INDIATECHONLINE brings you a privileged peek at iWave’s made-in-Bangalore Car PC
Touch-based web-browser doubles as location-sensitive back seat infotainment hub
From Anand Parthasarathy, Bangalore July 22: It looks like a fairly standard headrest for the passenger seated next to the driver; but look at it from the back seat – and it becomes a full fledged personal computer complete with a 7 inch LCD screen and a virtual touch screen. Say hello to the iW-Car PC, arguably India’s first indigenously designed and developed personal computing device-cum entertainment centre for cars. It is also among the world’s earliest in-car PC forms to be fuelled by Intel’s Atom processor, the power efficient chip that is to be found beneath the hood of the new-generation, ultra-small Net PCs.
Created by the Bangalore-based, iWave Systems Technologies, the iW-Car PC combines in-vehicle entertainment for rear seat occupants– music, movies and games – with full fledged PC functionality running any contemporary flavour of Windows (XP/CE 6.0/Vista/ and soon Windows7).
It will have its first public unveiling starting Wednesday, on the sidelines of the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC India 2009) at Bangalore’s NIMHANS conference Centre: It will be part of the Microsoft stand and a car fitted with the iW-Car PC will be on show July 22 through 24, between 3.30 pm and 4.30 pm.
With a full color 7 inch LCD back light display, with touch controls, the iW-Car PC, is powered by a 1.1/1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, and comes with 1 GB DDR2 memory and 16 GB of SSD storage, expandable to 64 GB. Two USB 2.0 ports enable users to plug in wireless internet dongles (currently available in India from Tata, Reliance, Airtel, Idea etc) for full web browsing and Internet functionality. The device also has WiFi ( 802.11 b/g) capability which means, when the car is in a wireless hot spot – just outside a wireless –enabled cyber café, or in many conference and hotel campuses, one can latch on the Internet without having to deplete the download quota on the mobile-phone based wireless data card.
The touch screen lets one run the standard Windows commands with a finger tip and has a pop-up soft keyboard which can be used for entering text -- like email passwords or key words terms in a Net search. In the demonstration that iWave arranged for IndiaTechOnline, we were able to attach a flexible keyboard to the iW-Car PC using one of the two USB ports that are provided ( dangling between the front seats) – and could operate the PC a little more comfortably, including some word processing. There is no optical drive – but these days one can store a lot of movies on a USB thumb drive, and we are guessing that is how most users will get their back seat entertainment.
“Commuting by car or bus in the major metros in India, often involves, long, boring and unproductive rides. We hope to change that for the better – by enabling operators to offer meaningful entertainment together with productivity tools like Internet”, says iWave Managing Director M.A. Mohamed Saliya. The Internet access is likely to appeal to corporate, who in cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad, hire fleets of cars to transport their staff: the hour of so of typical commuting to reach HiTech City or Electronic City can be usefully spent by such staff, checking and answering their email.
The Car PC comes with a built-in GPS receiver and we believe this will enable advertisers to make their offerings location sensitive, even while the system doubles as a route finder and navigation system. The system we evaluated ran Windows XP and the surfing experience in a moving car using an Indian mobile provider’s broadband wireless dongle was quite smooth. iWave had replaced the standard fitment headrest, with one in which the iW-Car PC came embedded, the wires to the car battery ran inside the upholstery and the entire electronics and motherboard fitted into the back of the LCD display. The car’s pre-fitted loudspeaker system was tapped for sound—but it is possible to use blue tooth enabled headphones for quiet listening.
iWave has taken its design to pilot manufacture and the first run of production is being offered as a ready-to-install kit. However we understand the company is also open to licensing the design to OEMs who might like to modify it for other vehicles – like passenger buses. While it is early days and iWave is not yet ready with pricing information, we had an opportunity to assess the bill of materials – and believe the iW-Car PC will be available to customers at prices significantly lower than what in-Car PCs cost abroad. iWave Systems Technologies ( www.iwavesystems.com ) is a ten year old embedded hardware and software solution provider whose Indian engineers earlier this year, delivered one of the smallest hand held PCs to run full fledged Windows Vista. ( See our earlier story: Finally, an affordable ultra mobile touch PC 'Made in India'? http://www.indiatechonline.com/iwave-gps-exclusive-49.php )