With the recent advances in Tablet Computing and non-proprietary devices such as those based on the Android Operating System, I‚Äôve started considering the feasibility of using (or building) a Motorcycle Computer based on a 7‚ÄĚ Android tablet.¬† There is nothing currently on the market, but frankly, as I begin my feasibility study, I have to ask, why reinvent the wheel? ¬†I’ll come back to that…
At the simplest level, the tablet, without any physical interface to the motorcycle, (other than perhaps a 12 VDC power tap,) could provide communications, GPS, mapping, video recording, music and any other of the THOUSANDS of applications available for the Android platform.¬† Even at this simplistic level, a tablet computer could consolidate many of the electronic devices riders often carry and greatly simplify connectivity!
Taking the computer to the next level, however, is where I see the huge potential!¬† Imagine, for example, if the unit had ‚Äúhard wire‚ÄĚ connections to the motorcycle‚Äôs electronics, the¬†PowerCommander and/or even a 3rd party data acquisition system? ¬† Now, we have a device that in addition to providing the entire library of Android apps, we might collect lap times, RPMs, speed, on/off throttle, braking and other data to help us in our riding.¬† And then, rather than stopping and connecting the laptop for data analysis, we could do it right on the bike and immediately adjust accordingly.
Other uses might be:
- Adjusting fuel injection mapping, mid-flight
- Adjusting ABS or Traction Control
- Monitoring oil/coolant/engine vitals/etc
- Monitoring and displaying speed/RPM/gear selection/throttle position
- The¬†equivalent¬†of “Motorcycle OnStar.”
- …and etc, etc, etc…
Cruisers, sport riders, racers, tourers and etc, could employ the software and features that best suits their needs or wants. ¬†Whatever floats your boat! ¬†The possibilities are¬†virtually¬†infinite as long as the I/O (Input/Output,) software and Operating System(s) remain non-proprietary and open!
To take our Motorcycle Computer to my ‚Äúnext level,‚ÄĚ the task requires both hardware and software.¬† The hardware would need to be an ‚Äúon-bike interface‚ÄĚ with connections similar to (or even interfacing directly with) those provided by modern F/I mapping, data acquisition systems such as those currently marketed by Bazzaz Performance, RacePak AND with the FACTORY components. ¬†Finally, the hardware interface would need to have an Industry Standard communications interface and bus. ¬†Again, something that is pretty much standard issue in computing.
Then there‚Äôs the software.¬† Assuming the hardware maintains a common, open interface, writing software is, by comparison, simple! ¬†With the sky being the only limit!
But why reinvent the wheel? (revisited) ¬†What if our existing factory traction control, that already talks to factory engine management, could also talk to my¬†Android¬†Tablet (or even your crappy,¬†proprietary, iPhone?) ¬†(Sorry, I couldn’t resist taking the shot!)) ¬†What if data¬†acquisition,¬†telemetry¬†or a video capture system was as simple as plugging in a USB device?
And what if the motorcycle industry took the lead and developed open architecture protocols for devices and software that was common across motorcycling? ¬† We already have onboard computers, why not make¬†communications¬†and interfacing with¬†them¬†an industry standard? Perhaps a hardware bus something like the passive backplane that connects blade servers or Single-Board-Computers (but scaled) and communications protocols such as those of the LAN or USB IEEE standards?
In the computer and technology world, you interface or die. ¬†Standards like those written by the IEEE have all but¬†eliminated¬†communication problems and¬†incompatibly, that so plauged the computer industry in its infancy. ¬†So why not learn from history and apply similar concepts in motorcycle computing?
As for the¬†naysayers¬†and the “I-don’t-need-no-god-damn-computer-on-my-motorcycle” crowd, sorry guys, but computers on motorcycles are already a fact of the life. ¬†I’m just saying, since we have to have them, lets have something we can communicate with. ¬†Lets learn from the Computer Industry and settle on¬†standards¬†before the¬†manufacturers¬†all individually run amok¬†like¬†the Automotive industry did (and is now recovering from!)
As motorcycle owners and riders, we’re the ones that will benefit from such standards and interfaces. ¬†Computers are here to stay, so how about making them work better not only for the bikes, but for the riders as well?