Press Release: World First from Saab: Saab IQon – Open Innovation in Car Infotainment

  • Ground-breaking car communications platform using Android operating system
  • Enables flexible upgrading and personalization during the car’s lifecycle through downloading applications like a smartphone
  • Based on pioneering ‘open innovation’ with third-party service providers and applications developers
  • Test fleet on the road with beta version of IQon system

Trollhättan, Sweden: Saab Automobile is changing the auto industry infotainment landscape by engaging external partners in ‘open innovation’ for the development of its new IQon infotainment concept, using Google’s Android operating system. Saab IQon delivers a completely new car infotainment user experience, combining all that’s best from the mobile industry with Saab’s automotive knowledge and innovative spirit to create an infotainment system for the next generation of Saab cars. Users will be able to download a wide range of applications, online services and multi-media functions provided through a Saab IQon store.

Saab will issue third-party developers with a vehicle application programming interface (API) providing access to more than 500 signals from different sensors in the vehicle. These measure, for example, vehicle speed, location and direction of travel, driver workload, yaw rate, steering wheel angle, engine speed and torque, inside and outside temperature, barometric pressure and the sun’s position.

“With Saab IQon, there are no limits to the potential for innovation,” says Johan Formgren, Head of Saab Aftersales and commercial project leader for IQon. “We will be inviting the global Android developer community to use their imagination and ingenuity.” Saab’s collegiate development strategy – open innovation – is a ’first’ in the automotive industry and provides a faster, more efficient and more flexible alternative to the conventional, in-house development of vehicle infotainment services. “Today’s customers want to be as well connected inside the car as they are at all other times,” adds Formgren. ”IQon will give them the convenient, seamless connectivity they enjoy with smartphones, while adding new car-specific programs and services. IQon provides an embedded computer platform in the car with a modem which automatically connects to the internet when the car’s ignition is switched on.

An 8-inch touchscreen provides access to services, including audio and entertainment streaming, online navigation and on-board music storage. Saab’s ‘open innovation’ strategy offers the global developer community access to the full bandwidth of car communications – infotainment, telematics, systems monitoring and diagnostics. In this way, it opens up new dimensions in customer choice for the personalization of in-car services. Even applications specific to particular countries can be included.

“Our open innovation strategy, using the Android operating system, will keep the provision of in-car infotainment up to date,” adds Formgren. “IQon will allow infotainment services to constantly evolve during the lifetime of a car’s product cycle, unlike current in-car systems which are fixed some years before a car goes on sale and then remain static.” To ensure high driving safety and quality standards are maintained, programs from software developers and application providers will be evaluated and approved by Saab before they are made available to customers through the online Saab IQon store.

IQon also provides a platform for remote communication to and from the car with Saab dealerships, for example, using telemetry to upload vehicle data, carry out diagnostics, provide service appointments or even install some in-car options. The IQon system is shown for the first time in the Saab PhoeniX concept car at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. A beta version of the IQon system is already being trialed with company users in a fleet of test cars.

48 thoughts on “Press Release: World First from Saab: Saab IQon – Open Innovation in Car Infotainment”

  1. Saab will issue third-party developers with a vehicle application programming interface (API) providing access to more than 500 signals from different sensors in the vehicle. These measure, for example, vehicle speed, location and direction of travel, driver workload, yaw rate, steering wheel angle, engine speed and torque, inside and outside temperature, barometric pressure and the sun’s position.


  2. SAAB – Pioneers once again.

    I want augmented reality GPS in the windscreen. Not to far away, at least it can be done in the 8 inch screen now!

  3. I LOVE this!

    “Saab will issue third-party developers with a vehicle application programming interface (API) providing access to more than 500 signals from different sensors in the vehicle. These measure, for example, vehicle speed, location and direction of travel, driver workload, yaw rate, steering wheel angle, engine speed and torque, inside and outside temperature, barometric pressure and the sun’s position.”

    The java-programmer inside me is overjoyed !! Think of the possibilities… 🙂

    • “Think of the possibilities…”

      Yes, that’s exactly our point – we can’t. A small team of in-house developers can’t possibly come up with ALL the neat stuff, but if we let pretty much every java developer in the world in on the action, chances will improve quite dramatically that someone, somewhere, gets that one truly brilliant idea. With this new system, we’re changing the rules of the game: when you get an idea, something you really would like to see in your infotainment system, previously all you could do was wish we’d have thought of it too. Now? Do it yourself!

      • Emil, I guess we (well, mostly me?) should not have complained so loudly? 😛

        Looking forward to the API. Any plans of retrofitting MY11 9-5…?

        Oh… Any job openings in Saab’s infotainment division?

          • Yes, the possibilities this presents is very much mind-boggling!

            It will be interesting to find out just how much we will be able to control. They’ve mentioned sensors, but what about interacting with e.g. the radio? I hope we will be able to mute the entertainment and provide our own navigation instructions? And install our own MP3 players…

            This also makes me wonder about playback of movies. Usually DVD players shut down if the car is moving. I think the law is farily strict on this here in Norway. Opening up the infotainment system means it will be easier for idiots like me to circumvent this limitation.

      • I understand your point and totally agree. And its about time to beter integrate cars with computers. But still I wonder if you could have provided a hardware interface for sending this car information to the device, instead of an API which would have given more flexibility in regards to usable devices. Now, Android users are happy. Others less so, since they have to relearn and buy new apps. And duplicating the tasks of paying mobile fees for the mobile phone and now also for the car, as well as duplicating the task of maintaining yet another system updated, in addition to computer and smartphone, may also be less than intriguing. In three years time, when the hardware is outdated, can it be replaced?

        • To provide an interface to send info to devices (which arguably already exists in part via Tech II, OBD-II, etc.), Saab would need to develop different connectors, interfaces, software, etc. for each different smartphone OS, not to mention different smartphone hardware. It seems this isn’t just meant to duplicate all smartphone functions/apps and nothing more–there will be all kinds of innovative applications that would simply not be possible on a connected smartphone or tablet (not to mention laws restricting smartphone use in cars).

          There may be some advantage(s) to using an Android smartphone with IQon, but apps, interface, etc. will be unique to IQon, and Bluetooth connectivity should work just fine
          with iOS, WP7, etc. There’s definitely a concern about mobile internet costs, but data connections are quickly becoming much more ubiquitous, and Saab already mentioned they are working on different partnerships and options. One option is to just use the data connection from your phone via Bluetooth.

          App and OS updates should be straightforward, and while the hardware may be “outdated” after 3 years compared to a new laptop or smartphone, because of software updates and apps, it will be a lot less outdated than the electronics in any 3-year old car right now!

  4. Saab should change those Android icons: they’re way too amateurish and cheap-looking for a serious car. They may want to check out RIM’s Blackberry OS default iconset to see the direction in which they could be improved.

  5. Ok, I’m an Apple-fanboy.

    That said, this is extremely positive. The OS is secondary, this is what a small independent player like Saab can do. Very impressive!

    Now, how do I retrofit this in my 2004 9-5?

  6. I LOVE THIS! I love it more thant he Phoenix concept.

    I just migrates all my mobile devices to Android – no looking back!

    As an app developer I can’t wait to try to develop apps for my own car! How cool is that??!

    • Not a stupid question at all.

      In order for the system to provide real time updates…it will need an always-on mobile broadband connection…which you will have to pay for…and depending on what part of the planet you reside…it could be a very costly expense.

      I’m all for technology in cars…but not a fan of Internet connections in a MOVING vehicle…unless it is used ONLY for updating this system.

      If the driver and/or the front seat passenger have the ability of using the Internet connection whilst the vehicle is moving…that’s a very bad idea. Drivers are too distracted by cell phones as it is currently…having a live Internet connection will only make it worse. The world doesn’t need any more Darwinism.

      And no…I’m not against technology…I’m a Net Admin for a major East Coast US university…and in my sordid past, have also taught high performance driving at an internationally known racing school (STILL trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up :D)…but there is a time and a place for everything.

      • Here in Scandinavia there is at least one low-cost option that will provide cheap broadband connectivity on the go. (Using the old NMT 450 network)

        Anyway, banning interaction while the vehicle is moving, has a downside: The driver will be forced to use a hand held device instead. You won’t save any lives by limiting the onboard system, you’ll just annoy the passenger who could’ve interacted with it without disturbing the driver.

        • The other thing I forgot to mention about mobile broadband connections…at least here on this side of The Pond…is that almost ALL providers cap the data usage on their plans…with the cost of overages extremely expensive.

          It is something that needs to be taken into account, when talking about an always-on mobile broadband connection.

          • Well, that is the situation now.

            Five years ago, 3G was only briefly used to demonstrate that you could have a video call on your handheld Nokia.

            Over ten years ago, wi-fi started becoming popular and people/companies offered free wi-fi spots in a handful locations.

            15 years ago, the mobile phone, for many, was still a new exciting thing that also happened to be expensive.

            We have come a long way in little or no time.

            Five years from now… When this technology is still new in our Saabs… If the development continues like this, wireless Internet is going to be dirt cheap. Roaming charges will continue to be reduced. We will see new content. More frequent updates to Google Earth.

            Ten years from now… When you are about to sell the Saab you bought five years earlier, the situation will be even more Internet centric. More availability. Cheaper. And more content and more services.

            Jump into your car, drive to a random city, press the “do neat stuff” button, and you get a list of nearby restaurants, hotels and Ikeas you might be interested in. You select one, and it will suggest a number of nearby parking places. It will sift through crime statistics to make sure someone won’t damage it while you’re away. It will figure out the price for being parked for 2 hours (so to present you with the better options). And it might even pull down up-to-date satellite photos to make sure someone else did not already nick your spot (ok, this last part is a bit of a stretch, but someone is bound to come up with something clever).

            Basically, this will take care of all the boring legwork. Leaving you to drive your car, offering new possibilities to avoid traffic clogs and find cheap gasoline.

          • 10 years from now you hit the ‘Entertainment’ button and your Saab will take you straight to the red light district. Aha! Now I understand the red interior lights in the PhoeniX, they are there to get you in the right mood already.

  7. Well – when you but a new Saab, you must get mobile broadband access too! Is it covered with the warrantee?

    At least you’ll be able to ditch your home internet connnection and use wireless in the car!

    • Or you hook up your Android/iPhone/Windows Phone and use your dataplan of your phone…

      Whole system looks very slick though, I’d love to get hold of one of those testvehicles!

  8. Actually this kind of system has been in development for years. 9-x Air had electronics integrated with mobile phone already, probably tin-roofed 9-x as well. Functionality was probably way different it is sure these ideas have been long brewed 🙂

  9. YES!!!
    This is exactly what I have wanted for years. It could partially be found in the Nissan GTR, where many of the settings are available for user manipulation, but this goes much deeper. 500+ parameters for 3rd party developer to have fun with, adapting to individual preference = brilliant!
    Bring on the future!!!

  10. YES YES YES…. Ok, so when can we get it!? If it’s released with the 9-4x, I’ll be the first in line!

  11. I really like that they chose to give the car its own data network instead of simply relying on the phone for telematics. This enables Saab to work in their own OnStar and gives them a way to remotely manage the cars functions. Very slick.

    Also regardless of Android or whatever it’s running, I wonder how they will implement future Android operating system releases into IQon. Gingerbread is a completely different framework for APIs and keeping the whole thing rolling along smoothly supporting new apps is going to be a major undertaking. You may be joking about joining Saab, Rune- but they might need your help!

    • Jeff, I was not joking about wanting to join Saab. I even submitted my CV through their website a week ago. And I also applied for a job at e-AAM (which I failed to get — it has been almost 15 years since I worked with embedded systems so in some respects I am a bit rusty).

      It would be fun to work with a ‘proper’ product again… Something I’d want to use myself. Lately I’ve worked with more ‘generic’ type systems where the end-product is ‘not for me’.

  12. A car that connects to internet when the ignition is turned on. But who’s paying? Internet connection is not free. And what about driving abroad? Will we now get huge roaming bills in addition?

  13. Apart from the broadband connection needed, I am curious to see how Saab positions this with its focus on safety. I would hope that while the car is in motion that certain features of the iQon system would be disabled to discourage drivers from trying to update their Facebook status while driving.

  14. IQon seems like great, innovative technology! 😀
    I just hope that Google, as the author of Android, does not have access to any user data…

    • I can’t see why they would not…

      I struggle to launch the big enthusiasm for this IQ thing, since I am one of those who think cars should be about driving…

    • Google wouldn’t have any access to data other than apps that use Google services (e.g. Gmail, Google Maps, etc.). The Android operating system was/is developed by Google (originally by a company Google acquired) and is open source, meaning others can use it and extend it without Google having any control over it. The OS itself is not routed through Google at all, so they would only have access to data that is purposely transferred to them.

      • Thank you for the explanation! So is it right that Google has much less access to user data from Android devices than Apple has from their iOS devices?

        • I may be missing another scenario, but in my mind any privacy issue is not necessarily about Google/Apple/Microsoft/etc. collecting data, but rather third-party app developers and especially the advertising networks to which app developers can provide/sell information. In theory this information is supposed to be anonymous(such as GPS location in order to provide local advertising) and preferably opt-in, but there have been cases with even “reputable” (or at least popular) apps such as Pandora sharing more specific, sometimes even personally-identifiable information (PII) with ad networks. Again, in theory these are exceptions and should not occur based on privacy policies and various regulations, but they have occurred and foreseeably will continue to occur from time to time. Hopefully these apps will tend to be for purchase rather than for free (or at least have ad-free versions available for purchase) so we don’t have to deal with in-car ads, but that’s probably wishful thinking.

          Are there any specific scenarios you’re thinking of? A couple I can think of, depending on its implementation, is someone being able to check the IP address from which an email was sent, thus knowing you sent it from your car and are likely not at home. Another is perhaps that the system may log much more detailed info about driving habits/conditions than is currently available for accident/criminal investigation, but current OBD-II systems can already provide much of this, such as top speed, car run time, etc. Definitely lots of interesting potential privacy and legal issues here, but I can’t think of any that would be vastly different or more worrisome than current smartphones.

  15. I don,tmthinkmtheninternetnwillnbe always connected. The API provided or the developers will be, I hope, mostly focused on cares sensors, like in gt-r, as someone already said.
    Think that you can also use your iPhone, or maybe iPad without having an Internet .
    So, don,t think neccesary to Internet and browsing, think of other cool apps that don.thermite it and can be done, like the app for iPhone that tells you the g force and others.
    You will need Internet connection only to in tall or update apps, and i guess it will work also with your home wi-fi 🙂

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