One of the sure signs that open source is taking hold in computing is that it is spreading far beyond its heartland, the datacentre.
Smartphones have been perhaps the most visible manifestation of this, but the world of embedded systems, where the operating system is even less evident than with mobile phones, is potentially even more important, for the simple reason that it embraces so many different sectors, each of which is economically significant in its own right.
Leading automobile manufacturers and suppliers announced today the formation of the GENIVI Alliance, a non-profit organization committed to driving the development and broad adoption of an open source In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) reference platform.
The new alliance will unite industry-leading automotive, consumer electronics, communications and application development companies investing in the IVI market and driving innovation. The effort will result in both reducing time-to-market and total cost of ownership.
GENIVI Alliance founding members BMW Group, Delphi, General Motors Corp., Intel, Magneti Marelli, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Visteon Corp., and Wind River are collaborating to create a shared GENIVI platform - a common software architecture that is scalable across product lines and generations.
The GENIVI platform will accelerate the pace at which automakers can deliver new solutions, bringing them closer to the lifecycle of consumer devices, and accelerating new business models, such as connected services.
As the site explains:
IVI is a rapidly growing and evolving field that encompasses automotive infotainment products and services including music, news, Internet and multimedia, navigation and location, and telephony.
Automobile manufacturers and their suppliers must develop, test, deploy and support these IVI products and services across multiple automobile models and generations, which is becoming increasingly complex and expensive as the rate of innovation and number of applications continues to expand exponentially.
Open source is perfect for a fragmented market, with a large number of constantly-updated models and platforms to support. Proprietary code is typically controlled by one or a few companies, who carry out most of the programming, which acts as a bottleneck for new implementations.
Open source code, by contrast, can be taken by any manufacturer and adapted for their platform, without needing to ask permission.
The use of common code allows standardisation and component cost reduction. Taken together, these factors drive the creation of an open and vibrant ecosystem around the open source, something much harder to obtain when one or two suppliers control proprietary solutions.
The FAQ spells out some details:
The GENIVI open source platform consists of linux-based core services, middleware, and open application layer interfaces. These are the essential, but non-differentiating, core elements of the overall IVI solution set.
The automobile manufacturers and their suppliers will use this platform as their common underlying framework and add to it their differentiated products and services (the consumer facing applications and interfaces). GENIVI is identifying these common automotive infotainment industry requirements to establish a higher baseline from which to develop products for the common good of the ecosystem.
This makes it clear that open source is being used for the lower levels of the stack, which have become commoditised. Meanwhile, higher up - “the consumer facing applications and interfaces” - suppliers can add their own innovations:
The GENIVI IVI platform does not currently address the highly competitive areas such as user interfaces and logic that defines the end-user experience. The alliance is built on the notion that user interfaces and logic are what distinguishes products and thus, should remain in the domain of the vendors who design and deliver the device and software.