New video: Your next car, imagined

It blows my mind, but some people still see connectivity in the car as the enemy. They think that, the more connected the car, the more distracting and dangerous it will be. But you know what? Responding to their concerns is easy. I simply ask them what if.

For instance, what if connectivity helped you drive with greater situational awareness? What if it helped you sidestep traffic jams and axle-busting pot holes? What if it helped you detect a stop sign hidden behind a tree? And what if it helped you become more connected to the people important to you, as well as to the road and the cars around you?

When we talk connectivity at QNX, that’s the kind of connectivity we envision. It isn’t just about Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or LTE — that’s only the plumbing. Rather, it’s about keeping you in tune and in sync with your car, your environment, your business, your friends. Your life.

This post originally appeared on the QNX auto blog.


Meet the folks behind the QNX concept car (and other cool stuff)

An example of the concept
team's work
Imagine if you went to a Rolling Stones concert and the entire band played behind a curtain. That would be totally weird, right? Well, we realized that much the same scenario was playing out with the QNX concept team. Their work, including the QNX concept car, has appeared in A-list venues like CES and Mobile World Congress, yet the team itself has remained largely behind the curtain. And that’s too bad, since the team members embody the qualities I like best about QNX. Innovation, for example.

So, in the spirit of setting things right, we decided to pull back that curtain and make some introductions. And where better to start than with Mark Rigley, the team’s director.

If I were to describe Mark in one word, I’d choose chutzpah. Or gumption. Or moxie. He is the antithesis of wait-and-see. To spot him in a room, just look for the guy who says, “Let’s do it!” when everyone else is still stuck in “maybe,” “might work,” or “I need to get back to you on that.” And when you think about it, that attitude fits the bill perfectly. Because when your job is to take something like a Porsche 911 (an example of automotive perfection, if ever there was one) and make it even cooler, you’d better have a measure of confidence in yourself — and in your team.

Indeed, if anything shines out from this interview, it is the awe and respect that Mark holds for his team members. (Okay, I’ll admit it. Something else shines brightly: Mark’s enthusiasm for the next QNX technology concept car. Did I mention the team is working on one?)

This post originally appeared on the QNX auto blog.


Taking a long, hard look at the ozone hole

For more than 20 years, a Harvard research team has been taking QNX technology to stratospheric heights

The NASA ER-2 high-altitude
Hey, do you remember when everyone was in a knot over the ozone hole? You know, the one over Antarctica? The one the size of Antarctica? Based on all the press it has received lately (read: not much), it is yesterday's problem. I, for one, haven’t worried about it — or even thought about it — for a good 10 years.

But here’s the thing. The ozone hole didn’t go away. And it’s not going away soon. Yes, evidence suggests that the hole will heal, but the process promises to take decades — by 2050, if we’re lucky. (Strictly speaking, the hole heals every Austral Spring, but only temporarily; it always returns the next Austral Winter. And it isn’t exactly a hole, since the ozone doesn’t disappear completely from the upper stratosphere. It does disappear from the lower stratosphere, however.)

Did I mention only one hole? Sorry to mislead you. There are, in fact, substantial ozone losses over the Arctic as well, with the loss during the winter of 2011 achieving ozone hole status.

Ozone depletion is serious stuff. It may contribute to an enormous list of problems, from crop failures to eye cataracts to skin cancer. So it’s important to do the hard science and measure its progress, along with any factors that can affect it. Otherwise, how do you argue for a cogent policy on controlling substances and industrial practices to prevent ozone depletion? And do you know whether the policies and practices you put in place are doing any good?

Problem is, measuring and analyzing ozone depletion is a long-term project that takes patience and commitment. Fortunately, the Anderson Research Group from Harvard University seems to have those qualities in spades.

Making the upgrade
The group has been operating continuously since 1979. (For context, that was the year that Philips demonstrated the first Compact Disc. Remember those?) For the first few years, the group used a balloon to carry their instruments high into the atmosphere, but with the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole in the mid-80s, they graduated to a NASA ER-2 high-altitude aircraft, which flies as high as 21 kilometers. (If the ER-2, depicted above, looks to you like a modded U-2, you’re right.)

The team’s first QNX-based instrument,
which measured OH in the lower
stratosphere, was deployed in an ER-2.
Lots of things have changed since 1979, but for the past two decades, one thing hasn’t: the group’s use of QNX technology. It all started in 1990, when the group decided to replace their homegrown OS kernel with the QNX RTOS v2. They then upgraded to the QNX RTOS v4 in 1992, which is also when they deployed their first QNX-based system, an instrument that measured OH (hydroxyl radical) in the lower stratosphere. More recently, they migrated to the latest generation of the QNX technology, the QNX Neutrino RTOS, aka v6.

Alphanumeric soup
To measure phenomena in the stratosphere, the team created a data acquisition architecture that takes advantage of core QNX strengths, including multitasking, message passing, realtime performance, and transparent distributed networking. Flexibility is a key characteristic of this architecture, since it must support a variety of instruments that measure an alphanumeric soup of airborne radicals and reactive intermediates. These include BrO, ClO, ClONO2, ClOOCl, NO2, OH, HO2, O3, CH4, N2O, CO, and CO2, as well as water vapor, water isotopes, and total water. (Why measure water? Because its presence in the stratosphere can contribute to ozone depletion. And because the increased frequency of heavy storms, such as Hurricane Sandy, may inject more water into the stratosphere.)

Here is the full configuration of the data acquisition architecture, which includes control and acquisition programs running on a flight computer as well as display and interactive commands running on a ground support computer:

According to Norton Allen, a software engineer for the Anderson group, “From the start, we needed an OS platform that would scale with our growing requirements, and that would satisfy our demands for high reliability — sending a plane into the lower stratosphere is a costly proposition, so there’s no room for software failures. At the same time, we needed a standards-based platform that would let us write portable applications. The QNX OS has been able to deliver on all counts."

“We needed an OS platform that would scale
with our growing requirements, and that would
satisfy our demands for high reliability.”

Global scale
I’ve barely touched on the many research activities of the Anderson Research Group. To quote their website, the group “addresses global scale issues at the intersection of climate and energy using a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches drawn from the disciplines of chemistry, physics and applied mathematics.”

So if you’ve got a minute, visit the site. Who knows, you may learn something — I did.


New webinar: PLCs made easy

PLC reference platform
from Freescale, QNX,
Okay, I'll admit it, creating anything of value is never that easy. The details always get in the way. But every once in a while, a tool comes by that can make your job easier. Not to mention faster.

That's the idea behind the new Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) reference platform from Freescale, QNX Software Systems, ISaGRAF, and KPA. By pre-integrating EtherCAT software, PLC firmware, and a realtime OS on a dual-core processor, the platform allows design engineers to spend less less time on underlying plumbing — which means they can get to the application stage sooner. And who can argue with sooner?

If you'd like to know more about this new platform, check out the upcoming webinar hosted by Chris Ault, a product manager at QNX, and John Ralston, a system architect at Freescale. Here are the coordinates:

    PLC Made Easy: A Day in the Life of Developing a Pre-Integrated EtherCAT Programmable Logic Controller
    Tuesday, December 4; 11:00 am to 12:00 noon EDT


My connected car word cloud is (still) getting around

Has it been 3 years already? I can't believe it. In any case, this story begins in 2009, when I generated a word cloud to promote the LTE Connected Car, a concept vehicle created by Alcatel-Lucent, QNX Software Systems, Atlantic Records, Toyota Motor Sales, and the ng Connect alliance.

Here's what the word cloud looked like:

Click to magnify.

I created the word cloud just for fun, but thought the result was pretty cool — and it seems I wasn't alone. Someone from BMW, for instance, used the word cloud in a conference presentation back in 2010.

Fast forward to last week, when I discovered that Google has a reverse image lookup function. (Yes, I know, I'm probably one of the last people on the planet to make this discovery.) And so, once again for fun, I decided to see if any images I've published have made their way onto other websites. I thought that the word cloud would be a good candidate, and I was right.

For instance, the word cloud has appeared on these sites (text blurred to respect copyright):

Computer World Brazil:

Social Media Council Europe:


UIEvolution blog:

WinfWiki wiki:

There are a few other sites, but frankly, I don't understand what some of them are about. Still, it's cool to know I've created something that fills a need, however miniscule. Mind you, it would be even cooler if everyone who used the image acknowledged where they got it. Just saying.

And speaking of presidents...
This is a near-total non-sequitur, but in honor of the upcoming U.S. election, here are word clouds for every presidential inaugural address, starting with George Washington's address in 1789. (And no, the cloud doesn't contain the words "cherry," "tree," or "lie".)


QNX versus Linux: Which is best for IEC 62304 medical devices?

A few weeks ago, I invited you to a webinar on this very topic. If you missed the webinar, no worries: the archived version is now available for download. And speaking of downloads, you can now read the accompanying whitepaper, written by my inimitable colleague Chris Hobbs.

If you're wondering whether the paper is for you, here's the official summary:

This paper is for anyone who must select an OS for a safety-critical medical system. It provides information to help with estimates of the real cost of choosing a Linux or QNX OS. It lists requirements identified by standards such as IEC 62304, ISO 14971 and IEC 61508, and offers comparative estimates of the effort required to meet these requirements. These estimates are for initial certification and pre-approval, subsequent re-certifications following OS upgrades, and ongoing costs.

While you're at it, check out these other whitepapers for medical-device developers:

Come to think of it, there's no reason to stop with these, when you can peruse the entire library of medical whitepapers on the QNX website.