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Updating automotive ECUs over-the-air

Posted: 09 Oct 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Firmware Over-the-Air  FOTA  Electronic Control Units  ECUs  embedded software 

A centralized software package repository is used for the FOTA use cases, which are described below. This centralized repository replaces the distribution of software updates to the various dealers. It significantly reduces the Time-To-Market (TTM) of any new software version. This system is also responsible for the delta package delivery to the device. There are several ways to perform such a delivery. In mobile, most market players use a standard protocol developed through the Open Mobile Alliance Device Management (OMA-DM) organisation.

Performing the update
In this third stage of the process, the downloaded update package is used to perform the actual update (re-flashing) of the original software image. The update package and the FOTA update software necessary to perform the update occupy a small amount of memory allocated within the embedded device in the vehicle (to address the challenges associated with the limited memory resources). In this stage, the FOTA update software validates that the correct update package has been received and that the update process has been successfully completed. It is important to mention that the FOTA updates do not need to be sequential and can support any-to-any software version update.

The technology of the future
The car industry is going through the same trend that the mobile industry experienced eight years ago, where the need to maintain the increasing amount of software is forcing the industry to look for new, more efficient, and more cost-effective methods. Updating car ECUs has become a mandatory operation. The current mode of doing an update is costly, not customer friendly, and not flexible enough to cope with the rapid changes that are happening in the car industry.

FOTA technology is a proven, safe, and cost-effective method for OEMs and car manufactures to manage the car software evolution, which is turning the car from iron driven to code driven. FOTA can help auto makers to save time and costs, mitigate risk, and attract and retain customers. In addition, this can enable car manufactures to establish new ways of up-selling services and deliver new features and applications to consumers throughout the car lifecycle.

Changing the existing update methodology to FOTA should be gradually performed. With the experience and lessons learned in the telecom industry, this migration can be smooth and successful for the automotive industry.

About the author
Rudolf von Stokar has been active since 14 years for innovation-driven software companies in the automotive industry. Over the past years he worked with most automotive OEMs and numerous suppliers on the implementation of specific solutions. At Red Bend Software, von Stokar oversees the recently launched German subsidiary.

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