Tag Archives: driverless cars

Connected Car Successes are following Smart Home Precedent

Growth in the connected car market is accelerating. The latest predictions claim that revenue in the US alone could top $37 billion by 2023, while globally, some have valued it as a $219 billion opportunity by 2025. Whatever happens, it’s undeniable that modern automobiles are as much computers as they are vehicles. That’s why we’ve seen a growing number of deals over recent months between car OEMs and traditional IT and OT providers. The latest is a tie-up between Google and Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi.

As yet another connected “thing”, our cars are set to become an extension of the emerging smart home. And that’s why the user interface will be key to success or failure as we go forward. In the smart home space we’ve seen a whole ecosystem of new connected things spring up to make people safer, happier and more entertained within the confines of their own four walls. The key gadget that has caught people’s imagination has been the smart speaker, now garnering sales in the millions of units. Those distributors that have managed to ink deals with Google, Amazon and Apple are already benefitting as their AI assistants get integrated into more and more products.

At the end of August, Amazon announced it had integrated Alexa into smart home sensors, bringing with it a whole new slew of functionality. Now you can ask Alexa if there are any doors open before setting your security alarm at night. Or program for the lights to come on if there’s movement in a room downstairs. This is the future of home automation and will open the floodgates on innovation in the space, and similar functionality can well be imagined inside the connected car.

Joining the dots
The average connected car today is said to contain more than 150 million lines of code, plenty of wireless connectivity and multiple on-board computer systems to provide everything from infotainment, monitoring of emissions, and even control of key functions like steering. We’re still some way off fully autonomous vehicles. But our cars are increasingly packed with technology designed to help with things like safety, navigation, predictive maintenance, entertainment and even in-car productivity.

Kal Mos, Global Vice President of Alliance Connected Vehicles at Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, was quick to zero in on the benefits of teaming up with Google.

“In the future, the Google Assistant, which employs Google’s leading AI technology, can become the main way customers interact with their vehicles, hands-free,” he said. “With Google Maps and the Google Assistant embedded in Alliance infotainment systems, our customers will have some of the most advanced AI-based applications at their fingertips. And with in-vehicle access to the Google Play Store, our customers will enjoy an open and secure ecosystem of Android apps engineered for vehicles.”

Increasingly we will live in a digital world where the connected car acts as an extension of the smart home and vice-versa. And the smart home will heavily influence the connected car space. The habits consumers are already learning at home will need to be embedded into their vehicles if OEMs want to drive success. That’s why, alongside the Google announcement, we’ve seen:

  • BMW and Mini announce a tie-up with Amazon Alexa
  • Bosch develop an in-vehicle assistant dubbed “Casey”
  • Mercedes continue to develop its own in-car assistant tech as part of the MBUX system

It won’t all be plain sailing. A new study has revealed widespread gaps in awareness and even active hostility to the idea of autonomous cars. But change is coming. And it will bring with it new opportunities for the channel.

by AS


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How PC Gaming Is Driving AI, Cars, and the UK Treasury’s Technology Policy

At CES 2017 back in January, Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia announced that “GPU-powered deep learning is driving the ability for computers to perceive the world… But one day, AI researchers met the GPU and the big bang of AI occurred.” Up until more recently, when most ICT analysts thought of Nvidia, the first thing to come to mind would have been gaming, and for a good reason. The core of Nvidia’s business is still PC Gaming where they continue to dominate the GFX hardware market. Jen-Hsun went on to explain that the “GPU had the benefit of being fuelled by the largest entertainment industry in the world, video games.” Indeed, PC gaming is one of the most processing-intensive activities a PC can be asked to perform, and that industry has gone from strength to strength over the past few years. Jen-Hsun was right to tout the success of PC gaming: CONTEXT’s data shows that sales of high-end VR-ready PCs shot up 1057% in terms of revenue y/y for the top 6 EU economies in Q4 2016, and figures from the Entertainment Retailers Association put gaming as contributing more to the UK economy in 2016 than either music or video sales at £2.96bn.

Several thousand miles away from Sin City, the importance of AI and driverless cars was being carefully noted by strategists and civil servants in Whitehall, culminating in the most recent budget announcement. The British government has promised £270m in funding for disruptive technologies such as driverless cars, AI, and robotics. Given the current hard-Brexit policies being pursued by Teresa May’s administration they are wise to support such green shoots; CONTEXT’s figures for professional GPUs back both this decision and Jen-Hsun’s assertion. Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 13.21.25Sales of professional GPUs in the UK reversed a previous decline in Q3 2016, with Nvidia’s own Quadro series of GFX cards enjoying +25% y/y growth in revenue. More and more GPUs are being purchased to power deep learning and AI for large datacentres, rather than in their more traditional roles for 3D modelling and computer aided design.

It’s not uncommon for devices to be developed with one purpose in mind then being very successfully appropriated for another. Even Atari’s failed Jaguar gaming console ended up being cannibalised and used in dental equipment. The GPU is also the critical lynchpin of another emerging technology: Virtual Reality. In one profound statement, Jen-Hsun declared that “…all gaming was Virtual Reality,” and in many cases this rings true where a player inhabits a virtual world. It might not seem immediately obvious, but components built for PC gaming now power both AI and VR. As a result Nvidia’s share price has soared in recent months, finishing 2016 +224% up from the previous year, and promising to continue to rise as their partnerships and new ventures bear fruit, with professional visualization growing +11%, datacentre at +144% and automotive up +52% for Q4 2016.

This success eventually caused Nvidia’s shares to drop in February when the Q4 results were released as investors weighed up the risks of long-term returns (as driverless cars are still many years away from being commonplace), versus selling stock at an apex. To some extent, the UK government is taking a gamble on driverless cars becoming the norm, and this might reflect the modest £270 sum compared with much higher investment promised by other governments. Academic commentators have also welcomed this news due to the environmental benefits promised by AI-driven vehicles. The immediate future of AI and its importance to the UK economy is very encouraging, but much like Brexit, the longer-term outlook is beyond the most complex algorithm to accurately portend.

by JW


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Filed under Big data, Connectivity, gaming, IoT, Mobile technology, Smart Technology

Are attitudes a leading indicator for breakthrough in Smart Home sales?

The Internet of Things has arrived with more of our everyday becoming connected. While many have high hopes for smart cities and driverless cars, it looks like the smart home will be one of the more practical and plausible upshots of our newly connected world.

We have just launched a report into the smart home that polled the views, opinions and purchasing intentions of 1,500 people in the UK, Germany and France. For many consumers it is the promise of greater convenience, cost savings and security that drives their smart home aspirations. The idea of having your home ready for you when you return resonates strongly, as does being able to shut down the house in the evening when it’s time for bed.

We were also really encouraged by the respondents’ open-minded attitude to the smart home concept. Nearly half of consumers (46%) in the UK, France and Germany expect to be living in a smart home within the next three to five years. In Germany, where manufacturers have been pushing the smart home concept for a number of years, nearly a quarter (22%) believes that smarter living will be a reality within a year. Whilst many question the timing of a smart home breakthrough, we should be encouraged by these positive responses, which are a leading indicator of change.

The Germans also appear to have a more positive outlook for the smart home. In the UK, 56% said they just weren’t interested in buying smart home products. In France this was 43%, but in Germany this fell significantly to 18%, highlighting the importance of driving consumer awareness. When we look at the retail level, again Germany led the way, with four in ten consumers surveyed finding out about smart home products through retail stores, compared to only 22% in France.

Yet despite this optimism, we still find the sector in its infancy. Even with all the buzz around tech shows, media excitement, and big-budget TV ad spend on products like Nest and Hive, consumer awareness is relatively low. Over six in ten of those we talked to hadn’t heard of the term smart home, so much remains to be done to educate consumers on the benefits of automating the home.

This appears to be the key to unlocking the potential of the smart home. We found that consumers focus on individual products like smart light bulbs or thermostats in isolation, instead of joining the dots to see how they can connect their entire home together. For retailers there exists a real opportunity to drive revenue in this new category by showcasing the smart home as a whole, bringing products from lighting, electrical and home furnishings departments together for the first time. And for device manufacturers, this is a signal that it’s time to think collaboratively, so products are inter-operable straight out the box.

As consumers remain unaware of these wider benefits, price becomes somewhat of a blocker to widespread adoption. Over a third feels that smart home products are currently too expensive, with the current ceiling for the majority of consumers around the £150 mark.

The smart home is rapidly becoming tangible as retailers, utility companies and telecoms operators jostle for consumer attention. From here standards need to be set so products work with each other regardless of manufacturer. This would remove the complexity of setting up a smart home, something that is undoubtedly stifling consumer buy-in. The prospects for the smart home market appear to be very bright, and it will be fascinating to see if the German optimism reflected in our research translates to the rest of Europe, and is converted into higher sales volumes.

For more information or to obtain a copy of the CONTEXT Smart Home Consumer Survey, please click here.


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Filed under Connectivity, Home automation, Retail in CONTEXT, Smart Technology