The PlayBook, the Corvette, and a (literally) cooler ride

Listen up, boys and girls: Our concept for today is cabin pre-conditioning.

Cabin what, you say?

I'll give you a hint: It has something to do with electric vehicles. And last week, at the Freescale Technology Forum, Freescale marketing director Steve Nelson used a BlackBerry PlayBook and the QNX-equipped Corvette (which most definitely isn't electric!) to explain why this concept is important.

Enough teasing. To see the demo, which took place during the conference keynote, click here, click on the keynote video, then jump to the 99:20 mark.



AIS intros QNX-powered touchscreen terminals for industrial control

This just in: American Industrial Systems, a manufacturer of operator terminals for industrial control environments, has introduced a series of touchscreen terminals equipped with the QNX Neutrino Realtime Operating System (RTOS).

According to AIS, the 12.1" and 15" touchscreen terminals (aka touch panels) are designed for machine-level, site-level, or mid-level applications. The terminals feature a fanless Intel Atom 1.6GHz processor, a dual Gigabit Ethernet interface, and dual USB 2.0 and serial interfaces. The terminal housings comply with NEMA 1/12/4 sealing standards, providing dust, dirt, grease, shock, vibration, and moisture resistance. To further simplify deployment, the terminals accept a voltage range input of 9-33V.

QNX OS technology has been used in a host of industrial control applications for more than 30 years. Notable customers include General Electric (turbine control, locomotive control), Kieback&Peter (building automation), and Fortna (warehouse control)


QNX, Freescale collaborate on solutions for QorIQ and PowerQUICC processors

This just in: Freescale Semiconductor and QNX Software Systems have announced a strategic alliance focused on solutions for Freescale’s QorlQ and PowerQUICC processor families.

As part of the agreement, the companies intend to "share IP, invest jointly in product and technology roadmaps, and work together on go-to-market activities."

Initially, the alliance will focus on addressing the requirements of customers in the medical, industrial automation, and general embedded markets.

According to Raja Tabet, vice president, Software and Enablement Technology, Networking and Multimedia of Freescale, “QNX Software Systems is recognized globally for its highly reliable and scalable software, and we are pleased to take this important next step in our long and fruitful relationship for the benefit of our shared customers.”

The alliance between Freescale and QNX has already enabled many successful systems, including GE's flagship Mark VIe controller, which runs on the QNX Neutrino RTOS and a Freescale PowerQUICC processor. Other joint projects include the connected Corvette and the QNX medical demo, which both run on Freescale i.MX processors.

To read the press release, click here.


Taking QNX to the moon

Imagine driving a vehicle over rugged, unforgiving terrain filled with humongous rocks and craters.

I know, it sounds like a blast!

Now imagine if you had to control the vehicle via remote control.

Well, that could still be fun.

Now imagine if the signals from your remote control took 1.5 seconds to reach the vehicle, and if you had to wait another 1.5 seconds to see how the vehicle responds to your commands.

Hm, that could be a challenge.

In fact, overcoming this delay is just one of many challenges facing the 30 companies and development teams contending for Google Lunar X prize.

The mandate of the Lunar X prize is simple: Send a rover to the Moon; drive it for at least 500 meters; and transmit video, images, and data back to the Earth. The devil, of course, is in the details.

First of all, landing on the moon and beaming back videos only gets you the base prize of $20 million. To earn the full $30 million, your lunar rover has to drive at least 5000 meters, survive two weeks of minus 182 degrees C, and take a photo of the Apollo landing site. (Presumably, the photo would put to rest rumors that NASA filmed the moon landing in Neil Armstrong’s basement, but don’t count on it.)

Mind you, all this assumes the rover arrives safely on the moon in the first place. For that to happen, the lander module carrying the rover must travel more than 400,000 kilometers at maximum speeds of more than 10 kilomoters/sec. It must then decelerate by more than 2.5 kilometers/sec and fly a few hundred meters above the lunar surface until till it finds a nice cushy landing spot.

Meet Asimov, the latest incarnation
of the Part-Time Scientists' lunar rover.
So who the heck would take on such a challenge? The Part-Time Scientists, that’s who.

The Part-Time Scientists team is the first Google Lunar X PRIZE participant based primarily (though by no means completely) in Germany. They are also considered among the top 5 most likely teams to succeed.

I plan to post several articles on the team and their progress over the coming months, but in the meantime, consider this:

It isn’t 1969 anymore — The unmanned systems competing for the X PRIZE will need to pack a lot more software intelligence than the Apollo spacecraft. To handle the many real-time tasks on their lander and rover, the PTS team has chosen the QNX operating system.

These are guys are a blast — Most members of the PTS team have real jobs. They work on this project in their spare time, out of sheer love and enthusiasm. In fact, when they do publicity around their project, children represent a large portion of their target audience. They clearly want the next generation of budding scientists to share the same passion for engineering and space exploration that they themselves have. Good, that.

Stay tuned for subsequent posts, where will dig deeper into the role that QNX plays in this exceedingly cool project.

And did I mention? You can follow the Part-Time Scientists on Twitter and on Facebook.


PlayBook wallpaper of the week: Star field

Update: I've started to post my wallpapers for download. Click here for details.

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to my latest addiction: creating wallpapers for the BlackBerry Playbook.

I'm having so much fun that I've decided to make the wallpapers a regular feature of this blog. So without further ado, here's my latest creation:

I created the image entirely in PhotoShop, using a super-easy recipe from a super-useful book by PhotoShop guru Scott Kelby — Scott, your recipes rock!


Keeping it green with Kieback&Peter

Quick: What do the Reichstag in Berlin, the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, and the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg have in common?

Give up? They all use the QNX OS. More specifically, they use QNX-based building management systems from Kieback&Peter.

For Kieback & Peter, downtime isn’t an option. They need to deliver systems that run 24/7, with no excuses. That requirement, among other things, spurred them to choose the QNX OS back in the early 1990s. Twenty years on, their enthusiam for QNX remains undiminished.

I've had only one opportunity to speak with Hans Symanczik, who heads up sales and marketing at Kieback&Peter, and it was a blast. He's a super-positive, enthusiastic guy, and he made the QNX video team feel at home the minute they arrived on his doorstep. So without further ado, let's roll the tape:



QNX-powered systems clean up at Telematics Awards!

When you're in the business of building an embedded OS, there is but one criterion by which you are judged: The success of your customers.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter how cool or how popular you are. At the end of the day, only one question matters: Are you enabling your customers' success? Are you helping them stand out from the crowd? Are you helping them achieve things that even they never thought possible? (Okay, that's three questions, but work with me here, I'm on a roll!)

Seriously, if any one event tells me that QNX has become a superachiever at customer enablement, it's the International Telematics Awards. Every year, companies that build products based on QNX technology drive away with top honors — and this year is no exception.

So, without further ado, here are the winning QNX-based entries:

OnStar — Best telematics safety technology

Toyota Entune — Best cloud-based in-car application (joint winner)

Hyundai Blue Link — Best cloud-based in-car application (joint winner)

Hyundai Blue Link — Newcomer award (joint winner)

Audi Connect — Global OEM infotainment solution award (joint winner)

BMW ConnectedDrive — Global OEM infotainment solution award (joint winner)


Reskinning the Corvette: The final chapter!

Can the development of automotive HMIs be compressed from years to months... or even weeks? My QNX colleagues wanted to prove it could be done, so they challenged Lixar, a mobile UI developer, to reskin a QNX-powered head unit in 30 days.

I've already covered parts 1 and 2 of this video series (see here and here). Here's the third and final installment:

Or, actually, you can see all three parts in this one convenient clip:



QNX... you are... safe!

Yup, I fully expect that my colleagues will hear those words tonight, at the International Telematics Awards ceremony. (QNX is shortlisted in the global infotainment category.)

Oh, did I mention? Ryan Seacrest will open up the ceremony. Seriously.

Don't believe me? Check out this ad from the Telematics Update website:


Reskinning the Corvette: Which skin is in?

When I was a kid, my dad drove a Plymouth equipped with a push button transmission. You heard that right:  To change gears, you simply pressed a button on the dashboard. The feature was especially popular with female drivers, or so commercials of the time would have us believe. (In case you were wondering, the Plymouth design team placed the buttons on the left side of the steering wheel, well away from the push button radio. Wise decision, that.)

The push button transmission wasn't the first attempt to endow a dashboard with a unique user experience. For instance, in the late 1930s, Plymouth introduced a "safety speedometer" that glowed red when you exceeded 60 mph.

But you know what's amazing? It's been 80 years since the debut of the safety speedometer and 65 years since the debut of the push button transmission, yet car makers continue to use the dashboard as a platform for product branding and differentiation. For evidence, consider the many in-dash infotainment systems now available on everything from BMW roadsters to Ford F-150s.

A glimpse of original UI
for the Corvette's
QNX-powered head unit
Which brings us to the Corvette. A few months ago, we pimped out a stock Corvette with a multimedia head unit and digital instrument cluster based on the QNX CAR Application Platform. From the beginning, we've said that car makers could easily customize the platform to make their infotainment system stand out from everyone else's. But how easy is it customize, really?

To answer that question, we created the "30 day" UI challenge. In a nutshell, we gave Lixar, a mobile UI company with no QNX or automotive experience, a month to create completely new skins for the QNX-powered head unit on the Corvette.

So how's the project going? I thought you'd never ask:

Which skin is in?
The above video is the second of a series. Will we see the final skins in the next installment? Pretty sure. But in the meantime, here's a closer look at the draft skins shown in the clip. Clearly, the designers are looking to capture the spirit of the Corvette while offering a clean, easy-to-learn UI.

Personally, I find all of them attractive... still can't decide which I like best. Do you have a favorite?



Latest addiction: Creating wallpapers for my BlackBerry PlayBook

Update: I've started to post my wallpapers for download. Click here for details.

Just what I needed: another jones.

From day one, I realized that the PlayBook would be a great device for showing off my image portfolio. But then I started to play with creating new wallpapers. What started as casual doodling has now grown into a full-blown project. Here, for example, are some wallpapers I created this week:

Sunrise on the Bonnechere river:

Monarch butterfly, with my red car in the background:

A cat that's a lot friendlier than it looks:

A snap I took from a moving car (relax, my wife was driving):



TASS: Russian Deputy PM Viktor Zubkov visits RIM branch

This just in: The TASS news agency has issued a press release announcing that Viktor Zubkov, Russia's first deputy prime minister, visited a "branch" of Research In Motion yesterday, where he was given a demonstration of the QNX operating system.

Hm, I wonder which RIM branch they are referring to...

To read the press release, click here.

Reskinning the Corvette: 4 people, one month, no QNX experience

At QNX, we often claim that it's easy for automotive customers to customize our platform with their own look-and-feel. But how easy is it, really? Do customers simply need to be good UI/UX developers, or do they have to be QNX gurus as well?

It was time to put the claim to the test. So we called up Lixar, a local company with mobile UI experience, and asked them to reskin the multimedia head unit that QNX created for its Corvette concept car.

The folks at Lixar didn't have QNX experience. They didn't have any automotive experience, either. What they did have was 30 days — a fraction of the time typically allocated to creating an automotive UI...