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Can telematics slow developer job woes?

Advances in computer technologies for the automotive industry -- better known as telematics -- are creating important markets for software developers. A recent CEA Market Research study, entitled "Mobile Telematics Interest and Awareness," found that 87% of car owners are familiar with telematics devices, up from 61% in a study done six years earlier. Industry watchers are expecting U.S. sales of telematics systems to reach 1.6 million by 2006.

A key source of that growth, according to Renesas Technology America, will come from so-called vehicle-based entertainment services. Last year, this U.S. subsidiary of a joint venture between Hitachi Ltd. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. set out to accelerate the proliferation of telematics and "car infotainment systems" (CIS) products based on its SuperH (SH-4 series) RISC processors and chipsets by launching the Community Enabling Telematics (COMET) initiative.

Headquartered in Tokyo, Renesas designs and manufactures integrated semiconductor system solutions for mobile, networking, automotive, industrial and digital home electronics markets. The company describes COMET as "a community-based initiative aimed at efficiently delivering comprehensive telematics solutions to the market."

That community currently has 19 members, including IBM, ScanSoft, Fonix Corp. and Wind River Systems, among others, who joined the COMET partnership program to collaborate and deliver integrated platform-based telematics solutions that help end users to accelerate the development of automotive devices.

Thus far, the program has produced "fine-tuned, automotive-grade reference platforms that let system engineers easily evaluate different system solutions for new designs," said Tatsuo Yamamoto, vice president of the SuperH system solution business unit at Renesas.

Phase I of the program focused on porting middleware on the CIS platform, and porting operating software and middleware to the Biscayne platform. "Phase II," which the company said began last week, capitalizes on the success of the initial implementation and further expands the range of partner solutions that run on SH-based platforms, Yamamoto said. Planned new additions to the group's comprehensive one-box system development solutions for in-vehicle products include browsers, GUIs and embedded databases.

Speech solutions provider ScanSoft was among a number of vendors who voiced support for the COMET program. "We are using the COMET partnership with Renesas to develop our next generational speech applications for the automotive industry, such as voice destination entry (VDE)," said Alan Schwartz, GM of ScanSoft's Embedded Speech Solutions Group in a statement. "The software and hardware solutions available in COMET give us the power and flexibility to push the boundaries of what speech recognition and text to speech can do on embedded devices."

Wind River, a leading embedded software and services provider, disclosed last week that it had just recently joined the COMET program. Wind River provides market-specific embedded platforms that integrate real-time operating systems, development tools and technologies. According to Marc Serughetti, Wind River's director of marketing for automotive, industrial, aerospace and defense, working with the COMET Program is another way for the company to deliver integrated, platform-based telematics and infotainment solutions that help its customers to accelerate the development of automotive devices. The company will be working with its COMET partners to build solutions based on the Wind River Platform for Car Infotainment, Serughetti said.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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