Harman offers hub for Android Automotive developers - Just Auto
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Harman offers hub for Android Automotive developers

By Matthew Beecham 15 Jun 2021 (Last Updated June 15th, 2021 09:07)

How does the Harman Ignite Store Developers Portal work and what exactly is SaaS? We found out.

Harman offers hub for Android Automotive developers

To streamline and accelerate the process of bringing new customer experiences into the vehicle, Harman has launched its Ignite Store Developers Portal, a developer hub dedicated to the Android Automotive community. We spoke with Albert Jordan, vice president of the Harman Ignite Store business unit to learn more.

Albert Jordan

We spoke with Harman when it launched Harman Ignite back in 2018. What is the Harman Ignite Store Developers Portal? How does this feed into the wider Ignite offering? 

Firstly, thank you for the opportunity to discuss our latest developments. As an overarching package, the Harman Ignite Store offers OEMs the opportunity to create unique brand experiences throughout the lifecycle of a vehicle, delivered in a software as a service (SaaS) model. As you rightly say, we launched Harman Ignite Store back in 2018 to support the introduction and deployment of cloud services and apps into the vehicle. Compliant with Android Automotive OS, Harman Ignite Store is a leading connected vehicle platform that enables OEMs to bring third-party applications and services to the consumer, as well as their own applications, services and Features on Demand.

Now, the Harman Ignite Store Developers Portal streamlines the application development and certification process. The Harman Ignite Store Developers Portal provides Android developers with rich documentation, code snippets, best practices from other developers, and access to our product managers, UI experts and designers. Once the app is ready, developers can submit it via the Portal to the Harman Ignite Store, where it will be tested and certified by Harman to ensure the app meets automotive-grade requirements for security, performance, driver distraction, and more. Developers also can select make and models, regions, and platforms they may choose to target.  Once an app is approved, OEMs have full control over the distribution and availability of apps in their vehicles, based on variables such as trim level, geographic location, model type. Harman Ignite Store helps to connect consumers to their favourite brands, meets the demands of today’s consumer, and is helping transform the vehicle into the ‘third living space’. 

Why does Harman see this sort of solution as a priority? 

We’re in a time of great shift for the automotive industry. Vehicles are ‘the next frontier’ for entertainment and a seamless lifestyle, as consumers have come to expect experiences that are on par with their mobile devices. The value of the car is shifting from traditional hardware to the experiences it delivers – at Harman, we refer to this as a value transition from ‘RPM to EPM’, or ‘Experiences Per Mile’.

At present, consumers may be more familiar with smartphone integrations and mirroring, but this has performance and integration limitations. The cloud and access to third-party applications and services offer significant opportunity to drive advanced experiences forward. For example, real-time navigation updates on traffic and parking availability, personal assistants, and productivity features. This platform allows developers and OEMs to work more closely together, providing a streamlined approach to bringing enhanced experiences into the vehicle.

There are other automotive app platforms out there, why should developers pick this one? What are the benefits? 

There are currently no standard Android app stores deployed commercially, aside from Google Automotive Services (GAS) Play Store. Some OEMs have sought to create their own app stores, but none have been successful. As adoption of Android is gaining steam, OEMs are looking for industry solutions to provide an alternative path to bring third party applications to the car. That’s the gap that this solution looks to fill.

Getting new apps and services into vehicles has always been challenging. In the past, it has taken years of negotiation, design reviews, integration testing and drive testing to even get one application in a vehicle. The Harman Ignite Store Developers Portal dramatically shortens and streamlines the entire process so applications can get into the automotive ecosystem and to consumers faster.

For developers, the benefits are clear. You build for this store through a self-service platform, which offers the opportunity to collaborate, test and document applications within the Portal. Harman will help affirm applications developed through the Portal to ensure they are effective and appropriate for the automotive environment. These will then be deployed for multiple OEM systems. Apps can be developed, and then only require certification once, instead of multiple certifications for individual manufacturers or systems.

Prospective developers get access to many of the top global automotive OEMs through the platform, but it is also possible for them to be more targeted with their product and focus on a specific region, brand and/or vehicle. Developers gain access to a variety of resources including toolkits, technical documentation, best practices, code samples, training and other development aids, and can monitor app performance, receiving insights that will help with future enhancements.

Can you expand on what the benefits are for OEMs? How will this trickle through to the end consumer?

The Developers Portal will allow OEMs to drive new branded and integrated experiences through their products, creating the rich, in-vehicle experiences that their customers demand. Direct engagement with developers will result in content that is consistently new for OEMs while maintaining full discretion over the implementation of apps through the Harman Ignite Store and into a brand’s vehicles. OEMs can also benefit from new digital revenue streams, while minimising the traditional costs associated with pursuing new technology solutions. The solution is built to be flexible, so manufacturers can bring in whichever navigation system it prefers, from TomTom, to MapBox and HERE.

For consumers, this flexibility means the installation of third-party apps that already improve their day-to-day lives will now be easily accessible in their vehicle and allows for content that is continuously fresh and personalised via Over-the-Air (OTA) updates. Harman Ignite Store will help accelerate new in-vehicle experiences, such as the cloud ecosystem reminding drivers of upcoming appointments, placing coffee orders as you approach a preferred coffee shop, and assisting productivity with office-related apps.

There are real concerns within the industry and from consumers about the impact of cloud services on data privacy and cyber-security. What has Harman done to address this?

As a company, we implement cybersecurity across the entire product development lifecycle. OEMs and application owners will set their policies on data collection, usage and privacy. Ignite does not collect any PII (personal identifiable information), and we are in alignment with our OEM customers in ensuring that the end-user retains ownership of their data.

And what is the process for ensuring that apps meet automotive-grade safety requirements?

Harman’s certification process ensures a high level of quality and that all apps and services are appropriate to use in an automotive context. We advocate a templatised approach to address driver distraction issues. More precisely, OEMs can customise the templates to fit their guidelines, which is beneficial to the third-party developer, as they don’t have to modify their apps to suit the guideline requirements of each OEM. 

How quickly could an app be developed? When could we expect to see apps created through this solution in production models?

The portal significantly shortens the timescale of app development. Developing an app for Android Automotive can, at times, take up to a year to complete. With the Harman Ignite Store Developers Portal, that can be possible in a few months, or even weeks. We are already offering a variety of applications via the Harman Ignite Store, such as Spotify, Yelp, LiveXLive, Radioplayer, and Parkopedia, and are welcoming new partners at an increasing rate – AudioBurst was announced in April.

We are in conversations with several OEMs about Harman Ignite Store, and in the development stage with major global OEMs who will be benefiting from this. We expect public announcements to be made soon. Our ambitions for Harman Ignite Store are big – there is a lot on offer for OEMs through the solution.