Android in the Motor Industry
At present there is fierce competition in the phone market place between the major phone manufacturers with each one offering their own range of smart phones. The differentiating feature between a smartphone and a normal phone being the ability of the phone to perform a wide variety of extra tasks besides making a phone call.
In this thriving new market there are many manufacturers but the majority of them are using one Operating System which is Android. The Android Operating System is rather like Windows running on most desktop and laptop computers today. At present in a recent report by the National Purchase Diary (NPD) Android is the 2nd most popular operating system of choice for the first quarter of 2010 with Blackberry and iOS being ranked first and third respectively.
The most distinctive feature of the Android platform is the fact that it was open-sourced by Google meaning anyone can develop it. If the changes that they make are advantageous to the roadmap of the platform then they will be adopted. This means that the Android platform has a large community of developers ranging from enthusiasts to developers in large corporation's all working towards a common goal - the success of the platform.
The Android Operating System is based on a Linux which is a Unix based operating system that has been around for a very long time. Linux is commonly found in the server rooms of large industries where a robust operating system is require as downtime would be unacceptable. Sitting on-top of the Linux operating system is a thin layer that consists of drivers for the hardware and services such as a database etc. Running on top of all this is a Vitual Machine in which all the applications run. A virtual machine is not a new idea and can be thought of as a 'standard computer' that always behaves the same was regardless of the hardware. This gives the Android application developers the ability to write a wide variety of application on a vast range of Android based phones.
The native Android operating system and therefore most phones using the Android operating system offer the following features.
The platform is adaptable to larger, VGA, 2D graphics library, 3D graphics library based on OpenGL ES 2.0 specifications, and traditional smartphone layouts.
SQLite, a lightweight relational database, is used for data storage purposes
Android supports connectivity technologies including GSM/EDGE, IDEN, CDMA, EV-DO, UMTS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and WiMAX.
SMS and MMS are available forms of messaging, including threaded text messaging and now Android Cloud to Device Messaging Framework(C2DM) is also a part of Android Push Messaging service.
While Android applications are written in Java, there's no Java Virtual Machine in the platform and Java byte code is not executed. Java classes get recompiled into Dalvik executable and run on Dalvik virtual machine. Dalvik is a specialized virtual machine designed specifically for Android and optimized for battery-powered mobile devices with limited memory and CPU. Android does not support J2ME, like some other mobile operating systems.
Android supports the following audio/video/still media formats: H.263, H.264 (in 3GP or MP4 container), MPEG-4 SP, AMR, AMR-WB (in 3GP container), AAC, HE-AAC (in MP4 or 3GP container), MP3, MIDI, Ogg Vorbis, WAV, JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP.
Additional hardware support
Android can use video/still cameras, touchscreens, GPS, accelerometers, magnetometers, accelerated 2D bit blits (with hardware orientation, scaling, pixel format conversion) and accelerated 3D graphics.
Includes a device emulator, tools for debugging, memory and performance profiling, and a plugin for the Eclipse IDE.
Like many phone-based application stores, the Android Market is a catalog of applications that can be downloaded and installed to target hardware over-the-air, without the use of a PC. Originally only free applications were supported. Paid-for applications have been available on the Android Market in the United States since 19 February 2009. The Android Market has been expanding rapidly. As of April 30, 2010, it had over 50,000 Android applications for download.
Android has native support for multi-touch which was initially made available in handsets such as the HTC Hero. The feature was originally disabled at the kernel level (possibly to avoid infringing Apple's patents on touch-screen technology). Google has since released an update for the Nexus One and the Motorola Droid which enables multi-touch natively.
Support for A2DP and AVRCP were added in version 1.5;sending files (OPP) and accessing the phone book (PBAP) were added in version 2.0; and voice dialing and sending contacts between phones were added in version 2.2.
Not supported by default but as seen with the HTC Evo 4G, handset manufacturers can build front-facing cameras into their phones, so Qik, a software from the Android Market can use it for video-calling.
Multitasking of applications is available.
All of these features make the Android platform perfect for Automotive applications where a small embedded computer solution is required to perform useful functionality such as satellite navigation (using Google maps).
Some car manufacturers have started to investigate the addition of an Android based solution in their vehicles and early in 2010 the first car leveraging Android was launched. The car is called the Roewe 350 which is manufactured by the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. You can use the computer for directions and traffic reports just as you can with many other GPS devices. But it's not all vanilla; you can also surf the web and engage in some form of Internet chatting.
There has also been rumours of General Motors in talks with Google about creating a similar device for their range of cars. The system would control a variety of features in the car but may also be controlled via another Android based device.
I think that we will be seeing more of the Android platform in the Motor Industry and it is easy to imagine an in-car computer where downloading applications or setting your car wallpaper is an everday occurance.
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