With the relentless march of technology and with the advent of smartphones, navigation apps and increased levels of in-car Internet connectivity, automotive navigation systems have almost become a necessity rather than a high-end ‘extra’ feature. One company that is doing some cutting-edge work in developing modern, efficient navigation systems is NNG LLC. Established in Budapest, Hungary, in 2004, the company now has global operations and works with leading OEMs like Ford, Fiat, Subaru, Toyota, Volvo, Renault, Porsche, Honda, Hyundai and others. We caught up with Prabhaker Misra, India Country Manager, Global Aftermarket BU, NNG, for a chat on the latest trends and developments in the area of automotive navigation systems.
iGO NAVIGATION ENGINE
NNG’s stated objective is to provide GPS navigation for all, and the company has been very successful with its software solutions in this context. Its partnerships with leading map and content providers allow NNG to deliver customisable solutions to OEMs and Tier-1s. The company’s iGO Navigation Engine, a modular and flexible GPS navigation platform, has seen widespread adoption in the automotive industry,
‘iGO navigation engine is our flagship solution, which has been evolved and improved over the last few years, with more value added features having been added. Smartphone penetration is also going up so we’re working with Abalta, which is largely into projecting software, for better integration of the smartphone with the vehicle’s navigation system head unit,’ said Misra. ‘Our solutions are meant for all types of vehicles, from low-end to high-end. In terms of working with mapping service providers, we have tie-ups with TomTom, HERE, and leading regional map providers in India,’ he added.
With fast increasing smartphone penetration all over the world, including India, NNG recognises the need for seamless integration between users’ smartphone devices and the car’s on-board navigation head unit. In this context, the company’s NavFusion platform is meant to deliver an OEM-branded ecosystem that can connect the in-car GPS navigation system and reliable maps, with the driver’s smartphone, for an integrated, seamless navigation experience for the end user. ‘Smartphone navigation and in-car navigation systems will need to co-exist. Embedded navigation systems are fitted after extensive hardware and software testing. However, we do recognise the increasing popularity of smartphone navigation and aim to provide seamless integration between smartphones and in-car navigation systems,’ said Misra.
NNG also recognises the critical importance of providing regular updates to in-car navigation systems, so that map content remains accurate and relevant. For this, the company’s Naviextras portal provides free software updates as well as paid extras like 3D landmarks, safety camera databases, traffic services and more. ‘Functionality depends on the OEM’s requirements. A low cost navigation unit may not have 3D landmarks or natural guidance,’ explained Misra.
MEETING LOCAL REQUIREMENTS
NNG works closely with OEMs to meet local market demands. From the prototyping stage to further development and integration for navigation and infotainment solutions, NNG has the global technical expertise that allows the company to deliver GPS navigation systems that can not only adapt to smartphones and tablets, but also offer consistently intuitive user interfaces that are easy to use.
‘Requirements for every region might be different. Driving habits are different, and accordingly, hardware and software requirements may also change. Usage in India may be different from what it is in other parts of the world, so we have to look at localisation. We are a global company with local expertise so we work towards providing solutions that are suited to local requirements. We want to take a collaborative approach and work closely with OEMs for the development of premium systems that provide a seamless user experience,’ said Misra.
Furthermore, NNG’s adaptive HMI (human machine interface) has been designed in a way that allows it to be adapted to, and integrated with, multimedia hardware units in various car segments. This flexibility, with the adaptation and customisation of screens, layouts, and operating controls, allows NNG to quickly and efficiently re-configure its systems as required, reducing development time and costs. This is one of the factors that make it possible for the company to offer relatively lower-end systems (for example, to Renault India) as well as higher end systems (for example, to JLR) without making major changes to its basic iGO navigation engine. Also, in keeping with local requirements and cost objectives, the system can be configured to accept data inputs via voice, touchscreen, rotary controller or a combination of the three.
With the global increase in the use of smartphone-based navigation apps, NNG has put in a lot of effort into integrating those with the car’s on-board navigation system. ‘If you look at automotive navigation, the awareness has increased tremendously in the last couple of years. Apart from the other factors, I believe that radio cabs like Uber and Ola have also led to the increase in mass usage. It’s not just another app anymore, it’s become a necessity,’ said Misra. ‘You see rapid ongoing changes in city infrastructure and to keep pace, automotive navigation systems have gained significance. With increased smartphone penetration in India, the smartphone head unit integration is also gaining momentum,’ he added.
NNG is now also using cloud-based services to provide live content pertaining to weather updates, fuel stations, parking, and traffic etc., which helps the driver. The company‘s navigation software supports multiple major operating systems, thereby making it compatible with automotive head units from various OEMs, and with users’ tablets and smartphones.
TEXT: Sameer Kumar