Technicolor's Qeo solution is taking on Google and Apple

Posted: 17th February 2014

Source: The following is an interview between Techradar and Benoit Joly, SVP Smart Home at media and entertainment firm Technicolor, on the implications around the 'connected car', what Google and Apple are doing in this area and Technicolor's own open source solution.

In 2014, the 'internet of things' (IoT) phenomenon is surely but surely familiarising people with the concept of connecting up everyday objects to the internet - and cars are no exception. Whether it's hooking up your beloved hatchback to the internet or zipping through the streets in a driverless two-door, the automotive industry is speeding toward technological advancement.

TechRadar Pro: Apple and Google have both announced connected car initiatives, why has this been so long coming?

Benoit Joly: Unlike the connected home or consumer electronics industry, the car industry is something that device manufacturers have to learn more about, not being their core business. As with any other industry it has its own rules; regulatory laws are sometimes country specific, and the car is a complex object where security is obviously key. Drivers must not be distracted by a screen, by solving bugs or by having to manage software upgrades. Security must be watertight to ensure the software cannot be hacked or taken control of, etc. As we are dealing with people's physical security, you'd better make no mistakes. Investigating all of this takes time, new development teams, new experts, new organisations. It goes without saying that car manufacturers have been reluctant to be dispossessed of their strategy, they want to keep control of their brand, their user experience. Therefore the first development cycles took some time; what you are seeing now is the result of four years of work or more. And if you think back four years in time, that is when the first iPad was introduced. People had been used to smartphones and apps, they were now about to learn new use cases for the tablet and the industry had a lot of work to do to populate a meaningful ecosystem around the device. Now we see the rise of the internet of things and the incredible development of smart homes. The public is ready to adopt the use of apps for the home itself with new scenarios and usages. And finally the car is just one more connected device, more complex for sure, with the connected cities as the next step. Now is the right time for smart homes and, by extension, for the connected cars.

TRP: With all these competing systems in the market, are we on the verge of another format war?

BJ: Of course all big names in the industry want to take control of the car's OS in order to extend their ecosystem of apps and services. Google just announced the creation of the Open Automotive Alliance around Android and Apple already launched its iOS in the car strategy. Alliances have also been formed. The GENEVI for instance coordinates suppliers, software and hardware makers with car manufacturers in order to homogenise the requirements needed to bring in-vehicle connectivity and entertainment. But we think the real challenge lies in how the car connects to other devices, other apps, data or cloud services, and how far it can use that information to introduce new services. In fact, beyond the battle for the OS, it's about how the car becomes a part of the connected home, how cars can exchange information with each other and how all of this coordinates with the different elements of a connected city. For this to succeed in the long-term we need a global cross-ecosystem solution that enables full interoperability.

TRP: What does Technicolor's solution offer that its competitors' does not?

BJ: What we propose is a universal, open source solution named Qeo that comes in addition to the software embedded in the car.
Qeo is a communication framework which allows devices and apps of all brands and all ecosystems to "talk to one another" in order to invent new use cases without worrying about the technologies, formats, standards or OS used. Qeo connects the car to other cars, other devices, apps, cloud services and to the user's home. Our solution has been recently chosen by PSA Peugeot Citroen. As the world leader in Connected Home solutions, working with major operators across the world Technicolor has acquired a strong expertise in designing products, services and apps for heterogeneous ecosystems. The breadth of our customer base means taking into account a huge number of different technologies, standards and requirements. Qeo has been created to facilitate this integration work and to enable interoperability between connected devices. That's why we can today offer smart home solutions never seen before. We work closely with NSPs and car manufacturers to design complex yet seamless interactions between connected devices and cars in and out of the home. In fact we have integrated the car among the other connected devices of the home ecosystem. For instance, say someone is ringing at your door; you can answer from your car. Or you want to launch a recording on your set top box; you can do it from the car as well. With Qeo, connected devices publish their information, status, requests… and other devices using Qeo can subscribe to this information to perform advanced tasks. Here's another scenario; when you approach your home, your car will let your connected thermostat know so it and set up the right temperature for your arrival. You can also be notified in your car when your children are home, or your passengers can simply enjoy content streamed from your STB hard drive on their tablet during a journey. There are so many connected devices for smart homes, all don't necessarily use an iOS or Android system. Qeo breaks the silos here and enables us to invent new sets of applications in partnership with both cars manufacturers and NSPs, transforming their business, adding more value to their offers and reinforcing consumers' loyalty to their brands.

TRP: How important do you think discovery will be in persuading consumers to adopt the technology?

BJ: Today, devices operate on a wide variety of competitive technologies and belong to different ecosystems: Apple, Android, Windows and other proprietary solutions, which makes the user experience fragmented. Essentially, the Internet of Things as it stands today is more an incredible number of devices connected to the internet - rather than a world of interconnected devices able to interact with each other, irrespective of their manufacturer, to create a smarter experience. Qeo, as a universal and open source communication framework, is made for total interoperability between devices and applications. This means it does not rely on a particular Service Discovery Protocol. Developers can build distributed applications without having to worry about the diversity of languages, OS, or environments; they just focus on the application logic. Devices can use Bluetooth, Zigbee, Zwave, DLNA, Wi-Fi… or any other technology. That's the beauty of the solution: consumers don't need to be experts and they don't have to wonder about compatibility when they buy a new device. Based on a "publish/subscribe" architecture, the Qeo APIs and Libraries we have created are amongst the most powerful and the simplest network APIs for developers. With Qeo, devices can exchange usage data, information and status in simple ways to provide better and more seamless usage scenarios for their owners. Devices are also immediately recognised within the home network and configured through easy set-up procedures. Qeo provides insights - from multiple home networks down to individual customers, devices or applications - enabling many different types of personalisation.

TRP: What time frame do you envisage for the connected car market to go from niche concern to a mainstream proposition?

BJ: There will be huge efforts in the next two years to launch several models of connected cars. LTE has already started to be implemented in some cars and connected services will appear step by step. Some manufacturers will want to accelerate the process by adopting Android or iOS solutions. It will all depend on how far car manufacturers will want to control the driver experience, their brand and the link with their customers and their own services. It's quite similar to the Network Services Providers in fact with their TV services. So far, many operators are still reluctant to embed Android into their STB because they want to keep control on their user experience, the data generated and how to use them. Taking this as a model, many car manufacturers will want to think twice about this as well. While it's easy to offer standalone services via LTE, it's more difficult to create a full comprehensive set of services leveraging a car brand to stand out from competition. It is our goal with Qeo to help car manufacturers to do this by enabling interconnectivity between connected devices, connected homes and car. We are confident this is the best way to accelerate innovation and new types of services.

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