Leader Talk

Automobiles Are Beginning to Connect with All Aspects of Society Fusion of Automotive and Communication Technology Creates a New Paradigm

Communication technology will be indispensable for future automobiles. It will be used not only to exchange various information between in-vehicle communication systems, but also to improve driving safety by accessing external information. 'Connection' will be a further basic vehicle function supplementing the three traditional functions (driving, turning, and stopping). Information communication is one of the factors that herald a new era of automotive engineering.

Toshifumi Oida
General Manager, Connectivity Module Products Dept., Connectivity Products Division, Communication Business Unit

After entering Murata Manufacturing in 1988, Oida worked on developing techniques for monolithic capacitor measurement. From 1992 to 1998, he was then responsible for the development of ceramic multilayer substrates and microwave devices. Starting in 1998, he was responsible for product development, sales engineering, production technology, and quality control for short-range wireless communication products, before taking his current position in 2011. Oida's favorite pastimes are listening to music, playing musical instruments, and driving.

Murata has continually improved the function of connectivity modules while downsizing them. Along with the growing smartphone and tablet PC markets, our connectivity modules are increasing their market shares. To supplement our traditional strength of hardware technologies such as ceramics and RF circuit designs, we have worked on software technology by drawing on expertise available from both inside and outside the company.
Today, we have reached the point where we provide product support for our customers to achieve certifications by the radio regulations andWi-Fi® standards.
In addition to our hardware and software technology, customers in the market for in-vehicle equipment highly regard our dependable support as well. Communication will play an increasingly important role in the evolution of the automotive industry.

Connectivity Is the Core Technology Here Establishing Links Among Everything

We are developing connectivity modules. "Connectivity" is still an unfamiliar word, but these modules are designed to connect everything in the world. With connectivity modules, devices are connected to each other using wireless technologies other than mobile phone technology. These include short-range wireless communications such as Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi® as well as GPS. For vehicles, Bluetooth® modules incorporated in in-vehicle equipment such as car navigation and audio systems enable the hands-free operation of telephones or wireless transmission of music data stored in your smartphones and media players to the audio system in your car to play them while driving. For smartphones, Murata already supplies compact and lightweight connectivity modules with low power consumption. But connectivity modules for in-vehicle use have an additional requirement — high reliability. To meet this requirement, we improve performance reliability and conduct product life designs in keeping with vehicle lifecycles. By continually meeting the quality requirements specific to the market for in-vehicle equipment, we have shipped more than 15 million connectivity modules to this market since we started the business 8 years ago.

Manufacturing with a Focus on Reliability QCDS Optimized by Collaboration of All Murata Departments

In entering the market for in-vehicle equipment, Murata has further refined its hardware technology, one of its traditional strengths, to be able to supply modules over the entire lifecycle of vehicles in which they are used. In the module design phase, we select the best components to ensure long lives and follow special design rules that differ from those applied to consumer products. The process is also specially designed. We have introduced a production line dedicated to in-vehicle modules, and appointed special operators and developed inspection methods and a traceability system to establish a production process penetrated by "zero-defect" philosophy. Many customers that visited our site highly regard this production process. Theoretically, long product lives can be ensured by combining design technology with manufacturing technology. But very few component manufacturers can actually do that. That said, we are not pursuing reliability alone. In addition to our team for connectivity modules, the Murata Group has many other teams that work on various devices for wireless communication, ceramic capacitors, EMI filters and sensors. We work closely with these teams to ensure that components are used in a manner that is appropriate for in-vehicle modules. This collaboration allows us to supply our customers with modules providing more stable wireless communication performance at reasonable costs. Optimal QCDS performance is achieved through collaboration of all Murata departments, both inside and outside our team.

n-vehicle communication will be extended to include other vehicles and infrastructure in its network. Vehicle-to-vehicle and road-to-vehicle communication will begin to connect houses and people in the future. Communication technology will be indispensable for future mobility that will connect with society.

Software, Customer Support, and Certification Tests of Customer Products: With Its Comprehensive Ability, Murata Offers Higher Value for Customers

Our aim is to provide customer value so that they can make their overall resources more efficient by using Murata modules. This holds true for our in-vehicle equipment market activity. To provide even higher value, we have emphasized not only hardware, but software as well for the last few years. To this end, we introduce technologies from partners and companies we have absorbed, and combine it with our market experience to provide the high reliability standards required in the market for in-vehicle equipment. In-vehicle systems connect with a diverse range of equipment. Take smartphones, for instance. Numerous new models are launched in various parts of the world every year. It is therefore essential to improve the reliability of connection by designing software and conduct repeated evaluation and improvement, while taking into account the environment of its use in vehicle. Murata boasts experience and know-how for providing customer support for various equipment including components used in vehicles. It is one of our strengths to have an insight into evaluation. We test our modules not only separately, but also in environments similar to end-user environments. This allows us to identify overall problems in customer products. Software that establishes good connection with target devices and customer-oriented support and advice, help customers reduce the resources required for development and improve the perfection of their products. In addition to hardware and software, we attach importance to providing customers with a range of support for acquiring product certification. For example, Murata provides customers with support in product certification tests to be conducted for them in order to get permission to show the Wi-Fi® logo on them. We have equipment and technology within the company that can be used to conduct the same test that is required to receive Wi-Fi® certification. We use this test environment to evaluate the performance of customer products, define appropriate test procedures, and conduct preliminary tests so that they will reach the level to pass the official certification tests. It took a relatively long time to establish this support system, but our customers find it very helpful. We are proudly convinced that Murata is the only component manufacturer to go this far. Developing such comprehensive ability is the key to providing reliable modules that are easy for customers to use and incorporate into their products. In this way we aim to provide our customers benefits that increase Murata's value in the customers' eyes.

Future Automobiles Will Be "Connection-Oriented" Connectivity Modules Are a New Source of Growth for Murata

Industry experts say that future cars will be "connection-oriented." Connectivity technology is now used mainly in infotainment (information+entertainment) systems that connect with smartphones and media players in the vehicle's interior. But it is now finding use in a broader range of applications, including tracking stolen cars and making an automatic emergency call during an accident. In the course of time, the use of vehicle-to-vehicle and road-to-vehicle communication will be fully in gear. These technologies reduce accidents and improve driving safety by automatically braking the vehicle when informed of congestion ahead or by preventing collisions around corners through vehicle-to-vehicle exchange of information. In the future, vehicles will also be networked with houses and people. Connectivity technology is being constantly innovated to go beyond the confines of the vehicle's interior to cover other vehicles and infrastructure, connecting vehicles with society in large step-by-step. In 2013, Murata started the mass-production of a Bluetooth®/Wi-Fi® combo module for in-vehicle use. But it was just a stepping stone. Many other communication technologies are being studied to develop in-vehicle applications. In addition to Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi® modules, Murata has taken a worldwide initiative by addressing various communication methods and systems such as Bluetooth® Low Energy, sensor networks combining Zigbee® and sensor nodes, and gateways that handle network entrances and exists. By taking advantage of the best technical capability among the competition, Murata will continue to provide solutions for networking vehicles and society at large. We are convinced that Murata will be able to open up even more business opportunities in the future.

Wi-Fi® (Wireless Fidelity)

"Wireless fidelity" is a technology that allows an electronic device to achieve connectivity among electronic devices based on IEEE 802.11, the wireless LAN standards established by the IEEE. This certification method was formulated by Wi-Fi Alliance®, a business organization based in the U.S.A. Wi-Fi® products differ from wireless LAN products in that the former can show the Wi-Fi® logo on them. The use of the logo is only permitted for products that have been certified by the Alliance. Uncertified products cannot be distributed under the Wi-Fi name even if they have the same functionality. Murata provides its customers with a valuable solution in the form of a comprehensive support package including not only support for its software and hardware, but also assistance in achieving certifications by the radio regulations and Wi-Fi® standards.

Wi-Fi® certified logo from Wi-Fi Alliance®

Wi-Fi® certified logo from Wi-Fi Alliance®