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Harman’s connectivity offerings give drivers plenty to do when they’re not driving.

CES rollouts extend connectivity, app integration

The tightening links between autos and consumer electronics were in evidence at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as several automakers and suppliers unveiled infotainment technologies. Connectivity and simplified app integration technologies were among the many transportation offerings at the monstrous show.

Vendors throughout the industry unveiled connectivity products. An amplifier was among Harman’s connectivity offerings. It uses a customized microcontroller to provide connectivity, noise cancellation, equalization, and surround sound. That trims size and complexity significantly.

“The Summit Connected Amplifier is the first system based on our system-on-chip technology,” said John Fitzgerald, ‎Senior Vice President of Harman’s Branded Audio Division. “Its functionality would traditionally require four to five digital signal processors and a microprocessor.”

Toyota unveiled a connected vehicle framework based on a Data Communication Module that will become a globally uniform technology by 2019. This standardized architecture will replace a handful of technologies now used in various regions.

In one of many phone-related moves, Toyota also teamed with Ford in hopes of making Ford’s open source SmartDeviceLink (SDL) a standard technology for apps. SDL makes it easier to create smartphone apps that match each company’s in-car system characteristics and interface, much like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Suppliers QNX Software and UIEvolution also announced SDL support. While multiple players adopted Ford’s open-source technology, Ford expanded its app connectivity options by opting to deploy Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on its 2017 vehicles.

Broadcom supported another app-related technology, announcing a near field communication (NFC) controller. NFC is the smart-phone technology that lets users swipe phones to make payments and perform other actions. In vehicles, it could simplify Bluetooth pairing and let drivers transmit information from phones to the vehicle’s navigation system.

“When you’re driving and want to launch an address, you want to be able to just wave the phone past the nav system, not keep positioning it so the coils are aligned,” said Richard Barrett, Director of Automotive Connectivity at Broadcom. “We’ve doubled the drive current coming into the coils, which means you don’t have to as close for the two coils to start sharing information.”

NXP made a loosely related CES announcement. After unveiling an automotive-grade NFC chip in March, NXP extended its commitment with NFC technology targeted for smart-home systems.

Market researchers say NFC usage is skyrocketing. Shipments of NFC-enabled phones were projected to increase to 756 million in 2015, up more than 70% from 2014, according to IHS Technology.

“This is just starting to be pervasive in mobile phones,” Barrett said. “The vehicle industry is beginning to roll it out. 2019 and 2020 is when it will be more prevalent in cars.”

Harman also broadened its software offerings, teaming up with Microsoft to put the Microsoft Productivity Suite on some of Harman’s infotainment systems. Drivers will be able to set up Skype calls, schedule meetings, and listen to e-mail or texts. Microsoft tool users will also be leveraging the cloud.

“This spans embedded through cloud-based technologies; it can go through a smart phone or use embedded connectivity,” said Phil Eyler, President of Harman’s Connected Car Division. “This is not exclusively embedded.”

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