Harman infotainment systems gear up with QNX

When I say "Harman," what comes to mind? Like many people, you probably think of home audio systems.

But guess what: Harman is also a major player in the automotive market. If you've ever driven an Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes, or Porsche, chances are it used a Harman sound system or infotainment unit.

Mind you, Harman isn't just about the high end. It also offers a scalable infotainment platform that can target both higher-end and lower-end vehicles. And it isn't just about posh European cars. Recently, it became the first non-Japanese supplier to supply an infotainment system (the QNX-based Entune system) to Toyota. It also supplies systems to Hyundai, Lexus, Subaru, and Ssangyong.

Since 2003, Harman has used the QNX OS as the software platform for its infotainment products. (In fact, Harman owned QNX for about 5 years, before QNX became a subsidiary of RIM.) In this video, Rick Kreifeldt, Harman's VP of global automotive research and innovation, discusses how QNX helps Harman cut time-to-market and create greener products. Check it out:



It's PC Day: Remember these?

Hey, guess what: It's PC Day!

No, not Politically Correct Day, but rather, Personal Computer Day. On this date, 30 years ago, IBM released its very first PC, the 5150.

If you harbor warm feelings about the early days of personal computing, here's a reality check. The box of single-sided floppies pictured below (why I've kept the box, I have no idea) cost me 30 bucks. That's right, 30 bucks for 10 floppies. Which works out to what, $4000+ per gigabyte?

Mind you, you could double the capacity of each floppy by cutting an extra notch in the side and using the flip side — this was known as creating flippies. Most people did this by hand, but if you were really keen, you could buy a dedicated disk notcher. Now if I could only do that with my external hard drives.

Speaking of which, did you know that QNX was the first OS to support a PC hard drive? Read about it here.


Two naughty! My favorite QNX marketing campaign

Let me guess: You probably assume that the corporate culture at QNX is a bit geeky. And if so, I don't blame you. We are an OS company, after all. But you know, we can also be a little cheeky.

Case in point: A few years back, we introduced some innovative tools and OS features to help developers migrate from single-core to multi-core processors. And to promote these technologies, we decided to have some fun.

Here's the billboard we came up with:

And here's the billboard mounted on a truck, prowling the streets of San Jose during the Embedded Systems Conference:

In case you're wondering, here's what the other side of the truck looked like:

If you don't get the tightly coupled reference, it's a pun on the tightly coupled multiprocessing provided by multi-core processors. Because even when we're cheeky, we're still a little geeky.



Pimp your ride with FOTA

If you use a device like the BlackBerry PlayBook, you're already familiar with the notion, and benefits, of FOTA. In case you're wondering, that's short for Firmware Over The Air. (Still confused? Simply insert the word "Updates" after Firmware. The meaning becomes much clearer.)

Granted, FOTA isn't the sexiest acronym out there. But it's becoming an increasingly important one, especially in the field of automotive infotainment.

The problem, of course, is obsolescence. An in-car infotainment system might be super cool today, but can become super outdated in just 2 or 3 years. Imagine, for instance, if your infotainment system had smartphone connectivity, but could only talk to smartphones that shipped before 2010.

FOTA, along with good system design, offers a way to avoid this problem and to keep infotainment systems fresh with new features and services.

So why am I bringing this up? Because I just read a blog post by my colleague Andy Gryc on the growing role of FOTA in automotive. It's called Fill the Tank, Check the Oil, and Update the Software, and you can read it here.