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Canadian content and connected cars at the Consumer Electronics Show

Auto makers heavily pushed the theme of connectivity and integration at the recent 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Exhibits included a significant presence from OEMs and the aftermarket, with significant Canadian content to boot.

Again this year, the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center was automotive-heavy, but car audio was less prominent than all the gadgets, gizmos and consumer tech integration that flooded the show floor.

QNX, the Ottawa-based software company acquired by Research in Motion in 2010, is better known for being the foundation behind the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet's operating system, but it also has had a presence in the automotive arena for a while now, and its new CAR 2 platform is just the latest in that evolution. GM's OnStar and Audi's MIB infotainment system both run on QNX-based software.

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The Porsche Carrera concept car that was displayed at the QNX booth showcased how Near Field Communications (NFC) allows for compatible phones to sync with the onboard computer's chip by a simple touch. The concept can be applied to tablets mounted on the headrests of the front seats – in this case PlayBooks – and how information can be pushed back and forth between them and the main console.

In addition, the company has been working with what it calls "HD voice," essentially a clearer hands-free talking system where both callers and receivers are able to decipher where someone is sitting in the vehicle. For example, a user receiving a call with HD voice from another driver will be able to hear his or her voice come from one side of the stereo channel, while the passenger will sound off on the opposite one. It's just one feature that may not matter to some drivers, but the main focus is the onscreen display and the integration with devices brought into the car.

Mobileye from the Netherlands unveiled what it called the "world's first smartphone-connected driver assistance system" in the Mobileye 5-Series, an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) that uses a mounted camera and proprietary algorithms to alert drivers of certain conditions and obstacles on the road to enhance safety.

This includes recognizing unintended lane departures, imminent collisions, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists on the road for starters, but also reading speed limit signs and controlling the car's high-beams. It even promises to warn and alert drivers of rear-end collisions.

Mobileye basically considers it a "third eye" because it's constantly watching and processing calculations. The Bluetooth functionality would add a visual element so that drivers can also see what's coming on their smartphones rather than just hearing it through beeps and alerts.

Like QNX, Mobileye already has a presence on the OEM side, with BMW, General Motors, Chrysler, Volvo, Hyundai and Ford already having licensed the technology, but this is the first time that the aftermarket will be able to use the technology.

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