Issue: Jul 2012


Android ready for automotive use with new platform from Plextek



Overcomes tough automotive standards for the mobile OS

by James Hilton

Plextek, the Cambridge based business, product innovation and design consultancy, has extended its range of ICE platforms to bring the benefits of the Android mobile operating system to the car. Currently, car entertainment systems typically use Linux- or Windows-based operating systems and are missing out on the connected functionality offered by Android. A head-unit based on the Plextek Android platform can link with any smartphone or tablet to provide a data connection, call support and play audio wirelessly via Bluetooth.
Project Manager, Nicholas Hill, said: "Android is the most popular mobile OS in the world, and with so much talk about the ‘connected car’ many of its features are ideally suited for automotive applications. However, some fundamental modifications are required for in-car use. With this new platform we’re expecting more vehicle manufacturers to look at the potential for Android devices in our cars.”

One of the biggest challenges was the start-up time of the OS, with a typical ‘cold’ boot of an Android device taking well over 30 seconds. This is not such an issue for smartphones because they never need to turn themselves off completely unless the battery is completely exhausted. However, vehicle manufacturers impose extremely tight restrictions on the long-term current drain permitted for every device in the vehicle in order to avoid exhausting the battery, and the use of a secondary battery isn’t allowed for safety reasons. To combat this, Plextek has incorporated a number of novel techniques, greatly improving the user experience without risk of flattening the vehicle’s battery. These include re-ordering standard boot tasks and using intelligent power control to minimise the time spent on standby.
Another issue was modification of Android to handle additional audio input sources and output streams and the adaption of wireless profiles such as Bluetooth. The innovative Android platform can support an impressive range of peripherals, including dual displays, touch screens, keypads, GPS, analogue and digital tuners. A central processor contains hardware and graphics accelerators and an Android 2.3.4 BSP. With external connectivity paramount, the platform can support USB, Bluetooth up to version 4, 2G/3G, Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Advanced audio processing software is also supported on a dedicated DSP, producing high quality, 6-channel audio.

About Plextek Limited
At the forefront of business and product innovation, Plextek develops and commercialises diverse technologies across a broad range of market sectors. It is the development partner of choice for 300+ major global organisations, government bodies and ambitious start up companies.

Established in 1989, Plextek has evolved from a pure ‘design house’ into an international multidisciplinary consultancy capable of transforming businesses and managing customers’ products through the entire product development cycle from concept to supply.
Plextek also has a proven track record for transforming entrepreneurial ideas into successful businesses, including Telensa Ltd (street lighting control infrastructure), PneumaCare Ltd (contact-less lung function measurement) and REDTAIL Telematics Ltd (tracking devices and data warehousing for fleet and insurance applications).
Website: www.plextek.com

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