Embedded Software Manufacturing Key to Auto Industry

June 5, 2012
Embedded systems in each vehicle enable in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems to provide capabilities such as telematics, safety systems, entertainment, and more. The IVI software development process could be improved by essentially “industrializing” development.

The rapid change of pace in consumer technology, like smart phones and other portable devices, is helping shape car sales as automakers integrate the latest wave of capabilities into vehicles to satisfy growing consumer demand. Yet, this trend brings additional challenges to car companies and the embedded software manufacturers that make such integration possible.

Called in-vehicle infotainment (IVI), the systems provide capabilities, such as telematics, safety systems, entertainment, communication and information connectivity that are increasingly being featured in today’s automobiles. Embedded software in each vehicle enables IVI devices to provide specific capabilities and is therefore a huge consideration, because IVI systems are becoming key criteria for vehicle purchases. According to Accenture studies, the IVI and telematics global market is expected to exceed $70 billion this year and $80 billion by 2014. Moreover, Accenture estimates that IVI technologies could add up to $200 in revenues per vehicle every year in mature markets like the United States as drivers and passengers increase the use of IVI services.

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While this is good news for the industry, the fast rate of technology change could make it more difficult for some embedded software providers and automakers to remain competitive in the IVI market. Their challenge is further exacerbated by the growing complexity of IVI devices, ever-shorter product cycles, and constantly changing demand. To succeed in this business environment, software providers will need to take a more standardized, enterprise-wide and scalable approach to core embedded software development—in effect, industrializing the software process.

Software manufacturing
The process involves five elements embedded software manufacturers can adopt to improve product quality, and effect better utilization of people, processes, and costs to create predictable results and work more effectively with automakers in the IVI market.

  1. Define the work: Develop a standard methodology that defines what work needs to be completed, how it can best be accomplished, and that employs a series of gated milestones.
  2. Be consistent: Establish consistent processes that support the steps or tasks defined by the methodology.
  3. Automate the process: Use standardized tools that automate the activities defined by the methodology and processes.
  4. Create a solutions platform:  Employ layered architecture that provides a robust platform for solutions.
  5. Measure performance: Institute appropriate metrics that enable defined, consistent and quantifiable measures of delivery performance.

The industrialized process benefits companies in several ways. Engineers at any of an organization’s locations can reuse proven software codes and designs instead of reinventing everything from scratch. Compressing these “cycles of learning” can have a dramatic impact on quality and time to market.  Companies that want to adopt such a strategy must first create a culture of reuse throughout the organization.

Industrializing the software development process also can help manufacturers partition software into optimized, “independent” layers, with each layer responsible for a distinct set of activities. This in turn makes it easier, faster and safer to implement changes to the software. This approach is particularly helpful for medium to large-scale development typically implemented by geographically dispersed teams within a multinational software provider supporting the global IVI market.

Lastly, industrialization promotes multi-functional collaboration within an organization, which is a must if companies expect to produce software products that keep pace with changing IVI market demand. Software is not developed in isolation. But, rather requires a multi-disciplinary team involving engineering, marketing, product management, program management, training, sales, and other functions.

Embedded software is at the center of a dynamic IVI growth market.  For software providers and automakers to fully take advantage of its promise, there will need to be an industrialized approach applied to embedded software development.

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James Robbins, [email protected] is automotive industry & industrial equipment industry North American managing director with Accenture (www.accenture.com), a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company.