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Harman Chases Dashboard Broadband

Hopes to expand offerings to address ‘vehicle-centric’ consumer demand

Harman plans tests of an LTE module integrated into production-ready car “infotainment” systems.

Consumers, the audio company says, want to control incoming content such as music, movies and navigation apps through their dashboard or steering-wheel controls. Harman, working with Sierra Wireless, is about to begin road tests of an integrated module in Europe; it said U.S. tests will follow. Test vehicles will be equipped with an infotainment system platform integrating an embedded wireless module developed by Sierra Wireless.

Harman said its agreement with Sierra Wireless allows it to offer data download speeds of up to 100 Mbps, and uploads as high as 50 Mbps on LTE networks. It quoted a company exec saying current prototypes deliver peak data rates up to 70 Mbps and average speeds of 20 Mbps in urban conditions, to support upcoming vehicle systems.

Harman is among many companies eyeing the growing market for in-vehicle mobile broadband applications — as Harman puts it, online services to the “always connected car.”

“As LTE continues to emerge as the next-generation broadband connection to the car, Harman and Sierra Wireless allow drivers to have a truly connected driving experience by giving them access to a vast array of web content and services right from the cloud,” the company stated.

In Harman’s view, the dashboard is becoming “a natural extension of both the office and the home,” though with an added focus on safety. Services like video-on-demand streaming, off-board navigation, Internet radio, dynamic loading apps and interactive online manuals will need constant, fat broadband data connections. The availability of 4G/LTE will expand the possibilities for the “connected car.”