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Bluetooth, NFC Potential Seen In Aftermarket


Bluetooth and nearfield communications
(NFC) technologies could become the technologies
of choice for aftermarket mobile electronics suppliers
that want to offer new convenience features to

Harman International pointed the way at the recent
Geneva Auto Show, where a demo vehicle’s seat positions
and infotainment- and navigation-system settings
were adjusted automatically when an NFC-embedded
smartphone was placed near a thin, flat NFC antenna
embedded in the vehicle’s passenger compartment.
NFC requires a distance of 4 inches or less to operate.

No NFC or Bluetooth standards yet exist for such
applications, but aftermarket car-A/V and security suppliers
don’t have to wait. They could bypass the lack of
standards by developing proprietary apps for NFC-enabled
smartphones that would communicate with the
suppliers’ NFC-enabled
head units or security systems.

For security suppliers,
greater potential exists in
using Bluetooth in lieu of
NFC to eliminate the need
to tap a phone against
an NFC antenna, which
would have to be mounted
on the inside of a vehicle’s window if someone wanted
to disarm a security system before entering. Bluetooth
could also be the first choice of aftermarket car-A/V
suppliers because Bluetooth is already embedded in
so many aftermarket head units.

To automatically control adjust a vehicle’s seat and
mirror positions or climate-control settings, the aftermarket
security and car-A/V systems would plug into
an OEM-integration module along the lines of those
available from Automotive Data Systems (ADS). The
Canadian company already offers firmware-upgradable
universal modules that integrate aftermarket security/
remote-start systems to OEM digital databuses, enabling
those systems to remotely control factory door
locks and starters. ADS is also developing a universal
module that will retain the functionality of OEM infotainment
systems from multiple automakers when an
aftermarket head unit is installed.

“It’s technically possible to interface with these features
if available on [a vehicle’s OEM] CAN network,”
said ADS marketing director Dan Facciolo. Added
ADS audio engineering
director Mark Rutledge, “If
[car-A/V suppliers] decided
to provide this communication
between phones
and their radios, we could
certainly provide access
to the vehicle systems.”

For now, few if any aftermarket security/convenience
systems control seat and mirror positions, suppliers
said, although Audiovox said some of its FlashLogic
OEM-integration modules for security/convenience
systems can be programmed with preferred settings
only for the driver’s seat.

“We are exploring the addition of more features [to
the FlashLogic modules] but are in the very early stages
of this,” an Audiovox spokesman said. “We are also
in the very early stages of exploring SPP [Bluetooth
serial port profile] and Bluetooth interaction.”

Bluetooth makes the most sense for security/convenience/
remote-start systems, said ADS’s Rutledge. “If
NFC is used, the range is quite limited, and from what I
understand, not suitable for remote start or keyless access.
However, many people are building products to
use Bluetooth for this, including us. We are launching
a telematics product later this year with Bluetooth built
in for this and other features.”

Because Bluetooth operates up to 33 feet, it could
be used to automatically disarm a security system
as the owner walks toward a vehicle. Once a phone
and a device are paired, they automatically find each
other when in range, and to consumers, “this behavior
should appear to be automatic and nearly instantaneous,”
Bluetooth SIG executive director Mike Foley
told TWICE.

Automatic arming is another matter, however, because
a security system would arm itself only when it
breaks communication with a paired phone, meaning
the driver would have to walk about 30 feet from a vehicle
before the security system arms itself.

Using Bluetooth apps to
automatically adjust vehicle
and entertainment systems
settings “can easily
be done,” Bluetooth SIG’s
Foley told TWICE. “What
goes over the connection
is opaque to Bluetooth itself,
so it is a way of doing
proprietary applications.”
He added, “Any commands can be sent. If the car is
able to accept commands from a serial port (or they
write an adapter to enable this), it really is trivial to do.”
All the aftermarkets suppliers have to do is “just write a
custom profile and let the end user download the app/
profile from the smartphone marketplace,” he said.

One drawback to using Bluetooth instead of NFC
is security, said Hans Roth, business development director
for Harman’s infotainment division in Germany.
“NFC is very secure,” he explained. “It is peer-to-peer,
not distributed to several receivers at the same time.”
NFC is also encrypted, operates at maximum ranges
of 4 inches, and could be made to operate at a range
of a half-inch depending on the material covering the
antenna, he said.

That was among the reasons Harman demonstrated
NFC technology at the Geneva Auto Show, where with
the tap of a smartphone, a Harman OEM infotainment
system automatically adjusted seat positions, favorite
music and settings for Harman’s HALOsonic Electronic
Sound Synthesis system, preferred touchscreen
visualizations, emails, contacts
and calendar entries
as well as Facebook and
Twitter accounts via the
company’s Aha platform.

To bring such capabilities
to the aftermarket car-A/V
side, Roth noted, head-unit
suppliers would be challenged to find enough front-panel
real estate to place a paper-thin 0.25- by 0.25-inch NFC
antenna, which would communicate with an NFC chip
that must be within millimeters of the antenna. However,
aftermarket suppliers could outboard a combined antenna/
chip module for placement in the passenger compartment
and connect it via cable to the head unit, he said.
The antenna/chip module would be only a couple of millimeters
thick, he said.

Because no NFC or Bluetooth standards yet exist for
controlling vehicle or head-unit settings, aftermarket
suppliers would have to create proprietary command
sets and their own applications to run on NFC- or Bluetooth-
equipped smartphones, Roth told TWICE.