Since 1957, AutoMeter has provided world-class premium gauges, instrumentation, and test equipment for the automotive, military, marine, and racing industries. Therefore, it came as no surprise when long-time customer NASCAR asked AutoMeter to develop a fully customizable LCD instrumentation system that would replace traditional instruments in the NASCAR cockpit. With LCD display systems prevalent in many of the latest vehicles, NASCAR challenged AutoMeter to bring the same rich, intuitive user interfaces to its race cars.
AutoMeter was up to the challenge of ushering in a new era of technology to the racing world with a high performance, ruggedized, fast responding and graphically rich digital dashboard that will set NASCAR vehicles apart from other race vehicles. The LCD screens would need to be visible in all lighting conditions, combine both analog and digital instruments in a small area, be fully sealed from water and dust, and be able to survive in a very high vibration, high heat, and electronically noisy environments. In addition, AutoMeter sought to make its product full of rich graphics that the race team could easily customize to change key design elements – like color, display type, layout and gauge location, and instrumentation scale – to match their individual needs or preferences with little to no programming experience.
To develop a ruggedized, fast responding, and graphically rich display system for the next generation of NASCAR racing vehicles without sacrificing time to market or required extreme environmental specifications.
AutoMeter researched multiple microprocessors and real-time operating systems that were available and selected the Freescale i.MX 53 processor running QNX. However, they needed a flexible UI development tool to power the digital dashboard that would help AutoMeter get the product to NASCAR quickly, and make it easy for the teams to use and customize. After considering several potential solutions to address this engineering challenge, AutoMeter selected Crank Software and its product Storyboard due to its ease of use, rich graphics capability, and the ability to leverage these attributes to ensure a fast time to market.
Using the Crank Storyboard graphical user interface (GUI) development environment to plan, prototype, and perfect a customizable, multi-function LCD gauge display.
Storyboard is a set of UI development optimization tools for embedded dynamic graphical displays that allows UI design and embedded programming to occur in parallel. UI designers with no programming experience use the Storyboard Designer module to create drag-and-drop UI designs and even import graphics from Adobe Photoshop. In the meantime, embedded engineers who program the UI features and functionality use the Storyboard Embedded Engine module as the runtime framework that interprets and executes the graphical UI on the embedded device.
"Storyboard has everything we were looking for – a fast, flexible graphics engine that helped us to create a customizable digital LCD display that race teams could use to design their own UI dashboards without any programming know-how. With Crank Software’s help, we were able to get up and running within a few days, have fully functional prototype units available within a few months, and have a product ready to launch in record time."
AutoMeter Products, Electrical Engineer
With its goal to redefine performance instrumentation using state-of-the-art electronic visual displays, AutoMeter set a requirement for the dashboard to boot up with simple graphics within 2.5 seconds and then for the customized UI to appear within 5 seconds. Storyboard would be a good fit to develop the dashboard because of its small footprint and smooth, fast performance. In order to ensure that Storyboard Suite would be the best UI development solution, AutoMeter wanted to test the software to verify that it could meet AutoMeter’s performance goals for the digital dashboard.
Unlike the other products they considered, Storyboard could be evaluated to its full potential with a free trial download. The download and installation of the software were simple and straightforward. Plus, with the help of Crank Software’s responsive support team to customize a few features, Auto Meter had the example application working within a few days and then immediately started modifying it to build their own concept. AutoMeter instantly benefited from Crank’s detailed getting started documentation, freely available video tutorials, and ability to immediately resolve issues over phone and email. By the time the license was purchased, AutoMeter had a successful working prototype.
AutoMeter successfully released its new LCD Competition Dash – a user-customizable display with precise data acquisition – in 2012 and Crank Software helped make its tight development schedule possible. Storyboard enabled AutoMeter to quickly prototype and deploy their product in less than a year.
With the success of its Competition Dash, AutoMeter plans to expand the release of this product line to include commercial, street, and drag race market products. This expansion will enable end users to customize their display system. Since AutoMeter products are make, model, and year agnostic, anyone from the purchaser of a newly released Honda Civic to the proud owner of a 1964 Mustang to a competitive road racer will be able to develop the instrumentation system of their dreams.
And, under the hood of each rich and dynamic dashboard will be the small, powerful Crank Storyboard.