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Converging voice with navigation at competitive cost

German-based Cullmann has developed a new platform which it believes is the first of a new generation of communication systems, says Lars Schultheiss, Managing Director.

German-based Cullmann has developed a new platform which it believes is the first of a new generation of communication systems, says Lars Schultheiss, Managing Director. “We see a vacuum emerging between the ‘simple’ handsfree-kits with dedicated handsfree functionality and the high-cost full-blown head units, which are using their own highly integrated hardware for a vast field of functionality with no allowance for customisation,” he says.

Cullmann is filling this gap with a platform based on a handsfree-kit and at a price between the ‘simple’ handsfree-kit and the full-blown head unit. “Today we can see a lot of new features and functions finding their way in personal devices such as SmartPhones, PDAs, and others which are offering a high and very individual comfort. Navigation, mp3, push e-mail, calendars and many more other applications make our life easier. Being used to all this individually programmed and adjusted comforters, we do not want to miss them driving our cars,” he says.

Cullmann’s platform will offer a new way of integrating these mobile devices with all their individual advantages in the car and make their features available to the driver. The system offers a very high level of integration just like the full-blown head units due to the device control with the car’s MMI and the transmission of information from and to the mobile phone or PDA via the car’s bus system. Thus the mobile device is enabled to communicate with all the other devices in the car.

The market for this product category lies in the medium class vehicle segment, as the upper class will be dominated by full-blown head units and the lower classes will be satisfied with ‘simple’ handsfree-kits, he says.

An important feature of the new product is its built-in GPS receiver. In contrast to conventional mobile navigation systems, Cullmann provides a solution for vehicle-internal navigation based on the integration of personal mobile devices such as mobile telephones or PDA’s. Thanks to the combination of handsfree-kit and navigation features like battery charging and connection of an external GSM antenna for optimum reception are available. An optional mobile telephone-specific adapter ensures the telephone’s firm and safe grip. Its modular conception makes this universal system both extremely flexible and cost-favourable, he says.

With the new platform, Cullmann has developed a professional navigation system running on a personal mobile device which can fully compete with any standard onboard system.

Automotive Purchasing News (APN): What is the planned life of the equipment – one of the issues in the industry is the different life-cycles of mobile communication equipment and the mechanical equipment used in motor vehicles.

Schultheiss: The platform has been designed with a focus on scalability and flexibility towards future developments. One main topic is the integration of personal mobile devices which add new features to the platform. The connectivity to these devices is guaranteed by the existence of all major interfaces which are state of the art e.g. Bluetooth, serial, USB etc.

APN: What advantages does it offer to the OEM?
Schultheiss: Our new OEM platform is a reasonably priced telematics system for the medium range market. The feature portfolio includes the connection to the car’s specific bus system, such as CAN, MOST etc. and can be easily adjusted to the needs and requirements of the OEM customer. The applications and features of the platform can be designed up to a full-blown telematics system and can include among others remote diagnostics and customer relationship management applications. The platform is universal for handsfree communication. This means it is independent of the personal mobile communication devices. The car manufacturer does not have to deal with this issue. Different mobile telephones and other communication devices are connected to the system with designed cradles that are supplied through the after-market or via Bluetooth specifically.

APN: What advantages does it offer to the driver?
Schultheiss: The driver receives an attractive alternative to higher priced full-blown head unit solutions. The platform integrates the user’s mobile telephone or PDA to a high degree. Popular services and applications like BT handsfree operation and navigation are accomplished by the platform at a very competitive price. It is a highly integrated and professional solution with state of the art performance offering great comfort to the driver.

APN: What advantages does it offer to the fleet operator?
Schultheiss: Besides the basic features of the platform (handsfree and navigation) the most important feature for the fleet operator is the ability of the system to be customized according to specific needs and requirements. When using a mobile device with an open operating system the fleet operator can make use of a large developer community. An established rich application pool enables him to apply software that is customized to his demands. Another advantage is the flexibility in choosing the personal communication devices. The product can interface to a PDA or a mobile telephone, through a cradle or BT.

APN: What advantages does it offer to the dealer?
Schultheiss: Through the remote diagnostics capabilities of the platform there also is a large potential for the dealer community as they can be informed about the duty of service intervals or any problems with the vehicle in general. This will lead to a better driver dealer relationship with improved CRM measures for the dealer.

APN: How are you ensuring reliability?
Schultheiss: The platform is designed to meet automotive standards concerning temperature range, vibration stability etc. There is a vast field of different tests during development, release testing before series production and another 100% testing of the series products before they leave our facility for delivery. We have a quality system according to TS 16949.

APN: What support and backup do you offer?
Schultheiss: We offer customization and downsizing of the platform to specific customer needs. The company also provides a fault analysis and advisory service on site, if necessary. We also join and manage online reporting systems.

APN: What are the implications for the OEM in terms of assembly?
Schultheiss: The system connects to the specific data bus of the car and is installed while the car is built. This way installation is very easy. If required we also develop and deliver the harness for the installation. We also develop and design consoles which fit the interior of the car perfectly and are placed either on the dashboard or in the armrest. The consoles carry the adapters which hold the personal mobile devices.

The evolution of Cullmann car communication products

1997 Launch of the first universal handsfree-kit VarioCom 2NT worldwide. Audi chose this product as original accessories for the aftermarket.
1998 Tier 1 supplier of Audi with the universal handsfree-kit for line fit.
1999 First attendance at CeBIT, first and only exhibitor of universal handsfree-kits.
Line fit of the universal handsfree-kit as a standard in the Audi A6 at FAW-VW in China.
2000 Tier 1 system supplier of VW and Skoda with the universal handsfree-kit for line fit. VarioCom 2NT is original accessory for Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo.
2001 Tier 1 system supplier for MAN Trucks with the universal handsfree-kit for line fit. Line fit of the universal handsfree-kit in the Passat at SVW in China.
2002 Line fit of the universal handsfree-kit in the BORA at FAW-VW in China.
Renault decided to use our system. SOP in the last quarter of 2004.
2003 Tier 1 supplier status at Opel. SOP in second quarter of 2005.
Launch of variocom VC3, the cordless universal handsfree-kit for retro fitting and the new trademark – variocom.
2004 Launch of variocom VC4 and VC4 navigation the new communication platform
for the aftermarket.

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