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OK Labs spins Linux- and Android-ready automotive hypervisor

Nov 30, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 28 views

OK Labs announced a Genivi Linux and Android-ready “OKL4 for In-Vehicle Infotainment” (IVI) hypervisor, designed to keep infotainment and telematics environments separate despite running on the same processor. Meanwhile, Wind River announced a deal with IVI provider Clarion to use its Wind River Platform for Infotainment in an Android-based system.

OKL4 for In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) enables automotive suppliers to safely provide consumer and automotive safety applications within a single platform, says Open Kernel Labs (OK Labs). The technology is a modified version of the company's OKL4 embedded, microkernel-based hypervisor, which OK Labs calls a "microvisor."

The OKL4 virtualization technology is primarily designed to enable mobile phones to offer multiple operating systems or secure applications, so that, for example, employees can keep personal and work content separate on a cellphone (see overview farther below).

Generic OKL4 for IVI architecture (left) and showing contained CAN and MOST stacks (right)

(Click on either to enlarge)

The fast-growing IVI market has even more pressing needs for the compartmentalization capabilities offered by a hypervisor, explains OK Labs. OKL4 for IVI provides dedicated virtual machines to isolate application environments from core automotive functions such as navigation, driver assistance, and status monitoring, says the company.

OKL4 for IVI can help lower costs by eliminating the need for separate physical processors for automotive telematics and infotainment domains, says the company. In particular it is said to help align the vastly different lifecycles of consumer-facing wireless technology vs. safety-critical in-car capabilities.

Specifically, OKL4 for IVI helps consolidate IVI multimedia functions with "instant on" systems such as CAN and MOST networking buses, onto a single host processing unit, says OK Labs (see diagram above). Boot functionality is said to include both staged boot and independent reboot.

Optimized for ARM Cortex processors, OKL4 for IVI can host multiple operating systems (OSes) and OS "instances," offering simultaneous support for compliant Genivi Linux stacks, as well as Android and the AUTOSAR telemetics environment. Operating systems registered as compliant with the open source Genivi IVI spec include MeeGo, Canonical's Ubuntu IVI Remix, Mentor Graphics' Embedded Linux IVI Base Platform, Wind River Platform for Infotainment (see farther below), and MontaVista Automotive Technology Platform (ATP).

MontaVista's ATP uses Security Enhanced Linux (SELinux), as well as MontaVista's implementation of the open source "Linux Containers" technology to provide something similar to what OKL4 for IVI offers. The container technology is specifically designed to host Android and HTML5 applications running in an isolated virtualized container environment.

OKL4 background

OKL4's microkernel OS runs almost everything in userspace, and includes a thin hardware abstraction layer that can support Linux and other guest OSes. It also includes a minimal POSIX-compliant execution environment, enabling multiple applications and device drivers to run in separate, isolated partitions. OKL4 provides for decreased BOM (bill of materials), as well as the separation of GPL and proprietary software code as required by companies' intellectual property policies, claims OK Labs.

In October 2010, OK Labs announced an "ObamaBerry"-like smartphone security solution for open source mobile platforms, based on OKL4. Available initially for Android, this "SecureIT Mobile" technology combines software and services that let governmental agencies, contractors, integrators, and OEMs build secure devices using commercial off-the-shelf hardware and software, said the company.

In January of this year, OK Labs announced the availability of an ultra-secure version of OKL4 called OKL4 Verified for mission-critical applications in mobile/wireless devices. In March, the company announced a partnership with security IT firm Galois to develop and commercialize ultra-secure communications, data processing, and control systems based on OKL4 Verified.

Stated Steve Subar, Founder and CEO, OK Labs, "As in mobile/wireless, OKL4 for Infotainment helps the automotive market create and deliver reliable and safe systems with differentiated user experiences, for long-term deployment and immediate competitiveness."

Wind River signs Android IVI deal with Clarion

Intel's Wind River software subsidiary announced it has signed a partnership deal with IVI manufacturer Clarion to develop Android-based IVI systems based on Wind River Platform for Infotainment. The automotive stack will be supplied to Clarion Malaysia along with Wind River software integration services, says the company. Clarion makes a variety of IVI systems, including the VX401A (pictured).

In addition to Wind River's Android software platform and services and support, Clarion is using Wind River FAST for Android to test for device software quality and user experience, says Wind River.

The Clarion Malaysia IVI device is based on the Freescale i.MX applications processor family. Wind River competitor Mentor Graphics is currently developing a version of its Genivi-ready Embedded Linux IVI Base Platform for Freescale's ARM Cortex A9-based i.MX6 system on chip (SoC).

Earlier this year, Wind River announced an IVI partnership deal with automotive component manufacturer Magneti Marelli to work on a Genivi Linux compliant system for BMW.

Stated T.K. Tan, managing director of Clarion Malaysia, "With Wind River's expert help, we are taking breakthrough Android technologies that have resonated with consumers and leveraging it for the automotive market."


OKL4 for In-Vehicle Infotainment appears to be available now to the OEM market. More information may be found at OK Labs' OKL4 for IVI page. More information on Wind River automotive solutions may be found at the Wind River automotive solution page.

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