Does software standardization stifle innovation?
January 20, 2016
Many things in our world have become "smart." We've had smartphones for some time, but now we have smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, smart cars,...
Many things in our world have become “smart.” We’ve had smartphones for some time, but now we have smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, smart cars, and even smart cities. And this “smartness” has all been introduced through software as a key for innovation.
At the same time, the use of open source software (OSS) and the quest for standardization have become strong trends. One might think that these trends kill innovation since competition is often its engine. However, a closer look suggests that OSS and standardization can greatly accelerate innovation.
The growth of smart electronics and the resulting number of lines of code have been exponential in traditional industries during the past decade. A car equipped with an infotainment system and other smart features might have more than 100 million lines of code. Automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are struggling with this increasing complexity and look to the combination of standardization and innovation to manage essential changes driven by new regulations, enhancements of electronic components, and the need to optimize costs.
Maximizing reuse of code modules is absolutely necessary because rewriting the code is cost and time prohibitive. Standardization and the use of OSS can help, as reuse might not apply only on proprietary code modules, but often does on open code modules that have been improved, debugged, and hardened by other users in the community.
Since its early days, GENIVI, the automotive industry alliance for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI), has managed the balance between standardization and necessary freedom to allow competition and innovation. Consensus is needed to standardize modules such as application programming interfaces (APIs).
To grow consensus step by step, GENIVI produces guidance documents including a Reference Architecture and a Compliance Specification. The Reference Architecture serves as a blueprint for building a full IVI solution and shows the target functional areas of GENIVI’s work. The Compliance Specification steers the standardization, specifying exactly what is expected in the architecture implementation to build a GENIVI Compliant solution. The requirements listed in the specification can point to existing code implementations, interface implementations, or simple behavior descriptions depending on the functional domain.
This approach provides performance and flexibility, resulting in a reusable core that is developed commonly on noncompetitive areas (e.g., a Bluetooth stack) so that more time and effort can be given to innovative and customer-facing features. GENIVI hosts several types of runtime open source code projects (see http://projects.genivi.org), which include specific component implementations, API implementations and their proofs of concept, as well as two middleware baselines that prove the consistency of the GENIVI architecture and the compliance specification. GENIVI hosts software-tooling projects as well.
Using the available standard platform unlocks the potential for innovative software to be produced by specialized software companies and start-ups. This innovative software becomes even more valuable to the OEM customer because it is easily integrated into the products that leverage the standard platform.
So, you can see that in the GENIVI context, standardization can be a great innovation accelerator. We invite software companies of all sizes to consider participating in this unique software community where standardization and innovation work side by side. GENIVI has programs for engaging small companies and start-ups interested in producing software for the car. For more information, contact our Executive Director at [email protected].