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Harman India is a well recognised name in the country when it comes in-car infotainment. The company however, is one of the leaders when it comes to professional and consumer lifestyle markets as well, and is headquartered in Bangalore.
When spoken about audio systems for vehicles, they play a key role in other parameters apart from playing music. Wanting to understand more about Harman India's automotive infotainment, we speak to Prathab Deivanayagham, the Senior Director for Connected Car at Harman.
A few years ago, car audio systems were considered luxury, while now it has become a basic essential. What do you think set off this trend?
Smartphone trend is the key contributor, as consumers want to stay connected to their devices while on the go. The phone experience being comparable to the rich colored touch screen displays is also a key driver for rapid increase of audio systems in India.
Integration of technologies such as Apple CarPlay and Google's Android Auto into audio systems provide seamless user experience while on the move. Connected audio also enhances safety while driving, as it provides a safe method of connecting with phones, reverse parking guidance, etc.
Harman at the moment is an OEM product for car brands. How did the journey start?
Harman is a house of brands — we own over 14 consumer facing brands encompassing professional, consumer, and automotive audio & acoustic space. However, when it comes to OEM products, we like to position ourselves as the "ingredient brand" that powers and "connects" OEM vehicles.
Harman has had a long history in the automotive OEM space. Millions of cars across the globe are powered by HARMAN Infotainment products. We cater from entry to premium segments, cutting across all brands of OEMs. We are leaders in this space positioned by our technology, product range and customer relationship.
Our journey in India started with Tata Motors, which has evolved into a strategic long term partnership and has helped bring several segment-first features to the market.
Infotainment systems today are much more than mere music players. What does the future hold?
Standalone infotainment systems of today are evolving into central computation platforms which integrate cockpit electronics consisting of infotainment, instrument cluster, and Head-Up Displays (HUDs). Such a computation platform will combine both safety critical, and non-safety critical features, by using capable systems on chip and hypervisor virtualization. It will provide features such as high definition maps, advanced driver assistance, personalization, pedestrian warning and 360 degree camera views.
Combined with the integration of several vehicle sensors and natural voice-based personal assistants, we will reach a level of semi-autonomous driving, with minimal driver distraction. Cloud connectivity and computing will also help perform predictive analysis of driving patterns, vehicle health, and maintenance.
Connected cars are becoming increasingly popular. How has Harman contributed towards this?
Harman's platforms are designed in line with the evolution of connected cars. Our capability spans across the spectrum of connected car, including infotainment devices, telematics, audio, cloud and services. In the recently concluded CES, Harman showcased a host of technological developments, particularly Life-Enhancing Intelligent Vehicle Solutions (LIVS), which brings together separate connectivity and operational domains under a new, holistic automotive compute platform. It will be highly personalized, intuitive, and adaptive to users.
It is capable of learning and anticipating the user's preferences; and passengers can communicate with the system by voice, hand gestures, physical controls or touch and/ or a combination of these technologies, based on each passenger's preferences. Likewise, the interior adapts to the particular driving situation seamlessly.
Where do you see connected car technology in 5 years from now? Is connected car technology the future and what are some of the challenges faced when it comes to bringing the technology to India?
Connected car technology is already in place and is not a distant dream. Its adoption in India will depend on three main drivers — legislative environment, infrastructure and network connectivity. Mandates on telematics and driver/ pedestrian safety norms and general awareness are expected to boost the connected car trend in India.
Improvement in road infrastructure will drive better digitization of roads with lanes and real time traffic prediction, thereby boosting Advanced Driver Assistance. Improvement in network bandwidth with the increase of 4G LTE will enable bring rich information and entertainment in real time for both, the driver and passengers.