Auto industry highlights: Innovation in green, smart, and safe (part 1)

All industries are innovating to become smarter and more efficient. The auto industry is no different. The auto’s journey to smarten up can be seen in the vision, challenges, and solutions of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

Advancements in the auto industry are always a popular topic of conversation. From fuel efficiency to vehicle PC infotainment, cars are seen as transportation, entertainment, and status symbols all over the world. Embedded technologies are driving key initiatives in the industry:

Green – Environmentally friendly and fuel efficient.

Smart – Greater visibility, alters using sensor, actuator, and camera technologies.

Safe – Collision safety features to reduce injury and road fatalities.

Focusing on the “smart” initiative, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are expected to advance from assisted driving today to highly automated driving in 2020 to autonomous driving by the year 2025 (Figure 1). If this vision is realized, in ten short years, autonomous in-vehicle system driving will be a reality – though Tesla claims it’ll have autonomous driving in its telematics cars by summer 2015!

ADAS are the stepping stones toward autonomous fleet management driving. An interconnected network of cameras, video analysis, sensors, and global positioning systems provide the building blocks upon which the auto of the future will be built.

Automotive telematics standards

The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) is a driving force in the assessment and advancement of these key vehicle PC in the auto industry. Euro NCAP performs fleet management tests as well as test protocols for validating active safety systems through simulation. These test simulations are used to assess the five-star rating system assigned to various makes and models.

Environmental regulations are becoming tougher and higher safety standards are being applied. In order to address these challenges, auto developers and their suppliers need access to the right embedded tools and simulation environments in order to achieve the desired ratings.

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Building a smarter embedded system within “smart home” on ZigBee 3.0 (part 3)

“Volumes drive down cost, lower costs drive up volume,” Links says. “The only question is, “What does it take to kick-start the process of embedded Linux? The killer app. From a GreenPeak perspective, we see the killer app as having ZigBee in the set-top box and remote control,” Links continues. “First of all, consumers have a better user experience with ZigBee compared to embedded Linux, but [because of the power benefits] operators see a drop in service cost – one out of four service calls to operators is actually about the battery in the remote control being dead. So with ZigBee in the remote control the cable operator wins twice: reducing service calls and cost. Plus, with ZigBee in every set-top box it allows the subscriber to connect other sensors or embedded system applications with the set-top box, enabling incremental services.

For Links, full-fledged adoption of the smart home and its accompanying technologies will progress in the same way that network security technology did, with roughly 10 years of cost reductions and cultural breakthroughs before reaching the nearly universal acceptance it enjoys today. Along with progressive reductions in the cost of the technology and success educating the population, however, the achievements of network communication appliance are largely based in joint industry collaboration around the standard that eventually benefitted all parties involved.

“Cost and culture are the two major constraints,” Links says. “Assuming that the cost will decrease with the volume increase, the key will be getting people comfortable with living in a network security home. That means there need to be guarantees that the system is secure, that the system is not infringing on privacy, etc. But to a large extent this is not embedded system technology, but a marketing challenge that needs to be resolved in the coming years.

“Also, the industry needs to come together on a set of standards to ensure interoperability and ease of use for the end user. It was the international adoption of 802.11 that truly enabled the eventual market success of Wi-Fi. The industry needs to learn from the Wi-Fi history. The big tech companies need to stop building network communication appliance designed to fight for market share, and instead realize the more the sectors work together to ensure interoperability, partnership, and customer ease of use, the more successful all tech companies will be,” he continues. “With the ZigBee 3.0 unified communication standard in place, smart home applications should not be more costly or complex for the end user than a smartphone. This is when the smart home becomes reality for both vendors and consumers.”

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Building a smarter embedded system within “smart home” on ZigBee 3.0 (part 3)

“Certainly, interoperability is a key concern because embedded system must have easy-to-use and easy-to-connect devices that simply work together,” Maley says. “ZigBee 3.0 will allow a wider range of network communication appliance to seamlessly interoperate. ZigBee has always provided interoperability among the various network security domains (lighting, health care), but ZigBee 3.0 will permit a wider variety of devices to connect together, which should simplify the choice for product developers and consumers alike.

“The ZigBee Certified program can help by insuring interoperability between certified devices regardless of the manufacturer,” he adds.

With ZigBee 3.0, all of the traditional characteristics of ZigBee devices are maintained, such as the self-healing embedded Linux associated with mesh networks and power consumption several orders of magnitude less than Wi-Fi, as well as features such as Green Power that support battery-less energy harvesting devices. This last point on power is also a crucial one for the smart home, on the one hand because improved efficiency in one area shouldn’t come at the expense of inefficiency in another, and on the other hand the prospect of network security batteries for a house full of connected devices on a regular basis is simply a non starter in the embedded system.

Cost and the “killer app” of embedded Linux

As intriguing as application-level standardization is for the advancement of the smart home, architectures that make beneficial decisions based on behavior and efficiency being embraced by the broad market is a question of cost and consumer demand. As O’Donovan notes, “costs are important if you have to pay $1,500 for new lighting that will only save you $50 in energy costs. There has to be a compelling reason to buy into the smart home concept.”

On the heels of recent discussions in the network communication appliance related to regulating the standby power requirements for set-top boxes, Cees Links, Founder and CEO of leading ZigBee chipset and module vendor GreenPeak Technologies (, believes an answer to both is on the horizon (Figure 5).

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Building a smarter embedded system within “smart home” on ZigBee 3.0 (part 2)

Given this, and the low-power, low-cost, and ease-of-use embedded system, wireless mesh networking technologies have gained prominence as a scalable way of integrating products into the smart home. However, with widespread incompatibility between network security and numerous networking technologies all competing for an emerging market, settling on any one connectivity solution has become a struggle for industry and consumers alike, O’Donovan says.

“Multiple networking technologies clearly complicates the picture for the consumer and slows manufacturer attempts to unify around one or more compatible systems,” he explains (Figure 3). “There is little cohesion in the market. Despite efforts to deploy mesh networking by some players as a way to offer a whole home/system solution, there is scant interoperability between most manufacturers.”

“There are a number of embedded Linux for the home automation market, with X10 probably known best because it has been around a long time, although ZigBee and Z-Wave are now recognized as the way forward,” O’Donovan continues. My prediction is that the network security will always be a widely available, standards-based solution, and in that case ZigBee should dominate.”

Though ZigBee has gained traction since being conceived in the late ’90s, much of its success and embedded system came as a result of “application profiles” that tailored the technology to certain vertical markets. While these helped ZigBee penetrate new areas and use cases, they also impaired the ability of devices based on different profiles to interoperate seamlessly, which, as mentioned, is a critical consideration in full-blow smart home deployments.

However, in late 2014 the ZigBee network communication appliance announced the release of embedded Linux ZigBee 3.0, a new standard that unifies the previous ZigBee PRO-based application standards to enable interoperability between home automation, energy management, lighting, appliances, security, health care monitoring, and other smart home devices (Figure 4). Based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard, ZigBee devices were previously compatible at lower levels of the network, but the advent of ZigBee 3.0 promotes interoperability at the application layer as well to alleviate some of the challenges of network communication appliance interoperability.

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