First publishedin ITS International
Next-generation vehicle cockpit concept from Visteon; the distinction between conventional instrument cluster and centre-stack displays is becoming increasingly blurred
This year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was characterised by consumer telematics solutions, writes Dave McNamara
Consumer telematics characterised this year's Consumer Electronics Show, which took place 8-11 January in Las Vegas, in that a significant number of exhibits were focused on technologies specific to the automobile and Location-Based Services (LBS). Significantly, the cell phone was adopted by Ford
as the way to bring new features into the car; other Consumer Electronics (CE) devices such as Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs) are the usual target platform for LBS. Aftermarket telematics providers also emerged - Hughes
announced an open telematics platform, based on the Next Generation Telematics Platfom (NGTP),which can be tailored to any OEM and an aftermarket system called in-Drive. Other aftermarket entries included VehSmart
, Spot LLC and Zoombak
Overall, the event reinforced that the CE industry will drive automotive electronics, as built-in is supplanted by 'beamed-in' (via wireless or telematics) and 'brought-in' (via smart phones).
On the first day of the show, Ford CEO Alan Mulally announced the third generation of Ford SYNC, a factory-installed in-car communications and entertainment system developed in conjunction with Microsoft. Ford is firmly committed to the cell phone as the communication device versus an embedded solution (as typified by the OnStar system developed by GM and now adopted and enhanced by Toyota
). Mulally proudly stated that "no other company is better leveraging the cell phone". His keynote address heralded a series of industry firsts: key services free to users for three years; global availability in 2010; and the ability for users to upgrade onboard hardware through downloads.
Both Mullally and Derrick Kuzak, Ford's North American Product Development Vice President, made a point of recognising a plethora of Ford "technology experts" or business/technical partners. This underlined that the automotive industry is more than ready to work with the CE and telecommunications industries.
Ford thinks that its strategy will make it faster to market with new features, provide a saleable platform for broad deployment across its fleet and, lastly, be more affordable and available to the masses. For example, Mulally announced a new service delivery network based on a voice interface (TellMe) to services for traffic (Inrix
), directions (deCarta and TeleNav
) and information such as movie listings and stock markets. These are all free for the first three years of ownership. As further evidence of the convergence of automotive with CE, Ford also announced a new partnership with leading retailer Best Buy to provide tech support through its Geek Squad.
The SYNC MyRide Website allows personalisation of addresses for the navigation service and a set of application programming interfaces for plug-and-play services over the internet. The software for 2010 SYNC systems can be upgraded by downloading the firmware to a USB flash drive then loading it to the car via a USB port.
SYNC will be global starting in 2010, first in Europe with seven Western European languages and then two Eastern European countries. Asia and Australia will follow.
Device of choice
The 3G smart phone has emerged as the personal device of choice for LBS. The current device platforms and related support/delivery systems are the: Apple
iPhone (iTouch included) with iTunes; RIM Blackberry with Owner's Lounge; Windows Mobile smart phones and Microsoft.com/windowsmobile Website; Google Android
Platform and Open Handset Alliance; and Palm Pre (which received a Best of Show award) with WebOS and the Palm Website (WebOS is a new operating system for mobile phones that is designed to be pervasively connected to the Internet).
PND/cell phone convergence
Many think the PND and cell phone will converge into one device. Some smart phones have begun offering navigation applications and some PND manufacturers have stopped producing navigation devices. But a number of changes have taken place in the market in the past year to make a PND a companion to the phone. The connected PND is here and there were some interesting offerings on show from Mio, Magellan and Navigon.
Go 740 Live won the Best of CES Award in the GPS category. It has a built-in, high-sensitivity GPS receiver, voice recognition, Bluetooth
and a variety of other capabilities. Garmin
's latest Nuvi device, the 885T, was a nominee in the same category. Its features include voice-activated navigation and lane assist with junction view.
The Hughes Telematics Next-Generation Telematics Protocol solution (Picture: Hughes Telematics)
The Ford SYNC communication and entertainment system includes several industry firsts