July 12, 2018

The next Mobile is the Automobile


India, a nation born in the 20th century, is beginning to leapfrog its way to technological progress in the 21st century. Our most valuable export to the world has been the ‘Indian Intellect.’ For decades, expat Indians have used their ingenuity to create and contribute to global companies that have changed the world. Far and wide, people of Indian origin have made a mark in their respective fields and made India a ‘proudly emerging’ nation which it is today.

In 2007, we witnessed the launch of Apple’s iPhone which kick-started the smartphone revolution in the world. During the 10 years that followed, the smartphone clearly outpaced every other consumer device in utility around the world. Furthermore, India took to the Android revolution with ease and affection like never before. Indian smartphone producers fueled the demand with affordable, yet attractive, products round the year, increasing market shares, further running prices downward with their China-based OEM vendors. The Indian companies also contributed to this growth by providing affordable ‘data plans’ to spur consumption of data on smartphones. Last year, smartphone imports were around 124 million units, making India the fastest-growing market in the world. Some forecasts estimate the Indian user base to be 530 million in 2018, making India the second largest market in the world and will push the US lower down to the third place at around 229 million users. Apple launched local assembly of handsets to take advantage of the Make In India program and successfully increased market share by creating a new market segment in India for older iPhone models.

As we witness this rapid growth in smartphones, we need to also acknowledge that the utility value of this device is expanding at an unprecedented pace. So much so, most companies have increased their investment in tapping the mobile device consumer vis-à-vis all other distribution channels. This implies that there are more eyeballs staring at the smartphone screens than any other channel.

Connected Car Landscape in India

Every Indian who owns and drives a car aspires to have a seamless smartphone-like experience within their car. Since the launch of autonomous vehicles like this the touch screen-based in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) in luxury cars, followed by mid-segment and later by economy car models, consumers have readily adopted every mode of smartphone integration that is feasible: auxiliary input, USB cable, Bluetooth and/or screen mirroring. Furthermore, this artificial intelligence in cars was brought about by smartphone OEMs collaborating extensively with IVI OEMs during the product design and development process.

‘A’ for ‘Apple,’ but in India it is ‘A’ for ‘Android’

We now have the latest automobile technology, the Android operating systems powering IVI devices that seamlessly connect with the Android Auto smartphone app to deliver dynamic Google Maps-based navigation integrated with traffic alerts, weather information, points of interest, all available to the driver over Google’s Voice Assistant integrated with your mobile calendar and Gmail. The latest automobile technology, voice, is the new HMI (human-machine interface) that enables native language access to connected services via mobile devices. This also increases driver safety by keeping the hands on the wheel and allowing easy access via voice interaction with the IVI during the journey.

Each year, Google adds to the feature set of the Android OS, enabling extensively new market segments on mobile devices. Furthermore, Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) that power the analytics engine in the Google enable ‘Predictive User Experience’ over time by recognising patterns of user-behaviour and co-relating other aspects of the users’ life online. Google powered creates a ‘Digital Twin’ of the user through the content available on social media profiles as well as emails and calendar events.

Where CLOUD is, There Shall EDGE be!

The future automobile technology will see artificial intelligence on the cloud-based computing platforms, such as Google or beginning to evolve into EDGE devices such as smartphones built with Neural Processing Unit (NPU) software on chipset (SoC). For example, Huawei’s Kirin 970 NPU now provides face recognition as a standard feature on the ‘pro’ series of smartphones. Using this innovation, Huawei recently demonstrated the image-recognition capability along with decision-making for a self-driving car scenario. Apple, Samsung, and Google also have these features on the top-of-the-line mobile devices.

Therefore, smartphones are no longer just ‘gateways’ to the information superhighway. The future automobile technology will be ‘mini-brain computers’ that aid intelligent driving and enhance safety and security on the road. Dual camera based smartphones with image, face, and voice recognition inside the car, as well as outside the car will become an integral part of the OEM and Aftermarket solutions. The current price point of $700+ will begin to go down as early adopters popularize these advanced feature sets in these models. The resulting increase in global volumes will lower the market price significantly. In some cases, OEMs will make a proactive investment to synergize AI-powered smartphone and IVI product design to offer exciting and useful features on the market quickly and India will stand to benefit from these global investments in R&D by OEMs. This kind of collaboration will reduce the gap in the innovation cycle of the automotive OEM and encourage cross-pollination of ideas in the ecosystem during the value creation cycle.

This implies that smartphones will enhance the IVI experience as well as provide an upgrade to the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) feature in cars. The equation below illustrates the future with a high probability of occurrence in India, as it also would, in the rest of the world.

Sensors + (Smartphone E-Cockpit) + 5G + G5 + A.I Cloud = L4 Self-Driving Car by 2025

G5 refers to the ITS (International Telecom Standards) 802.11p which specifies the standard for enabling Vehicle to Vehicle communication systems (V2V) across the of the world.

L4 refers to a highly connected automated driving where the car computes most driving functions but allows a ‘human driver’ to override when it encounters a likely emergency scenario on road. It is synergistic but not exclusive and, therefore, will enhance road safety many folds and save human lives.

Smartphone and IVI in Electric Vehicles (EV)

Smartphones and EVs have a lot in common: both depend on battery life and battery management system (BMS) software to function. Furthermore, EVs have telecommunication control units (TCUs) with SIMs cards embedded to ensure real-time connectivity. The BMS system provides two key metrics via the IVI and the smartphone app: distance to empty (DTE) and state of charge (SoC) of the EV. DTE provides the distance in kilometers/miles that can be driven with the current battery charge. SoC acts as the fuel gauge of the EV while it is plugged for battery recharge.

As EV volumes increase, smartphone OEMs will take on a key role in providing out-of-the-box innovations to EV OEMs in order to create a smart mobility ecosystem that can offer the following:

  • EV on-demand ride sharing with full integration with the user’s smartphone
  • Connected customized user experience via smartphone apps in-sync with the EV
  • Providing access to EV charging points with seamless online payment
  • EV battery swapping points may also become an optional scenario of the future
  • EV interaction with the smart electric grid in a ‘smart city’ to recharge as well as give back to the grid when not in use

It’s an Auto-by-mobile in the future

As smartphones become the ‘eye of storm’ fuelling the of life on planet Earth, the emerging smart mobility solutions ecosystem will create, capture, and deliver value to B2B as well as B2C use cases. - the new ‘kid on the block’ will enable platform solutions to secure user, vehicle, and smartphone data. It will also create new value chains and help us join the dots differently. Vehicle repair and maintenance (prognostic and diagnostic) data, financial transactions data, telematics data, compliance data, and insurance and registration data could all be on a blockchain. Smartphone apps will provide quick and secure access on-demand to users. No wonder they say that – DATA is the new OIL!