HTML5 to play key role in car app software

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QNX feels HTML5 will be a centerpiece of architectures that link vehicles to phones and cloud computing.


As the connection between consumer products and cars tightens, changes in consumer software will have a greater impact on development projects for automotive markets. The rise of HTML5 is rapidly becoming a common language used in smart phones and other products, so many automotive designers are expected to adopt the new language.

HTML5 got a huge boost in November when Adobe decided to drop its Flash for mobile browsers and instead focus on HTML5. After a public spat with Apple, which didn’t support Flash, Adobe finally conceded that HTML5 has universal support on major mobile devices, making Flash a secondary player.

One factor in the decision is that HTML5 runs more efficiently on the low-power portable devices. Another is that the standard removes some of the interoperability issues that make pages appear differently depending on which browser is used.

Adobe’s move highlights a major shift to the language, which upgrades the first four versions of HTML and does many tasks now handled by JavaScript. Though the standard isn’t yet finished and approved by the World Wide Web Consortium and the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group, it’s already seeing significant usage in production software.

MontaVista Software employs HTML5 in a Genivi infotainment offering. Microsoft used HTML5 in Internet Explorer and SkyDrive, its cloud-based storage service. Strategy Analytics forecasts global growth of 100% for HTML5-based phone sales in 2012, while ABI Research predicts that more than 2.1 billion mobile devices will use it by 2016. Mefeedia, a web video aggregation network, analyzed 30,000 online videos and found HTML5 elements in a quarter of them.

This rapid growth will impact telematics and infotainment providers, particularly those who write smart phone apps designed for the auto industry. Many observers expect Tier 1 suppliers to put HTML5 hooks into radio head units. This will help carmakers maintain compatibility with apps and other software written after vehicles are in the field.

“HTML5 is going to have a long lifespan,” said Andy Gryc, QNX Software Systems’ Product Marketing Manager for Automotive. “When you use it for the interface between smart phones and the car, you’ll be able to avoid obsolescence.”

Gryc predicted that HTML5 will have a greater role in the automotive environment than Google’s Android. That’s largely because it will be simpler to migrate the standard to the rugged requirements of automotive than to upgrade Android to automotive reliability levels. The standard does not have the licensing concerns that arise with Android, he added.

He also said that using the standard will make it fairly straight forward to alter apps and other programs so they can be more easily used by drivers. “The app running on the vehicle’s display doesn’t have to look like the smart phone. That’s a real benefit over replication technologies that simply run everything the way it is on the phone,” Gryc said.

By leveraging the communications capabilities of smart phones, telematics providers can provide a wealth of cloud-based computing services for drivers. Cloud-based voice recognition can help provide a far larger vocabulary than onboard systems can provide, which can help in navigation. Cloud computing can also provide up-to-date information on local services.

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