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Taking in-car comm functionality to the next level

Posted: 04 Oct 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:in-vehicle network? wireless communication?

The automobile industry has spent countless years and has devoted a great deal of resources to create efficient and sophisticated wired in-vehicle networks. Now, it is taking ambitious and innovative strides to integrate wireless technologies with existing wired in-vehicle communications.

Enabling next-generation wireless capabilities will require very similar processing power and connectivity to what is used in smartphones and tablets. Because most of this functionality will be managed via a screen interface (through sophisticated graphics and intuitive user controls), a processor in the 1GHz range will be necessary. The processor will also manage multiple communication technologies, and run software and protocol stacks.

From a wireless connectivity perspective, expect that multiple technologies will enable wireless personal, local and wide area networking. Essentially, all the connectivity prevalent in mobile devices will work its way into the automobile, effectively applying the capabilities of those devices.

These key wireless technologies will not only unlock new efficiencies in the manufacturing process but more importantly, will strategically connect the driver and passengers more concretely to services outside of the car.

A WiFi chip integrated early in the manufacturing process enables a direct communications channel into the vehicle's electrical system for monitoring, testing and uploading software. The same chip can connect the car with networks at service stations or the dealer repair shop, where diagnostics can be shared and performance information retrieved. WiFi can also enable a shared Internet connection for users of tablets or smartphones within the vehicle.

Similarly, integration of Bluetooth Low Energy chips will allow proximity-based keyless entry and access to sensors throughout the car to monitor stats as tire pressure. NFC and other technologies will bring their own features and benefits as well.

Designers wishing to add wireless communications technologies to the car should look at the most popular smartphones, tablet computers for clues about what will work and which benefits will resonate with the end user.

While a single wireless technology adds some enhancement, an integrated approach that includes all the key technologies will provide an evolutionary shift, similar to the one that occurred when touchscreen smartphones changed user expectations for cellular handsets.

- Clint Brown
??EE Times

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