Traditional audio market being redefined
HARMAN, the premium global audio and infotainment group made one of its strongest showings ever at this year’s Geneva Autosalon, demonstrating infotainment and audio solutions in vehicles from a wide range of manufacturers. Also testifying to the company’s strength as an industry innovator, HARMAN showcased together with Rinspeed, a new concept car envisioning autonomous driving and its influences on passengers, infotainment and entertainment. Technology and solutions by HARMAN were present in stands throughout the show.
Automotive Industries (AI), caught up with Michael Mauser, the Executive Vice President and President of Lifestyle Division at Harman International Industries and asked him what HARMAN’s contribution was to the new “XchangE” show car.
Mauser: XchangE continues the tradition of innovation from our alliance with Swiss customizer and concept vehicle maker Rinspeed. The car looks ahead to truly autonomous driving, featuring lounge-type seating reminiscent of airline businessclass travel. The self-driving car requires a completely new operating concept which is provided by HARMAN with our next-generation scalable infotainment platform. Based on HTML5, this platform provides the advanced security required to protect tomorrow’s connected cars against hacking; as well as navigation, entertainment, driver assistance and service functions which are shown on a total of four displays. There is even a 32-inch UHD dropdown screen to transform the XchangE into a mobile cinema – a very 21st-century take on drive-in movies. Real-time sensor data in the vehicle is consolidated by the system, and communicated with the cloud through an integrated LTE module to enable the car-to-X communication which will be fundamental to autonomous driving
AI: What does the next-generation scalable platform offer to car makers and of course the end user?
Mauser: The platform enables rapid development of connected car apps while protecting the integrity of the system against cyber security threats. This new platform offers an HTML-5-based application environment for rapid development and deployment of rich connected apps and with state-of-theart network security technologies to ensure system security. In addition, the system uses separate computing domains using type 1 hypervisor for securing critical vehicle functions from errant or malicious software for “automotive grade” robustness that is the first of its kind in the industry. And lastly, this next-generation architecture also integrates advanced driver assist functions such as Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and other safety features into the infotainment system to bring sensor-based safety features to a wide range of vehicles through a higher level of system integration. These are essentially the building blocks required to create an autonomous car.
AI: What are the new infotainment systems that you are rolling out, and which vehicles will benefit from them?
Mauser: HARMAN’s new infotainment platform is now ready for implementation into vehicles, and drivers can expect the system to be on the road within the next two to three years. We’ve won a very big contract with Daimler for telematics for the half of their cross car connectivity solutions from HARMAN. The BMW i8, X3M, X4 and 4-Series Grand Coupé are the latest to join an impressive line-up of BMW cars to feature the HARMAN premium infotainment system, which combines wireless connectivity, enhanced 3D navigation and even office tools into an intuitive, easy to use unit. We also expanded our co-operation with Daimler - rolling out the premium HARMAN infotainment system to the C-Class and new V-Class ranges, as well as the S-Class. In the Volkswagen group family, the new TT is the first TT to feature HARMAN infotainment solutions.
AI: How do you help automakers to extend the lifespan of their in-car infotainment solutions to match the eight to 10-year lifespan of a car?
Mauser: Today’s consumers demand in-car solutions that enable their digital lifestyle to follow them wherever they go. Similarly, automakers wish to have the flexibility to extend the lifespan of their in-car infotainment solutions to match the lifespan of a car. HARMAN is therefore introducing a flexible and upgradable infotainment solution for automakers that can be installed even after the car has left the factory floor, without sacrificing the integrated user experience of a factory-installed system. These Vehicle Specific Infotainment Upgrade packages are built on HARMAN’s Semi-OEM Platform, which leverages a modular design, software updateability, and feature sets that can be customized for the needs of global automakers. HARMAN’s Vehicle Specific Infotainment Upgrades are packaged on a small snap-in box connected to a prewired cradle that is installed either at the production line, by the dealer or even by the end-customer. The same upgradeability is demanded for audio. With this in mind, we are redefining the traditional mobile audio aftermarket segment to include upgrade products and services that bring a premium sound experience to cars while leveraging their existing wiring harnesses and speaker locations. The new Vehicle Specific Audio Upgrade packages reduce installation and fabrication fees associated with traditional aftermarket products while retaining the premium audio quality for which HARMAN brands are renowned. Every component is designed to fit perfectly into the original factory location while simply plugging into the existing wire harness, with no splicing or fabricating required. In addition, the systems utilize the factory head unit, helping consumers avoid the cost of updating the head unit and related installation and fabrication fees.
AI: What does Clari-Fi technology do?
Mauser: Clari-Fi, leverages HARMAN’s experience in music recording, signal processing and psychoacoustics to naturally restore up to 90 percent of the sound that is forfeited in the compression process. With a strong reception from automakers and mobile device providers at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Clari-Fi now is featured in HARMAN’s new JBL Authentics Series wireless home entertainment sound systems and will be incorporated into a range of Home, Multimedia, and Automotive products in the coming year.It is a question of who gets it first and who is next. People listen to music in the car more than anywhere else. We will have three OEM customers this year.
AI: What are the advantages in comparison to your competitors?
Mauser: Clari-Fi is superior to competitive solutions because it does not blindly add equalization, bass boost or other effects that alter the intended listening experience. It encompasses a proprietary predictive model that intelligently and accurately recreates the lost information based on the existing compressed content. It also does not require any user intervention because it is designed to run in the background, automatically adjusting the amount of correction it applies based on the quality of the input signal. For example, while it will add no correction to a CD-quality signal, Clari-Fi will add significantly more correction to the most compressed signals, such as satellite radio.
AI: Can it be integrated in any HARMAN in-car audio system and when will be available?
Mauser: Clari-Fi can be integrated into any HARMAN in-car audio system via the amplifier or head unit, providing automakers limitless possibilities to further enhance in-car listening experiences. It is available to all automakers and also will begin launching in vehicles in 2014. It is a software-based algorithm which only needs minimal extra CPU power. Furthermore, it is also compact enough to fit in any audio device – phone, tablet or PC.
AI: What can we expect from HARMAN in the future?
Mauser: With our experience, technology and R & D we are well positioned for the next few years. We continue to lead the field and are increasingly seen as a first to market with many of our technologies. In the past few months you have seen Clari-Fi, solutions to prevent software hacking in cars and even integration with Google Glass. No other supplier seems to be generating a pipeline of innovation across all the facets of infotainment