Siegfried Schuler

Siegfried Schuler

The IT industry has made much of the benefits of a Cloud infrastructure, offering better security and less complex networks in the workplace. Infotainment specialist Harman with subsidiary Aha claims its use in the car could be equally effective. It is now offering OEMs and service providers a chance to use the Cloud beyond downloading apps, navigation updates or music.  Understanding what features are being used by the end customer, finding software bugs, removing unused features, reducing recalls or targeting specific customers with updates and advertising are just some of the ideas that Harman claims it can offer with its new Aha Cloud Platform Analytics and Updates Service. just-auto spoke to Siegfried Schuler, Director Centre of Competence Aha, about the service and find out what OEMs are most interested in.

Before we start can you tell us what Aha is?

Sure, Aha Radio is service that via an app enables customers to easily access and organise their favourite content from the web into personalised, on-demand stations. With Aha Radio on your phone you can take this content wherever you go, notably into the car.  We already have over 14 OEMs signed up to offer Aha Radio integration. These include Acura, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Porsche, Scion, Subaru and Toyota as well as Tier One and aftermarket infotainment suppliers such as Alpine, LG, Clarion and Johnson Controls.

Is Aha owned by Harman?

Yes it is. It was initially created in Silicon Valley in 2008 and purchased in 2010 by Harman and now it's an integral part of the Harman Group. We have Harman engineers both in the US and Europe working on Aha projects and with its integration into our head units, it is a part of the development process for many of infotainment platforms.

Focussing on the car, what kind of services would we see?

We have pitched Aha as a single integration point for bringing the widest range of web material safely into the car.  That means over 100,000 channels today including personalised music with services from organisations such as Slacker and Deezer. There are audio books and podcasts too with no downloading needed. We also have a unique way of presenting Twitter and Facebook updates via text to speech, a method that minimises distraction and you can also use Aha Radio for finding hotels, coffee shops or fuel.

Is it widespread? It's not so familiar in the UK for instance.

For sure it is more widespread in the US but it is spreading; by the end of 2013, there were over two million Aha-enabled cars on the road and it is already available in more than 50 markets. These include Europe, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Australia. OEMs such as Porsche are promoting the Aha feature which is helping swell the take up. The next countries where the service will be available will be South America, Russia, India and China. Then you'll start hearing more about Aha!

So you already have this function in head units but what is the new service you are talking about today?

With the infrastructure in place, we have the ability to offer two key elements - analytics and updates. For analytics, we can access important information and also send information or software about or to the car. This can be used to both improve and upgrade services with a focus on the engineering advantage. This happens at both a micro and macro level. For example at a micro level, we can capture information on every single event on a single day and see what features or functions are used and when.  This helps to find bugs faster as we can easily reproduce what caused a glitch. We can also capture data on a macro level and record what happens over days, months or years. This will provide a real insight into driver behaviour that can fed into future HMI or infotainment development. Let me give an example. Now we can see the effect of using the 'phone whilst driving and if this increases the rate of collision alerts. We believe this will provide a much deeper understanding of the real world workload of the driver, going beyond the lab and with so many users out there, at an unprecedented scale.

With reference to the updates side, we can send new software to the car without the owner having to go to the dealer. This will lower warranty costs and be more convenient for the customer. For the OEM, this could positively affect JD Power or similar consumer rating and help to keep the car current. We think as an ongoing quality management tool, it is very powerful.

What about data protection? You appear to be collecting data on driving behaviour?

The remainder of this interview is available on just-auto's QUBE Global light vehicle OE connectivity market- forecasts to 2030