Audio company Harman International has developed an infotainment platform that connects cars to the outside world by means of the LTE mobile radio technology. The platform provides the missing link in car connectivity: For the first time, it offers real broadband connection for applications residing in the vehicle.
Harman demonstrated the platform in Munich ahead of the Geneva Motor show which takes place from March 8 through March 18. Unlike today's 3G networks, LTE provides native packet-based internetworking and thus seamless internet connectivity, explained Manfred Schedl, Harman Vice President Connectivity. According to Schedl, it is not only the higher bandwidth that really makes the difference but also low latencies and the ability to set up multiple concurrent data streams. This enables car OEMs and tier ones to implement data intensive services which directly access cloud-based data.
The device shown consists of a mimo antenna unit and a head unit. Harman did not disclose the exact configuration of this head unit but pointed out that it basically is a computer with a number crunching capacity similar to a netbook computer, but with much more advanced graphics capabilities.
The head unit can run QNX, a linux-based operating system or android - but the operating system is "basically irrelevant", said Schedl. More important is the in-car connectivity it provides. For music listeners and rear-seat video watchers, it offers WiFi and Bluetooth connections. "We believe that WiFi will prevail in the future since Bluetooth is somewhat limited for more advanced applications", Schedl explained. The WiFi feature enables passengers to connect their smartphones, tablet or laptop computers to the car's resources.
Besides offering multimedia functionality, the device also facilitates the connection to office services through its Smart Office Client which directly synchronized with Microsoft Exchange Server or other office servers. An embedded web server is implemented as an interface to applications. An integrated web browser which supports HTML5 offers sandbox functionality - thus, the system creates a secure separation between apps and car electronics. The browser also can run offline, enabling users to run their apps even when the connection is temporarily lost.
Last but not least also NFC functionality is integrated in the head unit. This gives driver and passengers the option to use the NFC technology for micropayments at filling stations or drive-in restaurants. It also supports more personalization of car functions and even enables automotive OEMs to activate software add-ons pre-installed in the vehicle.
This article originally appeared on EE Times Europe.