Convergence as an idea has the power to change the business model of the auto industry. We can now look forward to improved experiences, cleaner and greener environments. Cars, which for decades have been looked at as a capital expenditure, may no longer be a capital expense, thanks to pay per use business models. Driverless cars can provide the options of car-pooling. We can now dream of less congested roads, better traffic regulation in cities, environment-friendly cars and better health and lifestyle of people.
We have talked about convergence for a while now and why is it so important with respect to the far-reaching impact on our lives. New technologies are enabling more and more industries to have an overlap zone. This is creating new marketplaces, new industries and competition between erstwhile unrelated companies. Innovation, at the dual axis of technologies and industries, is driving its rapid adoption and significantly enhanced functions and services are aiding growth as well. We are talking about self-driven cars developed by Google, IBMs supercomputer Watson defeating medicines best minds in terms of medical knowledge and application, wearable computing devices from multiple companies and a best-selling cloud platform from an e-commerce companyAmazon.
Mobile apps these days are no longer restricted to entertainment and office productivity. They track the physical activity of consumers and provide the incentive to lead a healthy lifestyle. They analyse the medical records of the individual and provide intuitive recommendations to patients with common ailments like sugar and hypertension. They use data-feeds from cameras and sensors available in phones to provide basic features of assisted living for senior citizens. Given the high incidence of lifestyle-related ailments, technology can be a boon and a bane at the same time. However, convergence, with its ability to bring in best practices from totally unrelated areas, is only helping to improve the quality of living of humans.
Core elements to enable technology convergence are natural user interfaces, miniaturisation, sensors, connectivity, imaging and platform-based development. Computing devices are becoming smaller, lighter and faster with miniaturisation of processors. Natural user interface with respect to touch, voice and gesture based recognition is revolutionising how people are interacting with smart devices. Sensors are becoming cheap enough to be used across industrial and consumer goods. Connectivity is becoming more reliable and affordable. Imaging as a technology is maturing with better algorithms, camera resolutions and processing powers, making it a core element to drive convergence. Platform-based development at embedded and application levels is providing a new dimension to leverage the technology foundation.
V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) communication will enable vehicles as well as fixed infrastructure like smart traffic lights to communicate with one another, thus controlling speeds, providing traffic information to the drivers and improving road safety. Vehicles can serve as data sensors transmitting traffic and road condition information while urban infrastructure is made smart through incorporation of algorithms that use data exchanged between vehicles and infrastructure elements. These measures help to recognise high-risk situations in advance, resulting in driver alerts and warnings through specific countermeasures. The US government has been pushing for mandatory car-to-car wireless communications and is planning to push for legislation by 2015. The day is not far when all new cars and light trucks would require V2V and V2I communication compulsorily for safer, faster and fuel-efficient transport.
Gesture recognition/touchless sensing technology will have great impact in domains such as consumer, automotive, gaming, transportation, etc. This will help in driverless cars in navigation, music system, door controls, etc. Usage of this technology in public transportation will enable cessation of disease transmission. A connected car with high-end technological innovation is among the most fascinating opportunities of this decade and, as always, the best is yet to come.
- By Sandeep Kishore
(The author is corporate vice-president, global head of sales & practice, engineering and R&D services, HCL Technologies)
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