BMW, Daimler and Nokia show Smartphone integration at Geneva

Extracts from Strategy Analytics Blog:

Nokia, BMW and Daimler highlighted mobile phone integration in their Geneva Motor Show announcements this month. But each company took a different path with its own merits and shortcomings. The solutions – two iPhone-based and one Nokia specific – reflect the three fundamental paths to integration.

Nokia’s terminal mode emphasizes leveraging the vehicle human machine interface via a bi-directional data exchange that transfers the device display into the vehicle head unit; hands control of the device over to the vehicle HMI; and makes use of vehicle CAN data for contextual feedback to the driver.

The BMW Mini iPhone integration puts iPhone applications, most notably Internet radio from RadioTimes, behind a large-screen embedded interface. Availability of this new connected solution is unclear, although the implication is that additional functions will ultimately be enabled and the vehicle HMI – in particular, a multidirectional, finger-sized toggle – will allow the driver to interact with phone-based applications without touching the phone.

The Daimler solution, offered for its Smart cars, is the closest to market – due this summer with a $400 price tag – and represents the most elaborate offering. It is also a third path to integration, providing a dash mounted iPhone holder with a suite of automotive applications – the first such suite developed by an OEM. Daimler has even gone so far as to customize the on-device interface with larger fonts and buttons.

The Daimler solution for its Smart car line-up is particularly appropriate since Smart cars in Europe are quite often sold without a head unit. In this case, the customer’s iPhone indeed becomes the vehicle’s on-board car radio, hands-free phone, navigation and driver assist system.

In contrast, the BMW Mini offering requires an embedded solution which will limit its scalability and upgradability, although the display real estate is substantial and the use of the vehicle’s HMI elements is preferable. The Daimler unit requires the driver to use the iPhone screen as the main interface. All three of these solutions will benefit from voice interfaces.

Like the BMW solution, Nokia’s Terminal Mode is intended to hand off HMI responsibility for smartphone functionality to the car. While the solution is promising, and Nokia is working with partners including Alpine, Magneti Marelli and Harman Becker, it is proprietary. As a proprietary solution, Nokia will face challenges to achieve market adoption despite working closely with the Consumer Electronics for Automotive (CE4A) coalition of German car makers.

Nokia’s terminal mode is promising, especially given its anticipated ability to obtain CANbus data for integration with different applications, but as a proprietary solution it is likely to be geographically challenged (ie. Eurocentric). A good example of an equally elegant solution with limited distribution is Novero’s proprietary Bluetooth interface developed for Ford. This solution is at risk of being marginalized once Ford finally decides to bring Sync to Europe.

Courtesy: Strategy Analytics.

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