IoT Monkey > Faces > Plamen Barzakov from Mazda Connect

Plamen Barzakov from Mazda Connect

The very first guest in our Faces section is Plamen. He is part of the Johnson Controls team since 2006 and he can account for enormous knowledge when it comes to connected devices, especially vehicles. He was also part of the Mazda Connect launch team and here is the little chat we’ve had on it today.

How long does it take to create a car infotainment system from the ground? What does the process look like. Tell me.

It takes 2-3 years at least, but it depends. If you are developing a system for one time use you can cut the lead time and cost a lot. In our case we developed a whole platform from the ground up, which is and will be used in many cars and many models. And at the end with minimum effort and changes the user will not be able to tell the difference between Mazda’s infotainment system and Toyota’s (for ex.), but it will be one and the same system.

Development of such a system includes a lot of other work, not just software development – hardware development, GUI design, integration with hundreds (literally) other systems and control units in the car developed by other companies. And of course testing, a lot of automated tests and also tests made by humans while driving around.

What was the greatest challenge your team faced in the process? Were there any unorthodox approaches used down the road?

For sure the greatest challenge is creating such a huge project for the first time with a team of 200-300 people across the globe. We’ve done a lot of projects but this one is the first high end infotainment system done from the ground up all by our people. Of course there were many difficulties like designing a framework which can handle 30-40 applications running in the car and doing it in such a way that we can extend this in the future (downloadable applications like Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Can you describe Mazda Connect in three words? Like adjectives.

Simple, sleek and fast.

What distinguishes Mazda Connect from BMW iDrive and the other big guys? They have been around and ahead for a while. BMW pioneered this almost 13 years ago.

From user point of view maybe there is not so much difference between the infotainment systems in the competitors. All the premium manufacturers have almost the same set of functionality and if there is something new the others are quickly catching up. So I would say that in terms of functionality they all do the same thing with a different GUI.

What distinguishes Mazda Connect from technology point of view is that we were the first to make a product in the automotive industry based on HTML5 and Javascript. Yes, the whole user interface you see is just a customized web browser and each application (phone, CD, USB players, etc.) is a web page made in HTML5.

Mazda brought high-class features like HUD and lane assist to the compact car segment. Is it bringing more to the party?

I have driven it several thousands kilometers and I would say that this is one of the most useful and important features you can get in your car these days. Mazda is trying to get into the premium class and they are doing a lot of efforts. One great thing that I like is the simplicity – when you get into the car you don’t see tens of buttons and knobs, they are really limited, but everything just works as it is expected. No distractions, no hustle while you are driving.

A lot is going to happen in the automotive industry in the following years and maybe the first one will be connectivity – users want to be connected to their emails, social networks, etc. all the time, even while driving. So this will be the next big thing for sure (not only for Mazda of course).

If we think bigger and further in time, it will be even more exciting – connected cars, talking to each other, exchanging traffic information, warnings, accident reports and so on.