Apps in Volume Production

Consulting, development, project management for automotive apps and connecting them to backends: IAV has comprehensive expertise for integrating mobile devices into the vehicle

Since 2010, IAV has consolidated its expertise and tools in the Automotive App Competence Center (AACC). The experts develop mobile applications for Android, iOS and Windows platforms – from concept, design and implementation to publication and regular updates. Various reference projects demonstrate the broad range of competences in the IAV team.

Integrating apps and mobile devices is increasingly becoming a key differentiating factor for automobile manufacturers. In the car too, consumers expect to have access to personal data and their favorite apps as well as the capability of controlling vehicle functions by smartphone. This is where a close link is needed between IT and automotive expertise – because when consumer electronics access the CAN bus or the infotainment system, vehicle security must at no time be at risk. For this, IAV uses interfaces that restrict the access rights to apps and communicate data through encrypted protocols.

In developing prototypes and volume production apps, IAV’s experts champion the agile development method of scrum. It provides an approach for reliably making a success of complex projects too – with the developers realizing sub-functions of the app successively in “sprints” of two to three weeks so that projects continually grow in this rhythm. “Scrum is a good choice if you’re not absolutely sure at the start of development what exactly you want to end up with”, says Jens Reinhold, head of the Vehicle Cockpit Devices department at IAV.

Automatic measurement of code quality

Numbering almost twenty, the staff from the Automotive App Competence Center attach particular importance to the quality of processes and measurement while developing apps for volume production. “We test the code automatically to identify faults and poor programming style early on in the process”, explains Katharina Gehrmann, team manager of Automotive Apps Development. “To do this, we have developed a process for Volkswagen that measures quality using specific metrics and points out areas that can be improved.”

Over recent years, the AACC has produced numerous apps for volume production. One of them is the Think Blue. Trainer for Volkswagen for Android smartphones. The infotainment system’s MirrorLink function is used for this app – it makes it possible to display apps from the driver’s smartphone in the vehicle’s infotainment system and conveniently use them on the infotainment system’s large touchscreen while driving.

On the road, the Think Blue. Trainer sets the driver various exercises which he or she can solve by adopting an anticipatory driving style. For this, the app communicates with the vehicle's electronics through the SAI (Standard App Interface), which was developed by the IAV team in cooperation with VW in order, for example, to display fuel consumption, the “Blue Score” and coasting distance. The app’s five training levels each consist of three exercises. For example, they ask the driver to follow the gearshift recommendations shown on the multifunctional display or to decelerate ecologically by coasting. With each training exercise successfully completed, the user collects virtual medals and gradually becomes an expert in fuel-efficient driving.

In-house app development, consulting and managing component suppliers

Besides mobile applications for smartphones, the team has also developed several near-production prototypes of smart-watch applications for Volkswagen’s Car-Net mobile online services platform and displayed them at various trade shows, like CES, IAA or IFA. They can be used, for example, for remote control of the air-conditioning in an electric or hybrid vehicle and to operate its locking system.

But the team does not only carry out its own development work – it also oversees all the development activities of app development partners. “If requested by an OEM, we also take care of the entire coordination and management of app development”, reports Tobias Breßler, manager of the Automotive Apps Consulting team. “We also act as consultants to our customers.” Apart from the Think Blue. Trainer, the AACC has also supervised the work involved in developing the apps MyGuide (a pilot to special destinations), Shared Audio (using music on the smartphones of all vehicle occupants) and Media Control (controlling the infotainment systems from the back seats) for Volkswagen.

In addition to making apps for volume production, various other prototype apps have also been produced for different clients. This is another area in which customers benefit from the team’s comprehensive expertise in efficiently providing vehicle information on the smartphone, evaluating this in apps or even controlling vehicle functions with the app. The AACC team also takes care of providing the link to a backend system. “This is important, for example, in the logistics industry”, Reinhold says. “Here, apps for the truck must be connected with the company servers so that the fleet administrators can manage vehicles in an optimum way.”

Full range of services right through to the hardware

From concept and implementation to support and regular updates: IAV’s AACC team provides support throughout the development process and life cycle of the mobile application. IAV also offers the appropriate hardware and associated interface libraries for mobile apps for the process of integrating them into the vehicle. These control units integrated in the vehicle network can be adapted to the requirements of any OEMs and connect the smartphone by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi with the vehicle.