Harman: How the Connected Car shapes future infotainment systems

March 05, 2015 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
With the Connected Car becoming reality, the infotainment landscape in the vehicles will undergo massive changes. At the recent Euroforum industry meeting on automotive electronics in Munich, Harman sketched they way from today's relatively simple infotainment systems to the connectivity hubs of the future.

Over the past decades, the infotainment system has evolved from a simple radio to a multimedia system with multiple connectivity functions. This makes it the central element in the Connected Car concept. And in this context, connectivity is not a value on its own right - the Connected Car is an important key technology for autonomous driving. This property makes it a very coveted asset for many players - and these players are not necessarily restricted to the automotive core market. Amidst this melange of interests, infotainment is currently undergoing a transformation from closed systems to open software and hardware platforms, explained Klaus Beck, vice president CoC Systems at infotainment giant Harman.

In this context, telematics platforms will integrate more and more functions in the future, Beck believes. Examples are M2M message routing and C2X functions. Also, Ethernet connectivity will increasingly be seen. By the same token, client-server architectures will gain a foothold in the infotainment world, in particular for end-to-end solutions. New functionalities and architectures will affect partitioning of the subsystems and the feature set of the infotainment cluster. In the entry segment, one can expect that today's 5" dot matrix display will be displaced by 6" to 8" colour displays in the centre stack.

Today's analog cluster will gradually give way to analog/digital clusters which in many cases will integrate some navigation functionality. Discrete Bluetooth modules will yield higher integrated systems. In the midrange market and in the premium segment, where the centre stack today features a 6" to 12" colour display, we can expect to see large head unit displays with up to 18" diagonal plus digital clusters with full graphics functionalities plus head-up displays (HUD), Beck said. In this segments, next-generation SoCs will ensure scalability and upgradeability at constant footprint.

The competitive landscape is already undergoing a through transformation; new players like Apple or Google are trying to get their feet into the infotainment door. Driven by the desire to get access to customer data, this trend will continue and gain momentum, Beck predicts.

An increasing challenge will be data safety and integrity, both a prerequisite for cyber security in the car. This situation calls for the capability to update software versions over the air (OTA). Towards this end, Harman already has thrown the switches through the acquisition of Red Bend Software, a company specialised in OTA solutions for mobile devices (and in this sense, a car is a mobile device). "The Red Band takeover enables us to perform incremental updates and to implement server-based services", Beck said.