this multitasking possible. A large variety of systems, including the world's largest Internet routers, have used QNX SMP for well over a decade. Which means that the PlayBook, with its ability to deliver a full web browsing experience, uses the same technology that helps power the Web itself. Now that's pretty cool.


WIRED: Gadget-filled Corvette connects with QNX

Back in October I introduced you to a very cool Corvette pimped out with a digital instrument cluster and a multimedia head unit, both based on the QNX CAR Application Platform.

Last week, Dylan Tweney of WIRED got to take the Corvette for a test drive, and here's what he found. Check out, among other things, how the digital cluster can dynamically reconfigure itself, and how the head unit can communicate with a BlackBerry Playbook:



Autoweek: QNX drives new Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system

This just in: Autoweek.com reports that QNX Software Systems is supplying the operating system for Chevrolet MyLink, a new infotainment system that will debut in the 2012 Chevy Volt and Equinox vehicles. (Update: Since my original post, Panasonic’s key role in the MyLink project, as tier one system supplier, has also been made public. See the report from Roger Lanctot of Strategy Analytics.)

QNX already provides the OS for the GM OnStar system, as well as for infotainment systems from Audi, Acura, BMW, Fiat, Hyundai, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes, Toyota, and other manufacturers.

According to GM, MyLink builds “on the safety and security of OnStar and seamlessly integrates online services like Pandora internet radio and Sticher SmartRadio using hands-free voice and touchscreen controls via Bluetooth device connectivity.”

Here’s a photo of the 7” touchscreen, installed in a Chevy Equinox:

While MyLink embraces personalized radio, it retains the capabilities of GM’s existing entertainment units, including AM/FM/XM tuners, CD player with MP3 playback, and auxiliary and USB inputs.

Other features include Nuance-powered voice control for initiating phone calls and selecting media/radio stations; Gracenote database for displaying album art and generating personal playlists; and extended USB support for flash memory devices.

For more info on MyLink, check out the GM website.


Enabling the digital home: iControl's broadband management platform

I can't believe I missed this one. Recently, I've been profiling some of the cool QNX-based devices that wowed the crowds at this year's CES conference. These devices included the BlackBerry PlayBook, the BMW ConnectedDrive system, and the Audi 3G MMI system.

There was one system I missed, however: iControl's broadband home management platform, which uses an ARM-powered, QNX-controlled touchscreen to deliver home security, energy management, and home healthcare. The device offers multiple connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and ZigBee — the latter allows the system to integrate with thermostats, smart bulbs, light switches, motion detectors, and other devices.

Okay, enough from me. Let's listen to Jason Domangue from iControl as he provides a guided tour of the system:

News Flash: I just found out that the iControl system will be featured in the QNX booth at Embedded World.



First pix of the QNX medical reference design

UPDATE: For a video of the medical reference design, including proof-of-concept integration with a BlackBerry PlayBook, click here.

Last week, I introduced you to the new medical reference design that QNX unveiled at the Medical Design & Manufacturing Conference. Well, here are the first photos to come back from that event.

Device connectivity is a key feature of the reference design. So, in this photo, we see two of the devices — a pulse oximeter and a blood pressure cuff — that the design can talk to:

Keeping with the same theme, here's a photo showing proof-of-concept connectivity to a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet:

If you wondering what's under the hood of the reference design, the operating system is the QNX Neutrino RTOS, the user interface is based on the Qt framework, and the processor is a Freescale imx51 chip based on an ARM Cortex-A8.

I hope to post more photos (and possibly a video) in the days and weeks ahead...


Winter got you down? Try this QNX app

Ah, winter! How I love the skiing, the skating, and the snowshoeing. But oh, how I loathe the black ice, the biting cold, and the backbreaking hours of shoveling.

For some people, the second half of the above equation far outweighs the first. As a result, they set their sights on a luxury cruise to southern climes. Goodbye blizzards, hello wall-to-wall sunshine.

You might not know it, but when you board a cruise ship, there's a good chance that QNX technology is at the helm, controlling the ship's radar and navigation systems. Now, I know you're busy planning your vacation itinerary. But if you can, take a few minutes and check out this article published a few years back — it tells the story of how a pioneer of computer-controlled radar systems sails the high seas with QNX.

Ocean Liners Navigate With QNX
Water makes up more than 70 percent of the earth's surface and is used to transport nearly 90 percent of all goods. These goods and passengers could never reach their destination punctually and safely without navigation systems. The first computer-controlled radar system was developed in 1976 by a team of developers that today works for SAM Electronics in Hamburg/Germany. The company has more than 1,000 employees and offers a wide range of advanced navigation and communication systems for the civil navy. More than 70 percent of all cruise liners and about 30 percent of all container ships use SAM Electronics products. The QNX realtime operating system (RTOS) ensures smooth, reliable and fast operations.

Only an RTOS enables applications with extreme demands on timing: it prioritizes processes and prevents important, time-critical processes being slowed down. This slowing down occurs in a general-purpose OS when tasks that are less important are carried out before more critical operations. With an RTOS, the developer uses tools to define which tasks should prioritize.

Thanks to its microkernel, the QNX RTOS is highly robust and reliable, which is fundamental for mission-critical applications like nautical navigation systems: a system failure during bad weather on the high seas, with fog in the estuary or while landing, could have disastrous consequences.

QNX was also chosen because of its more than twenty years of development continuity and proven documentation. Its high scalability and clear structures were also vitally important for SAM Electronics. Furthermore, the QNX RTOS includes a wide range of extended operating system functions — besides additional file systems and networking capabilities, it also offers excellent graphical support.

Connectivity Facilitates Navigation
A look at the product range of SAM Electronics makes clear why the connectivity capabilities of QNX are so important: The Radar 1000 product series is based on a PC platform and on PCI boards both developed and manufactured by SAM Electronics. All radar systems are set up on this platform, which runs on the QNX RTOS. At the top of this series is NACOS, an integrated navigation system that combines different radar systems with varying ranges of services, for example the radar system, the electronic chart system, or the autopilot. All these components are connected by CAN bus and ethernet LAN and communicate over this network.

To increase security, each SAM Electronics device has its own independent processing unit. This means that any other device could assume the lead function should a device be defective or the officer on the watch requests it. In addition, the QNX Photon microGUI windowing system provides these devices with flexible control functionality. The user interface can be displayed on any other device exactly as it is on the host system. While the program is running on the host system, the user interface can be displayed not only on the host, but also on any other network device.

For software development, SAM Electronics uses the QNX Momentics development suite and benefits from the ease of use and the fast learnability of the QNX tools: New team members in the development team are trained by their colleagues and learn QNX on the job.

SAM Electronics and QNX Software Systems have been successfully working together since 1997.


QNX unveils new medical reference design at MD&M West

This just in: QNX will demonstrate a new software reference design for medical devices this week at the Medical Design & Manufacturing West conference in Anaheim.

The reference design, which is built on the QNX Neutrino RTOS, features a human machine interface (HMI) based on the Qt application framework and demonstrates connectivity to blood pressure monitors, weight scales, pulse oximeters, and other medical devices.

Here is a screen capture of the reference design showing blood pressure, pulse rate, and other information:

The reference design supports the Bluetooth Health Device Profile, which is suited for medical applications in which data is relayed from the local device, such as a pulse oximeter, to a mobile phone or PC. The reference design also supports remote device connectivity with a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.

Here is another screen capture demonstrating the video-conference capabilities of the new design:

For more details about the reference design, read the press release. For more information on the QNX Neutrino RTOS, which has a long history of being deployed in FDA-certified devices, click here.


Whitepaper: Building functional safety into complex software systems

My colleague Chris Hobbs writes books, designs software, sings Schubert, teaches pilots, and, if all that isn't enough, pens papers on functional safety. Speaking of which, I've just started reading Chris's latest paper, "Building Functional Safety into Complex Software Systems, Part I," which contains the following anecdote:

    "Thirty-seven seconds after it was launched on June 4 1996, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) new Ariane 5 rocket rained back to earth in pieces. This failure was rather costly: some US $370 million, and a stinging embarrassment for ESA.

    It has become one of the best known instances of software that had been exhaustively tested and even field proven — in this case, more accurately, sky-proven — ceasing to function correctly though it had not been changed. What had changed was the context in which the software ran..."

This story highlights the paper's thesis: that the functional safety of today’s complex, multi-threaded software systems cannot be validated by traditional, state-based testing alone.

In theory, such systems are deterministic. And in theory, all of their states and state transitions can be identified. But in practice, these states and transitions are so numerous that they cannot be counted, let alone tested.

Does this mean we must throw up our collective hands in despair? Not at all, says Chris. He emphasizes that it is still possible to build functionally safe complex software systems — but since I don't want to spoil the story, I'll stop talking now and invite you to read the paper.

And while you're at it, I invite you to check out other papers Chris has written on safety-critical systems and software:

  • Fault Tree Analysis with Bayesian Belief Networks for Safety-Critical Software

  • Using an IEC 61508-Certified RTOS Kernel for Safety-Critical Systems

  • Protecting Applications Against Heisenbugs



    Digitech's JamMan guitar pedals rock with QNX

    Whenever I tell people that QNX rocks, they just assume that I've donned my marketing hat. But hey, I really mean it: rock musicians the world over use QNX-based guitar pedals to practice their licks and create cool special effects.

    Case in point: the DigiTech JamMan Solo Looper. Using this pedal, a guitarist can quickly build up layers of sound, transforming himself (or herself) into a one-man (or one-woman) band.

    Jump to the 1:25 mark to hear what this puppy can do:

    Digitech also makes other QNX-based JamMan products, including the JamMan Stereo and JamMan Delay pedals. Check out the press release on the QNX website and check out the full line of JamMan pedals on the Digitech website.

    30 years of QNX: The first QNX video

    YouTube is what, five years old? Yet it's hard to imagine the world without it. In fact, it's hard to believe that anyone bothered to create corporate or product videos before YouTube and other video-sharing services came along.

    After all, once you created a video, how did you share it? How did you ensure that lots of people saw it, and not just the folks who happened to stumble upon your website?

    But I digress. The point is, QNX did make a corporate video long before YouTube, more than 10 years ago. The video contains testimonials from some of the hardest hitters in the industry, including Cisco and IBM, and a lot of what was said still applies today. Check it out:

    I remember being involved in the early stages of this project. Originally, we conceived the video as a series of talking heads droning on about why QNX is faster, better, more reliable, yadda, yadda, yadda. We then realized that, hey, this is a video, not a lecture. So we kept the talking heads, but adopted the faster-paced treatment you see here.

    A big thanks to robbiesuperstar for posting the video.