Blackberry QNX – The Future of Cloud Connected Intelligent Vehicles

Broadcasting from AWS re:Invent 2019 at the Sands Convention Center, Lisa Martin and John Furrier of theCUBE interview Grant Courville, VP of Products and Strategy for Blackberry QNX.

As a provider of embedded technologies QNX are collaborating with AWS to demonstrate Intelligent In-Vehicle Applications. Early adopters include Karma.

Blackberry QNX

From 1:25 Grant explains the background of QNX. They were founded in 1980, to develop software for mission critical devices in fields including medical and industrial, expanding into the automotive sector in 1998, specializing in infotainment, digital instrument clusters and telematics systems. The essential requirement is to be reliable, safe and secure. QNX was acquired by Blackberry in 2010.

At 2:00 John asks about the core technology dynamics, highlighting how AWS enjoyed great success through it’s commitment to open APIs and wondered if similar factors are at play in car technologies.

Connected Car Innovations

Grant answers by saying that traditionally car systems have been closed and proprietary. This started to open up with CarPlay and Android Auto, enabling communications between mobile apps and the car, and he envisions an evolution to a similar common and open platform in the car as for these apps.

At 4:50 Lisa asks Grant to share his thoughts on what the essential success factors are for leading the digital disruption this trend represents. He replies through explaining QNX is working with over 50 automakers and are in over 150 million vehicles, and consistently the requirement is to ensure safety first, while then enabling more open innovation.

From 6:30 John inquires about the QNX relationship with AWS, and Grant highlights they are exhibiting in the Connected Home section where they have brought the first car to re:Invent.

They are demonstrating the connection between a Karma Revero GT and the AWS IoT service.

Use cases for this scenario include battery monitoring and prediction, a personalized cockpit and B2b functionality where sensor data is relayed through the AWS cloud to businesses such as auto detailers, sharing information such as location and VIN number and to facilitate digital contracting.

They’ve also embedded AI-based facial recognition, to enable gesture recognition, such as having the mirrors fold in through the driver showing a V sign.

Safety and Security

At 8:55 raises the issue of safety and security, posing that a major fear for users will be the car being hacked and taken over.

Grant responds by highlighting the historical pedigree of QNX, how they have been selected for multiple industries where safety and security are paramount, such as patient monitoring devices and MRI machines, and they are trusted to replicate that high quality to cars. For example they monitor all communications to the car and act on any suspect activities.

From 10:30 Lisa builds on this to ask about the associated opportunities in the trucking industry, given their regulations for driver safety and the volume of sensors on the vehicles.

Grant answers that all of their innovations apply equally to trucks, with autonomous vehicles being a key trend for that sector. He highlights a scenario of “platooning“, where a train line of autonomous trucks follow the first manned by a driver.

Agile Developer Ecosystems

At 12:00 John concludes the interview by asking Grant about the conflict between the traditional industrial sector and the modern trend of fast-moving agile developers.

Grant replies by acknowledging the continuing dynamic of the Cloud empowering developers with smarter technologies for them to leverage such as SageMaker, and how these build upon their core embedded technologies, to enable these faster, interative agile approaches while still ensuring the control loops needed for car safety.

Another key technology is the connectivity itself. Grant describes how they are working with the modem vendors, equipping cars with access via WiFi and 4G et al, and also make use of vehicle-to-vehicle communications via DSRC, a form of WiFi.

For a follow on update, check out the CES2020 interview with Steve Olsen, where they explore the application of these technologies within Land Rovers.

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