TU catches up with Rick Kreifeldt, chairman and president of the AVnu Alliance and vice president of research and innovation at HARMAN, to discuss opportunities and challenges to delivering state-of-the-art audio video bridging technology
1) You wear several different hats professionally, one with the AVnu Alliance, one with HARMAN international. Can you start by providing a quick introduction to your various roles and a bit of background on the AVnu Alliance?
For Harman I am head of corporate research, where I do work across all of our business units—automotive, including infotainment and audio systems, consumer electronics, professional electronics—all the different areas where Harman plays.
HARMAN was involved in the very early days with the IEEE standardization to make sure it worked for all our different businesses, whether automotive or consumer applications or professional electronics, so that’s how I became involved with AVnu Alliance.
AVnu was formed several years ago with the goal of bringing together different industries to take this technology called audio video bridging, in the IEEE standard, as a next-generation standard for streaming audio and video. With IEE providers, they make specifications and write standards, but it’s up to industry to come together and decide what those standards mean for the different constituencies.
2) This spring AVnu Alliance announced the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) will be the test house for the certification program of AVB devices. Is this test house the first of its kind? How will it impact the industry?
University of New Hampshire is the gold standard for all Ethernet testing, and the majority of this audio video bridging technology is over Ethernet. They’ve got a lot of experience; they’re also one of our members and they’re a test house for us. The partnership is to develop a great suite of interoperability compliance tests. AVnu Alliance will then give certification based on companies passing these tests.
3) In practice, how is this going to work? Is there a waiting list? How long will companies have to wait to get full AVnu interoperability certification?
This is not unlike what you do for Wi-Fi certification or HTML certification. They’ll have capacity. There will be a queue and we’ll try to make sure we have plenty of capacity for people, and that’s something we’ll have to feel out and ramp that up as necessary. If needed, we can ramp up other test houses around the globe, but UNH will always be our main development partner for this. As far as timing, we’ll have devices this summer that are going to enter into the certification program. We’re actually very far along on this.
4) The Alliance is focused on applications of these technologies in the automotive, consumer electronics and professional A/V markets. What are some of the biggest opportunities?
Each of those areas has its own set of opportunities. That’s one thing that makes it a bit of a challenge in the alliance. In the professional space, where we have a lot of our early success, this is around large facilities that are trying to bring higher quality AV networking with a lot lower operational costs. The glory of this technology is that because it’s a standard that people can build into all their products, you don’t have as much overhead and configuration that a lot of propriety things have.
On the automotive side, we see a huge explosion of need there. Traditionally networking in the car involves things like the AV side for audio that we’ve been doing for years. Now you see a lot of video coming into play with surround view, back-up cameras. We also see a ton of other sensors gaining traction. When you look at the number of CAN networks, FlexRay and all the things going on inside the car today, we see a real opportunity for unification and cross-domain communication. You might have a sound system or infotainment navigation system that’s in tune with sensors in the engine control unit or headlights that are modified by knowing from the navigation system that there’s a curve in the road upcoming. So you have lots and lots of reasons for traditionally separated domains to now start communicating back and forth.
5) We’re in the midst of such growth in the telematics and infotainment industry, with so many new solutions and technologies coming to market. At the same time, some people liken it to the Wild Wild West, where it’s pretty lawless, people doing what they want, how they want, and auto OEMs therefore have myriad different choices and platforms to adopt. I have to imagine this is one of the biggest challenges and market hurdles that you face?
I think it’s actually the reverse because the automakers are really trying to push the front edge with all of these sensors and all this data flowing around the car. And it’s been tough for them because so much is having to be invented, so they see this as a major benefit where instead of having something completely proprietary or only for the auto industry, now I can have an ecosystem of silicon providers who have other markets. It’s not just a one-off of the auto industry. So there’s a real advantage because if you’re a supplier of these kinds of products, they can work in all these different markets and you’ve made the investment once on the silicon side and it’s not just a one-off for automotive. For OEMs there’s a huge advantage of this being a standardized technology.
6) You mentioned the challenge of getting various different industries to work in harmony. Can you elaborate on that and discuss possible solutions?
This is a challenge for AVnu alliance because we have a pretty broad constituency looking through all these different markets. Other alliances are dealing with this as well. It comes down to having a really good ecosystem of people inside the alliance who are working to make sure that their industry is taken care of. The flipside advantage of this is that, where one particular industry will take the lead on a particular item because they have a larger need, those advancements can then flow into the other groups. It might be something that’s started first, for example, work on 10 gig will be taken on on the professional electronics side first, but maybe further down the line that will have application to consumer electronics.
7) Looking ahead, what are you most excited about it in the coming few years? Do you think we’re going to experience a leap forward in in-car solutions?
For me, if you look at it in general, audio video networking is in a small percentage of cars today, it’s really in the high-end luxury cars. Unfortunately that causes lots of issues around weight, cost, and flexibility. If I’m trying to have a more mainstream car but want to add some advanced safety features, it’s often difficult because there’s not a way to pass around the data or get access to the data, so it slows down the innovation process. So one thing I’m really excited about as we get these more intelligence car systems that are communicating in a more intelligent manner, where each device itself is a much more intelligent device and you get this network architecture where these devices can communicate together, and we have it in this ecosystem of lots of different silicon solutions, then we can see a lot faster adoption.