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Driving demand for smartphone apps

John Day

John Day

Posted Oct 28, 2009

It’s only a matter of time, according to iSuppli Corp., before the myriad applications being written for smartphones are available in cars. Kevin Hamlin, analyst for automotive electronics at iSuppli, believes that the market for smartphone “apps” is now “a central battlefront in the global technology industry.”

It’s more evidence that cars are becoming network nodes. “For software developers, this opens a whole new domain to sell their apps,” says Hamlin. “For car makers, smartphone applications provide new ways to deliver infotainment and telematics services to customers. For motorists, apps allow them to enjoy their infotainment systems to the fullest, while paying only for the applications they want, thus saving them money.”

Earlier this year Continental launched AutoLinQ, an open architecture intended to leverage Google’s Android operating system as well as other Internet ecosystems, for in-vehicle infotainment and connectivity applications. It plans to work with automakers and third-party developers to create and certify applications for cars in much the same way that developers use Android to create applications for mobile devices. Parrot, best known for Bluetooth hands-free car kits, is offering an Android-Java-based head unit for automotive implementation of smartphone features.

BMW recently announced the Concept BMW Application Store, where users will someday be able to download games, infotainment, and travel-related apps directly to iDrive, or to a PC first and then to their car. The apps will be able to access vehicle information, such as the car’s location, when using the apps.

Taking a different approach, Nokia plans to offer a cable that it says will bring the functionality of the smartphone or other device to the vehicle. When a phone is connected to the vehicle’s head unit via the cable, all of the phone’s functions will appear on the head unit’s display for control by whatever human-machine interface the vehicle uses. Fuel level and other diagnostic information can also be displayed, presuming that the head unit is connected to the vehicle’s controller area network (CAN) bus. Nokia says it’s working on a Bluetooth version.

It seems like only yesterday when cars were for transportation and portable phones were for voice communication.

iSuppli Corp., Smartphone, Parrot

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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