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  1. More on CES: Your automator is safely automated

    by , 01-11-2013 at 06:40 PM
    Another slice of the massive tech showcase known as CES was spent focusing on the trends that should have an immediate impact in the evolution of automotive automation. Many aftermarket manufacturers have inched past the practice of trying to safely deliver content to the car in lieu of using hardware systems to process content to create a more engagement and safe automotive environment. I spent the majority of Day 2 scouring the North Hall booths for demos of the gear that will bring some of the high end OEM systems to the aftermarket. The top buzzword from both OEM and aftermarket companies when referencing these systems is the "Connected Car" concept, a term that most people in the mp3Car community have run into in previous years.

    Among the coolest gear in this Connected Car category is Delphi's new OBD-II based Bluetooth 2G adapter. Developed in partnership with Verizon, this device not only has the ability to monitor car systems and control routine functions like car start/stop, but it also can harness available data received and provide users with recommendations on how to automate driving tasks. For example, the device can take user driving habit along with the power of the Verizon mobile network to suggest new routes based on time, distance, or even environmental impact. Of course, another key feature of the Delphi adapter is the ability to control car functions like locks, engine start, and geofences from anywhere. Accompanying apps for the web, Android, and IOS are already available. Unfortunately, the current iteration of the device is limited to 2G communications, making unable to be used as a infotainment hotspot.

    Globalstat's TR600 tracking system is another automation powerhouse. In short, the TR600 is a GPS, GSM, and CANBUS capable I/O device. The TR600 has a total of 9 I/O points (3 Input/ 6 Outputs), and with add on sensors can monitor most any vehicle event and automate tasks based on them. GSM capability means users can also remotely monitor and control I/Os. The TR600 can be used fully autonomously or as a standalone device to control relays via an included serial interface.

    The Mobileye Series 5 is a product aimed specifically at adding collision avoidance systems for any vehicle. The Series 5 is essentially a advanced camera which can identify objects and their respective distances from the vehicle in real-time. The camera can then relay information to either your Android or Apple smartphone, or to the included display module. Multiple data points are available and instantly updated including lane departure warnings, following time indicators, and road sign recognition and indication. On top of these monitoring capabilities, the Series 5 can also automate tasks such as headlight and high-beam control for an active safe driving experience. This is a fascinating system which can be easily tucked away behind the windshield of any vehicle.

    More from CES 2013 to follow.
  2. Recap of a Jam-Packed Tegra Powered CES Day 1

    by , 01-09-2013 at 12:29 PM

    Tablets, telematics and gaming dominate the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show! The highlighted hardware of the show so far seems to be the brand new Tegra 4 processor from NVIDIA. The processor was on display in a series of touch displays ranging in size from 5 to 50 inches, and was shown at the heart of the new wave of gaming platforms and digital dash displays. Could the days of a Tegra-based ready built automotive platform finally be here?

    Other quick hits and misses from Day 1.

    -Parrot Corp has again invaded CES with a variety of embedded automotive systems. Last year I highlighted the Double-Din Android powered Asteroid system, which has seemingly been replaced by a host of new Asteroid line products. More information soon!

    -US Globalstat, makers of the popular BU-353 USB GPS module, have released a series of automotive automatation devices aimed at bringing OEM vehicle accessibility to the aftermarket.

    -Electrobit had a live demo of their EB Street Director, a QNX based telematics navigation platform. This new package, built specifically for the "Connected Car", allows real-time information updating from online content into the navigation system.

    -Vehicle Telematics and Digital Health seem to be growing components of what CES is about. Various vendors have released new lines of Telematic devices, ranging from Belkin to Verizon. Seems telematic systems will soon be mainstream.

    -Seemingly every automotive electronics affiliate misses our very own Rob Wray!

    -Double-DIN computing platforms are all but extinct this year. It appears that vehicle design engineers have successfully phased out the days of simple add-on systems.

    -Not much has been updated in the world of 7" touchscreen.

    -Windows CE 6.0 is still seemingly a viable platform for embedded systems.

    Much more information and photos to come!
  3. Hardware Review: ToughBox 15 Chenbro Based Intel D510MO Mini ITX System

    by , 02-26-2010 at 12:59 PM

    What is it?

    The Mp3car Toughbox 15 is a Chenbro based mini-ITX computer built with an Intel D510MO motherboard. Mp3car allows a full line of customization options with the Toughbox 15, and the price for a self-installed Toughbox 15 starts at only $279.00

    The Verdict:

    The Toughbox 15 is perhaps the most versatile bundle that Mp3car has currently. It seems to have the flexibility to find a niche no matter where it’s installed. Everything with the Toughbox 15 works… and it works quietly, elegantly and efficiently. Whether you’re looking for a do-it-all car computer platform, a sturdy quiet and energy-efficient workstation, or a stable and reliable embedded application, the Toughbox 15 from Mp3car can work for you.

    See the ToughBox 15 on the mp3Car Store here.

    What’s in the box?

    The base Toughbox 15 system consists of a Chenbro mini ITX enclosure, an optional vertical stand, an Intel D510MO motherboard with an integrated Intel Atom D510 processor, 512 MHz of DDR2 ram, and a 160GB laptop grade hard drive. The Chenbro case has openings for 2 front USB ports and connectors front-case audio. The Toughbox 15 also comes standard with a 60w power supply and A/C adapter. The Toughbox 15 differs from the previous systems sold by Mp3car as it comes fully tested and assembled with no extra cost. Optionally, Mp3car allows expansion of the Toughbox 15 by adding a 2 port USB module, a Panasonic UJ-875-A slot-load DVD/CD drive, 2GHz of DDR 2 Ram, an Intel 80GB solid-state hard drive, Nano USB Bluetooth dongle, and an external USB 802.11B/G/N Wifi Card. To further aid in the installation process Mp3car will optionally install Windows 7 Professional operating system, and add a M2-ATX vehicle power supply. The total price for the Toughbox 15 with all included options is $967.94.


    The Toughbox 15, like the Toughbox 14, is a small, lightweight and powerful dual-core computing system. Its design and specifications prove the Toughbox 15 is worthy of more than just a basic car PC installation. In fact, with the look of its sleek and elegant case, the Toughbox 15 may be better suited as a workstation or an embedded platform. The Chenbro case is simply the best looking case I’ve seen to date in the hobby. There’s a large chrome colored power switch on the front of the case which illuminates with a bright but not intrusive blue ring of LEDs. The edges are curved and the included vertical stand shows the Toughbox 15 would be right at home on any desk or HTPC rack out there.

    The Toughbox 15 also improves on its power specifications from the Toughbox 14. It uses the new Intel D510 dual-core processor. Though its clock speed varies only slightly from the Atom N270 (1.66 GHz vs. 1.6 GHz), the D510 handles itself quite well with video playback and more CPU-intensive programs. The Toughbox’s processor is passively cooled, which means less noise in your workspace, while taking up less than three quarters of the size of today’s conventional desktop workstations.

    I feel it’d be a shame to take the design of the Toughbox 15 and install it in a trunk or behind a panel in an automobile, but that doesn’t mean the Toughbox 15 isn’t ready for the task. Simply remove the standard 60w PSU and mount a M2-ATX automotive power supply, and the Toughbox 15 will handle any car PC task. It runs Flux Media’s Centrafuse Auto on its highest graphic and effect settings with no lag. iNav iGuidance and iGo 8 PC will run embedded into a front end flawlessly.

    As with most computers, the magic is inside the case. Removing the outer shell of the Chenbro case revealed the D510MO motherboard with a fan-less heat sink covering both the embedded processor and chipset.

    To my approval, the 2 available RAM slots are spaced far enough from the heat sink that installing a chip of RAM isn’t nearly as painful as with most embedded dual-core setups. To the right of the motherboard in a vertical mount is the included 60w power supply.

    The standard power supply connects to the outside 12v A/C adapter through a barrel connector on the rear of the case. This same connector can be connected to the optional M2-atx, meaning less loose wires cluttering up the rear of your case in the event you want to install the Toughbox in a vehicle.

    Unlike the Toughbox 14, the Toughbox 15’s enclosure has enough space to house a laptop style slot-load dvd/cd combo drive. This again shows that the Toughbox would fit right at home or in the workplace. The combo drive’s wires are all run to the motherboard, meaning no USB slots are taken like with most car PCs. Sharing a bracket with the combo drive is a 160GB laptop grade hard drive. Mp3car does have options for hard drive installations in the Toughbox 15, and most car PC users should probably elect to use the 40GB ruggedized drive or perhaps the 80GB solid state drive available.

    The rear of the Toughbox 15 is of standard ITX PC fare, the only real difference is the presence of the barrel-connector mentioned earlier. There are 4 USB ports assuring an abundance of connectivity options. There’s your standard VGA connector, Ethernet connector, and the standard 3 audio connectors. Instead of opting for more USB or firewire connection options, Intel decided to keep standard ps/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse. It baffles me why they decided to keep these connectors on a new motherboard, especially considering most hardware manufacturers don’t even make ps/2 keyboard and mouse devices anymore. The rear is also missing a DVI port, something that’s been included in nearly every other motherboard Intel has released in the last 2 years.

    Aside from those 2 questionable calls, the rear connectors on the back of the Toughbox 15 are clean and nicely spaced, allowing for hassle free installation in both the workplace and the car.

    The Positive:

    • Absolute beautiful and well thought out casing
    • Customizable to individual user needs
    • Performance and reliability of the Intel dual-core product
    • Energy efficient design
    • Flexible enough to be installed in the home, work, or car
    • Small form factor which allows for multiple mounting options
    • Comes with power supply for the home and options for the car

    The Negative:

    • Sacrifices USB connectors for legacy ps/2 connectors
    • No DVI display output
    • Use of more than 2 channel audio requires an additional header connection
    • Cost when compared to self-built self-sourced system

    The Verdict:

    The Toughbox 15 is perhaps the most versatile bundle that Mp3car has currently. It seems to have the flexibility to find a niche no matter where it’s installed. Everything with the Toughbox 15 works… and it works quietly, elegantly and efficiently. Whether you’re looking for a do-it-all car computer platform, a sturdy quiet and energy-efficient workstation, or a stable and reliable embedded application, the Toughbox 15 from Mp3car can work for you.

    See the ToughBox 15 on the mp3Car Store here.