What has the QNX auto team been up to?

Well, let's see...


In-car infotainment and the art of doing more with less

No, not that kind of squeezing.
Granted, the title for this blog post doesn't have the pizazz of, say, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." (Are you old enough to even remember that book?) But it does capture the gist of a webinar that my colleague Andy Gryc will deliver next week.

His title for the webinar is "Squeezing high-end technologies into low-end infotainment systems." Admittedly, it's more direct than mine. Which is fitting, given that Andy has direct experience designing in-car systems. OnStar, for example.

But I digress. I'm sure you'd like to know what Andy plans to cover, so here's the overview:

    Squeezing high-end technologies into low-end infotainment systems
    Today's infotainment systems have it all – full multimedia, mobile device integration, POI-enabled navigation, speech recognition, high-resolution graphics, and cloud connectivity. The only problem is all of these features come with a big price tag.
    Join Andy Gryc, automotive marketing manager, for this webinar, where he answers the question: Is it possible to build an infotainment system that meets today's customer demands with yesterday's price tag?
    A 50-minute session (plus Q&A), this webinar covers a number of techniques to help slim down your next infotainment's BOM cost; it also suggests ways to target the luxury segment as well as the more cost-conscious, high-volume one with the same basic technology.
    Date: Tuesday October 23, 2012
    Time: 12:00 pm ET
    Duration: 1 hour, including Q&A
    Who should attend: Automotive software engineers and managers

This post also appeared on the QNX Auto Blog.


QNX at SAE Convergence: Cool screens and a mobile theme

Let's start with the theme. And no, I don't mean the kind of theme you download onto your smartphone. I'm referring instead to the main theme of a press release that QNX issued yesterday at SAE Convergence.

First, some context. If you're an automaker, you have little choice: you have to offer infotainment systems that can keep pace with the crazy fast advances in mobile devices. You also need to keep your systems fresh with apps, features, and content that consumers will expect long after they've bought your car. And to do that, you'll need to tap into the skills and products of the mobile app community. Otherwise, that ultra-cool infotainment system you ship today will rapidly transform itself into the 8-track of tomorrow. Goodbye, brand image.

The QNX CAR 2 application platform, with its solid grounding in HTML5, is designed to help infotainment-system designers conquer these (admittedly difficult) challenges. HTML5, after all, has become the lingua franca of the mobile apps market and offers an ideal bridge between the mobile and automotive worlds.

One thing was missing, though — a toolkit that would make it easy for mobile app developers to target the QNX CAR 2 platform. Yesterday, at SAE Convergence, QNX announced a new HTML5 SDK designed to do just that.

An SDK for (auto)mobile developers
The HTML5 SDK for the QNX CAR 2 platform is an extension of the open source BlackBerry WebWorks framework, specially optimized for automotive environments. It allows developers to write, test, and package feature-rich automotive apps based on HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, and other open standards. It also provides the missing glue between high-level apps and the car, through specialized APIs that provide access to automotive devices and hardware.

Runtime emulator for quicker testing and debugging
This is where the first of the screens comes in. To speed development, the HTML5 SDK provides an emulator that lets developers quickly see how their apps would look and function in a car. Developers can use the emulator to perform JavaScript debugging, HTML DOM inspection, automated testing, and screen-resolution emulation, all from the convenience of a web browser. They can even make changes to their apps and view the results without having to recompile. The simulator is based on the open source BlackBerry Ripple emulator, used by thousands of mobile developers.

For instance, in this screen capture, the emulator is being used to test the virtual mechanic provided by the QNX CAR 2 platform:

Click to magnify

Here's another example, where the emulator is being used to test an audio control application. If you were running this emulator session, you could manipulate the app's onscreen controls to adjust volume, bass, treble, fade, and balance; you could also observe the changes to the underlying data values in the right-hand panel. And you could work the other way: by changing the controls on the right, you could observe changes to the app.

Click to magnify.

QNX also plans to create a virtual marketplace that will allow developers to make their QNX CAR 2 applications available to automakers. The marketplace will provide common ground for app developers and automakers to work together, and will allow automakers to preview the applications that best fit their brands and satisfy their customers. The marketplace is expected to go live when the HTML5 SDK is released.

By the way, my colleague Kerry Johnson provides an interesting back story to the SDK, including the kinds of APIs it provides. You can read his post here. You can also find more images of the emulator on the QNX Flickr page.

3D navigation from Elektrobit
Now for the other screens. Besides announcing the SDK, QNX has brought its QNX reference vehicle, a modded Jeep Wrangler, to the SAE show floor. As always, the Jeep is running the QNX CAR 2 platform. But this time, the Jeep also includes a cool 3D navigation app from automotive software vendor Elektrobit. Here are two examples of the Elektrobit app:

That's it for now. But before you go, be sure to follow @QNX_Auto on Twitter, where we are covering the latest developments, both QNX and non-QNX, from SAE Convergence.


Now on YouTube: The incredible 1.44M QNX floppy demo!

You have got to watch this. But before you click Play, keep this in mind: The 1.44M QNX floppy demo dates from the late 1990s and its web browser was built for the 1999 Web, not the 2012 Web. So, as you'd expect, the browser in this demo displays some error messages when it's pointed at modern websites.

Other than that, prepared to be amazed. Everything you see here — OS, windowing system, web browser, TCP/IP stack, file manager, games, etc. — fit on a single, self-booting 1.44M floppy. No CD, no hard drive. And as you'll see, the demo could even download and launch new features (including a graphics driver), all on the fly. Cool, that.

Did you know? The ISO image for the 1.44M floppy demo was downloaded more than 1,000,000 times, making it the first truly successful marketing campaign for QNX Software Systems. The purpose of the demo was simple: to show developers how much performance and functionality QNX could squeeze into a resource-constrained device.

A big shout-out to ToastyTech for posting the video!

Want to see a pic of an even older QNX demo disk? Click here.