Driving innovation in navigation: More QNX demos from Telematics Detroit

Recently, I shared two videos from Telematics Detroit, one showing off-board navigation from TeleNav, the other showing smartphone connectivity from RealVNC. I've got two more videos to round out the series, both recently posted on the QNXcam YouTube channel.

First up is Steve Petilli from TCS. In this video, Steve demonstrates how TCS software allows a QNX-based head unit to interact with a 3D navigation app running on a connected smartphone. Standout feature: If your car runs into a problem, such as low fuel, a diagnostic system can alert the navigation app, which will then point you to the nearest service station:

Next up is Rainer Holve from Elektrobit. In this video, Rainer demonstrates an Audi navigation system based on technology from Elektrobit and QNX. Standout feature: You can tell this system where you want to go simply by talking to it:



Zebra printers make the (up)grade with QNX

You know, I'm starting to warm up to the idea of firmware updates. Case in point: A few years ago, I bought a portable photo viewer equipped with an 80G hard drive. Just a few days ago, I downloaded a firmware update for the viewer and discovered that, in addition to adding features, the new firmware boosted performance.

My PlayBook is another example of a device that, through updates, keeps getting better. Ditto my digital camera. Even camera lenses these days benefit from firmware updates.

Mind you, firmware updates aren't just for consumer products.
They're also making headway into more "industrial strength" applications, such as the QNX-based QLn mobile label printer from Zebra Technologies. Using this device, retail stores and healthcare organizations print just about every kind of label you can imagine: price labels, mark-down labels, sell-by labels, shelf-edge labels, specimen labels, pharmacy labels... you name it.

In applications like this, firmware updates aren't just cool or convenient; they also make business sense. For instance, they can reduce downtime by eliminating the need to send the device away for servicing. And they can increase return on investment by extending the working life of a device.

Earlier today, QNX announced that the QNX Neutrino RTOS will power Zebra's portfolio of printers, including the QLn. According to Victor Salmons at Zebra, "QNX has given us a proven platform that allows us to upgrade our printers easily in the field, and that gives us the reliability, scalability, and performance we require, given the demanding work environments our products are used in.”

To read the press release, click here. To learn more about the QLn printer, click here.



For Ottawa, this is hot...

If you live in Farenheit land, 36C is equivalent to 97F. For sure, Ottawa isn't the hottest spot on the planet. But remember that, in winter, it has hit minus 36C. :-)


BlackBerry PlayBook becomes first tablet certified for U.S. government

This just in: RIM has revealed that the QNX-powered BlackBerry PlayBook has received FIPS 140-2 certification, making it the first tablet certified for deployment within U.S. federal government agencies.

According to the press release, the PlayBook is the only tablet to achieve FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) certification from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is required under the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA).

Yes, I know, that's a lot of acronyms. But cool news, nonetheless!

For breaking coverage of this story, see the National Post, TheBerryFix, and CrackBerry.com.

BlackBerry PlayBook takes home Best of Show from FOSE conference

This just in: Government Computer News has announced that the QNX-powered BlackBerry PlayBook won the Best of Show award at the 2011 FOSE Conference and Exposition, an event dedicated to the government IT market.

The PlayBook also won in the handheld devices category.

According to the article, the panel of judges picked the PlayBook for its user interface, security, enterprise features, and government-friendly focus.

To read the full article, click here.

p.s. Thanks to RobertS for sharing this story with me.


The new skin is in! Before and after shots of the Corvette head unit

A glimpse of the Corvette's
virtual mechanic, in the
original skin.
A few months ago, the QNX concept development team pimped out a stock Corvette with a multimedia head unit and a digital instrument cluster based on the QNX CAR Application Platform. Now, QNX has always claimed that automakers can easily re-skin the platform with their own look-and-feel. But how easy is it, really?

To answer that question, we created the 30-day UI challenge. In a nutshell, we gave Lixar, a mobile UI company, a month to create new skins for the Corvette's head unit.

But here's the thing: Lixar didn't have any experience using the QNX OS. Nor did they have any experience in the automotive market. If a small team at Lixar could pull this off, the argument went, so could any automotive customer with good UI developers on hand.

I've already posted several articles on this project and received lots of great feedback. One reader even drew cool mockups (see here and here) to show how he would redesign the UI!

Keep in mind, however, that we didn't ask Lixar to re-think the UI, but rather, to re-skin it — to give it a fresh look that captures the spirit of the Corvette. This is exactly the kind of thing an automaker would often want to do: Take an existing UI and tune it to match the brand image of multiple vehicle models. Re-use rather than re-invent.

So without further ado, here are some before and after screenshots of the head unit. I've had to shrink the screenshots to fit the layout of my blog, so they aren't quite as sharp and as smooth as the originals. A fair representation, nonetheless:

Main menu, before...

Main menu, after:

HVAC controls, before...

HVAC controls, after:

MP3 player, before...

MP3 player, after:

I don't know about you, but to me, the new skins seem punchier and easier to navigate, visually speaking. That said, you be the judge.

Before I go, here's the "making of" video filmed to document the project:



OIS ports ORBexpress communications middleware to latest rev of QNX Neutrino OS

You may not know it, but the QNX Neutrino OS is used in a large number of software-defined radio (SDR) devices, such as this handheld military radio from Harris. A key QNX partner in the SDR market is Objective Interface Systems (OIS), who make ORBexpress, a high-performance, real-time implementation of CORBA technology optimized for embedded systems.

This week, OIS announced that ORBexpress now supports the latest rev of the QNX Neutrino RTOS on a variety of ARM, Power, and x86 processors, including both single-core and multi-core parts. For more on the announcement, read the press release.


Look ma, no DVD: TeleNav showcases off-board navigation on QNX CAR platform

Two weeks ago, at Telematics Detroit, TeleNav demonstrated how it can deliver off-board navigation on a head unit based on the QNX CAR Application Platform and a Freescale i.MX51 processor.

Fortunately, our roving video crew was there to capture the action:

Besides providing drivers with turn-by-turn navigation and audio prompts, TeleNav's off-board solution can also deliver real-time information, including up-to-date maps, gas prices, and traffic reports. To learn more about QNX and TeleNav, check out this press release.


RealVNC demos smartphone connectivity on QNX-powered head unit

Two weeks ago, at Telematics Detroit, RealVNC demonstrated how its technology lets you access your smartphone, and all of its apps, from the dashboard of your car.

If you think this technology will give you unfettered access to YouTube, Facebook, and Email while driving, think again — the system can be configured to lock out distracting apps while the car is in motion. You can, however, interact with maps, local search, and other useful services, using steering wheel buttons or other in-car controls. The best part is, your smartphone stays in your purse or pocket, which is where it belongs when you're behind the wheel.

Enough blather. Let's roll the tape:

For more information on this and other approaches to car-smartphone connectivity, download the whitepaper written by my colleague Andy Gryc.