Technology Goes On The Road

The advances in in-vehicle infotainment (IVI)

By Frank Shen, Product Marketing Director, American Portwell Technology

Intel has helped move in-vehicle infotainment into the fast lane. Drivers are no longer satisfied with a simple audio/video combination. Today's drivers want car interiors that more closely resemble their home theater or well-wired workplace. In addition to enhanced audio, today's vehicles are replete with IVI devices such as Internet access, GPS systems for front-seat navigation, hands-free Bluetooth access for mobile phones, and DVD and digital TV screens for back-seat entertainment. For many drivers, IVI is like taking their home or office on the road, including the embedded PC that sits at the heart of the infotainment system.

Satisfying the demands for IVI presents opportunities for automotive manufacturers and the technology partners that support them. However, in such a fast-growing and highly competitive market, how do automakers and after-market IVI integrators choose the most effective and economical way to provide reliable systems?

Intel and Intel® Communications Alliance members such as American Portwell Technology are taking the initiative to address this challenge with a two-pronged effort: advocating and providing industry standards and creating a vendor ecosystems in which car manufacturers or after-market IVI integrators can choose the solutions that best suit their needs.

Meeting the Demands of IVI

The constraints of providing such a plethora of technology within the limited physical space of a motor vehicle demand compact components that work relentlessly throughout the lifetime of the vehicle itself. This challenge was successfully met by a single-DIN, in-vehicle embedded car PC infotainment system based on the Intel® ECX (Embedded Extended Compact) form factor (Intel® ECX form factor).

It was determined that the IVI device itself should fit into a single-DIN space and be capable of supporting the multiple infotainment activities typically required by today's driver. This should include integrated Digital Video Broadcasting- Terrestrial (DVB-T, a standard for the broadcast transmission of digital terrestrial television in Europe and some countries in Asia), a digital FM tuner, Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS to meet the demands of applications such as audio and video media, navigation, Internet access, and e-mail. In addition, the unit should also support dual-display or multiple-display for front- and back-seat users.

Power and Performance

Implementers of IVI seriously need to consider the ratio of power to performance caused by working in such tight spaces. The most cost-effective design should be based on the Intel® 915GM Express chipset and Ultra Low Voltage Intel® Celeron® M processor. This combination achieves the best performance per watt and cubic meter and can provide OEMs or integrators with a competitive advantage for their application software—which is becoming increasingly important in today's fast-growing embedded environment.

In addition to space and thermal constraints,
modern embedded IVI systems require strong processing performance to meet the demands of their multimedia features. An additional advantage would be if the device included modular rear I/O architecture. This should be easily customizable to provide greater flexibility and speed OEMs' time to market.

Heat and Shock

OEMs familiar with embedded systems know that one of their greatest challenges is efficiently managing the heat generated by the device in the closed environment of a motor vehicle. One effective solution would be to use Intel® ultra low-voltage mobile processor to minimize the wattage and heat.

Shock and vibration—other important factors—can be minimized with the application of shock absorbing washers at the critical points. Drivers today demand a smooth ride and an even smoother IVI experience.

From Option to Necessity

While GPS systems are still an option, many states in the U.S. are enacting laws governing the use of mobile phones. These laws will make it necessary for drivers to exercise hands-free voice control over mobile phones while traveling in their vehicles.

These laws and the shifting lines between home, work, and personal transport expand the need for sophisticated IVI systems to meet the requirements of today's modern driver.

Who Do You Call?

While there are many suppliers of IVI technology, there are few if any with the foresight and proficiency of Intel and the Intel Communications Alliance (ICA). In an environment where the automotive industry has yet to settle on standards like those adopted in other industries (such as telecom), Intel and members of the ICA can help the industry and its OEMs accelerate their development productivity by transitioning toward a more open platform.

This move will let them reuse hardware and software across multiple IVI designs and take advantage of the solutions achieved in the development of effective and economical IVI devices and systems.

Frank Shen is the product marketing director at American Portwell Technology, where he is responsible for product management and new market development. Shen has more than 15 years of product marketing experience in embedded computing, industrial computing, and touch-panel industries. He holds a Master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California.