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September 30, 2013

Remote Application Framework from Solution57 Delivers True In-Car Multiscreen Experiences for Android Smartphones

Just about 11 months ago, we wrote an article that spoke to the fact that in-car Wi-Fi was about to take off on a long journey, and in that article, we spoke at length about Miracast and Mirrorlink, two technologies that, in the simplest of terms, focus on methods for connecting in-car dash screen displays to smartphones. Miracast is directly related to Wi-Fi connectivity within autos, while Mirrorlink specifically looks to mirror (hence the name) two screens.

Both Miracast and Mirrorlink are useful but at the end of the day they do not create the sort of second screen or multiscreen experiences that sophisticated users - simply because they now have so much functionality available on their smartphones - strongly desire. Further, let's suppose that the driver of a car wants to use a smartphone's navigation app and use the car's dashboard display for it while another person wants to run a different application on the same smartphone.

Neither Miracast nor Mirrorlink are able to deliver on this functionality that allows a driver to independently run a smartphone app and view it on a car's display while a second user can run whatever app that user wants whole and utilizing the smartphone's display. That is, the desire is to both multitask and maintain separate views into both apps. The car display doesn't simply "mirror" the smartphone's display - rather the car's display becomes an extension of the smartphone and provides a fully separate second screen.

Well, if you happen to be an Android smartphone user the limitations of both Miracast and Mirrorlink on this front are about to be rectified. Solution57 has introduced its Remote Application Framework (RAF), which will allow users to multi-task applications and use separate screens to do so. In truth, RAF can be used outside of our automobile example but the technology does lend itself extremely well to this task.

There is one kink in the dream however. The device that serves as the second display and window into the smartphone apps being multitasked (it could just as easily be a tablet running those apps we should note) needs to also have an operating system and be capable of running a Solution57 app that makes the second screen capabilities possible. It doesn't have to be Android.

This requirement lends itself particularly well to the auto industry - where car manufacturers are already either running proprietary operating systems or more likely QNX, which is a huge staple of the auto industry. The second display cannot simply be the equivalent of a "dumb terminal." The auto vendors use these operating systems to power their in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) devices and mapping systems and as long as the Solutions57 app is available on those the displays associated with these IVIs become usable with any Android mobile device.

As we noted above the IVI is in fact actually running a second display application that connects with the Android mobile device that in turn is running the actual host application or applications. That second display on the IVI is able to control the apps running on the mobile device and switch between any that are running (let's say Google Maps and your music app). Meanwhile, if you want to let your kid play a game simultaneously on the Android device itself - no problem!

RAF does not require any special changes to be made to Android and developers do not need to make any onerous changes to their apps for the interface to work. The greatest challenge for Solution57, which is based in Denmark, is to get the word out that it is in fact possible to Android users to take advantage of the technology. For the automotive market that means the manufacturers themselves need to get on board and spread the word to their customers.

It would also make a great deal of sense to get the Mirrorlink committee working on the Mirrorlink specifications - the Car Connectivity Consortium - to perhaps simply make RAF part of the Mirrorlink specification - that would certainly eliminate the need for Solution57 to have to spend the preponderance of its time cheerleading as the largest part of it RAF sales efforts in signing deals.

The target date for first releases is the middle of 2014. If RAF catches on perhaps Google will step in to find a way to formalize RAF's inclusion within Android on a more formal basis.

The RAF platform certainly solves an interesting problem. Rather it isn't really a problem it is solving - rather it is expanding the realm of possibilities. We like that. While we wait, below is a short video that demonstrates how RAF can be used within the context of automotive IVI systems.

Edited by Ryan Sartor

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