Issue: Apr 2018


Expertise in consumer and auto electronics united to create new systems and services



by Nick Palmen

Any gap between consumer and automotive electronics is fast narrowing as consumers come to expect the same functionality and user experience in their car as in their lounge or on their mobile device.

In order to achieve this OEMs and suppliers are merging two often different design and manufacturing disciplines. Accelerating the learning curve and the adaptation is the acquisition of automotive electronics specialist HARMAN by consumer giant Samsung a year ago.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Dr. Mike Peters, Executive Vice President and President, HARMAN Connected Car Division, what the advantages of the merger are to the automotive sector.

Peters: It is an amazing set-up in these transformative times. The biggest plus is that we are now part of an innovation leader. Samsung has roughly 62,000 employees in R&D spread across 36 engineering locations. The R&D spending for the last year was about US$13 billion – which is second only to Volkswagen. Because of the strengths of the two companies we are able to introduce the benefits of consumer electronics into the automotive industry. This structure is unique. No other supplier can say they have the advantage of having a diverse parent such as Samsung to support them.

AI: How can technology make the car more intuitive and create new experiences?

Peters: First of all, we always ask what the end user of the car is expecting. The traditional human machine interface (HMI) elements like graphics or maps are now enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI), which really gives the car interface a more human touch. Graphics, audio, lighting, AI and cloud services are providing a 360˚ experience that we’ve never had before. HARMAN has the expertise in how to integrate these features. Some of the technologies are ours, and we work with strategic partners for others.

Our OEM partners deliver the displays, graphic, tactile and voice HMI, which is enhanced with “always-on” telematics and cloud services. These enhance the experience of driving in a car – or in the future of being driven by an autonomous vehicle. While we partner very broadly and widely, at the end of the day someone has to have the overall vision of how all of these things will come together.

AI: What are the main factors for a unique, smart, easy and richer user experience?

Peters: Everything needs to be integrated – there must be a single modality experience. That’s what we are looking for, to get a richer and more intuitive and more intelligent experience. Using the increasing amount of information available about a consumer we are able to deliver an even more personalized experience. You would like to be greeted when you step in the car. This is possible only because of the technology supporting the feature – the full integration of “always-on” telematics and connectivity, our cloud servers, and our traditional interface solution. We’ve made a lot of progress in providing a much more natural interface. This is the whole concept. This is accelerating really rapidly with the new HMI systems. You can give commands the way you think them, not in a structured manner because the technology requires you to do this. I believe the key is to have more intuitive and intelligent interfaces.

AI: What defines the movement from infotainment to the enhanced digital cockpit?

Peters: The new Digital Cockpit platform can seamlessly integrate the instrument cluster with center console via voice, haptic feedback, physical knobs and steering wheel controls in a single center screen for all vital vehicle information and features. This is achieved through integration. Infotainment in the traditional way was just media and navigation, and it was usually a silver box and a display. Now with our Digital Cockpit platform introduced at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, we are able to feed information into multiple displays in the car. The graphic and computing power are powerful enough to integrate those functionalities, together with the central display cluster itself. And, if you have a head-up display, we can also integrate this, as well as front and passenger rear seat displays. In our premium solution demo car, a single box is driving up to seven displays. The development of computing and graphic power also enables us to have multiple domains working on one platform, so you can swipe information from cluster back to the central display or to the passenger display. This is more than traditional infotainment. Therefore, we need a good software framework. We have a separate operating system with hypervisor technology that provides both safety and functionality. You can have separate applications running and if you don’t need an application or the application has crashed, it is completely separate and you still have the cluster or telematics functionality available. From a consumer perspective, you have new features because you have everything intercommunicating. By introducing cloud functionality, you can leverage all the data from the cloud to connect your car, office, home and lifestyle together. This is what the consumer expects, and this is what we call the Digital Cockpit experience – which goes well beyond the traditional infotainment.

AI: What opportunities does the next generation HARMAN Ignite platform offer OEMs?

Peters: Even before the Samsung takeover, we started working on configurable cloud services for automotive. HARMAN Ignite is actually an integration platform of multiple domains and functionalities including OTA updates and cyber security-related topics. With HARMAN’s Ignite automotive cloud platform, the in-car user experience can be personalized for the driver and passenger via services such as virtual personal assistants, portable profiles, and augmented reality. This also allows for the Android OS to be integrated on four displays – a first for the industry. Added to this, Samsung cloud is one the biggest IoT clouds. Through this, Ignite, which is an automotive-centric cloud service, can connect with the much broader IoT cloud. The car is becoming an IoT device. OEMs are starting to see the power of combining Ignite with the Samsung IoT cloud.

AI: What are the benefits and challenges with 5G telematics?

Peters: 5G Telematics is a necessity. It is a crucial precondition for autonomous driving. Think about V2X applications, or crash mitigation systems. We definitely need a network with high bandwidth and low latency capabilities and 5G is exactly that. It is coming along fairly quickly too because HARMAN is involved in 5G AA (Automotive Alliance Group) and both Samsung and HARMAN are very active in eight different working groups looking at all of the areas on interoperability, standards etc. It is unique for the industry because you have automakers, telecoms companies and equipment manufacturers all participating. That’s never really been done before. The technical and commercial benefits and challenges of 5G are still being defined. The OEMs want 5G functionality in 2020 in their cars completely validated and completely integrated, but if you are lucky at the end of this year the final specifications will be confirmed. The challenge for us is that we need to develop with that kind of uncertainty of what will happen in the next few months.

AI: What’s next for HARMAN?

Peters: Our strategy from business perspective is to triple our business in the next six years. We will definitely extend our portfolio from infotainment and telematics to ADAS, to digital cockpit, to 5G telematics and more. I am talking about organics and inorganics. Just watch this space.

The HARMAN-Ignite wheel of functionality.

Consumer and automotive electronics meet in a new HARMAN dashboard.



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