Ottawa-based QNX Software Systems is trying to expand its presence in the automotive industry with this week’s announcement that it will be introducing a new software-based noise reduction system for cars.
© Supplied photo
The Bentley Continental GT convertible concept car that QNX Software Systems loaded with technology for CES 2013.
By Jacob Serebrin
While the company has become known for their in-car infotainment platform, the noise-reduction system is a new development.
“This is new for us,” said Tina Jeffrey, automotive product marketing manager for QNX. “We’re expanding our footprint in automotive.”
According to Paul Leroux, public relations manager at QNX, the system is a “new approach to reducing noise in cars,” because it’s software, rather than hardware-based.
While Ms. Jeffrey said it’s hard to tell the exact size of the market for noise-reduction systems, she said demand is growing.
As automotive makers try to improve fuel-efficiency, they’re using lighter materials, which leads to more engine noise in the cabin, said Ms. Jeffery. Car manufacturers are also developing engine-control systems that adjust to driving conditions – reducing the number of cylinders used while driving on the highway, which changes the sound of the engine and can distract drivers.
“The inputs into our system are real-time engine data,” said Ms. Jeffery, “and noise in the cabin,” which is picked up through microphones.
The system creates a sound wave that’s the inverse of the unwanted sound; this inverted phase sound wave is then played through the car’s speakers, canceling out the other sounds.
According to Ms. Jeffery, the system constantly adjusts to changes that can affect what’s heard in the car – everything from an open window, to the recline of the seats to the number of passengers.
Ms. Jeffery said the system can be installed on “virtually any head unit or powered amplifier” used in car stereo systems, not just those with an infotainment system.
She said this gives QNX’s customers – car manufacturers and the makers of car audio systems – greater flexibility. Customers will also be able to use the system with between three and six in-car microphones.
Even though it’s a stand-alone product, QNX is hoping that it will help drive demand for its CAR infotainment platform.
“It’s a separate product but our CAR infotainment customers are very interested,” said Ms. Jeffery. She said the two products are highly integrated, allowing the same microphones that are used for the CAR platform’s hands-free communication system to be used for noise control.
“It’s an extension,” she said. “We are looking to really grow our platform.”
According to Mr. Leroux, the system is more flexible than the current hardware based systems, taking less time to tune, and less expensive.
Ms. Jeffery said QNX has put together a team of engineers who specialize in car audio and they’re looking for new opportunities.
“There’s a ton of different areas to explore, just in the sound market in automotive,” she said.
One thing they’re now considering is adding sound. With extremely quiet electric cars now on the market, manufacturers are now looking to add external pedestrian alerts.
“It could be something we do in the future,” said Ms. Jeffery.
QNX is a subsidiary of BlackBerry.