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December 30, 2016

2017 Predictions for the connected car - What to look out for? - Part 1

The connected car domain is evolving fast and furious, the estimates are staggering in terms of the number of connected vehicles that will be on the road in the next 3-5 years. I have been associated with this domain for the last few years and this is my 2nd attempt to predict the focus areas for 2017 - I try and pull this together as a practitioner, as someone who has been working with our clients and actively engaged across multiple projects. I hope to get better in this annual exercise, and eventually reach a stage of acceptance - till then bear with me ... These predictions are based on my experience, understanding and conversations with stakeholders in the industry. They help me synthesize my thought processes in refining our offerings and go to market strategy. 
Before I list out the trends, a quick note on the structure to ease readability. There are 3 phases from trends perspective and producer and consumer lens. Here are the phases

  1. Implement: Adoption of these trends will increase and they will be implemented in 2017 or the implementation is in progress that you will see them in cars in 2017. I estimate a 0-2 year period that these trends are in production
  2. Develop: Research on these topics will increase and you will see prototypes in vehicles at auto shows, and on roads. Another way of looking at them is that they are getting ready to be adopted. I estimate a 2-4 year period that these trends are in production
  3. Incubate: These are trends that are still in a concept phase and will eventually get into research and then adoption. Some might not mature to be in production, nevertheless these are important aspects that have to be continuously researched. I estimate a 4-5 year period before these trends are in production
The picture below captures the trends in each of these phases, the timeline shown above is how long it will take before you see it on cars on the road.  Any new technology adoption will go through these phases in some form or other, I think what we are going to witness in the auto industry is going to be unprecedented, shortening of these cycles and acceleration of new technology in the vehicle.
Trends Big Picture Small.png

While the above phases slot the trends, another viewpoint is to look at them from a producer and consumer perspective. A producer is any player in the value chain who is responsible for producing something that goes into the car - these could be auto OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, ISVs, Tier 2s, Semiconductor companies, Service providers. The intersection of these two axes provides us insights of "what does it mean for the stakeholder" and possibly the "why" question as well

  • Consumer: The impact of a particular trend on the customer who is at the wheels, how will it benefit, what is the perceived value and such? 
  • Producer: What does it mean for an auto OEM, Tier 1 supplier, the software vendor and producers in the entire value chain? What do they have to watch out for? 
The picture below lays out the trends and analyzes the impact on consumer and value system players. Essentially, how will this trend impact the end customer and what must the ecosystem do to accelerate adoption and realization of the trends. 

Together both the perspectives provide a view of the trends and how does it impact the end customer and producers of the technology (the ecosystem). My intent was to keep it brief and crisp when I started, but the project took its own shape and providing information while balancing the content length became the philosophy. 

Trends Impact Small.png

The second part of the blog here describes in detail the trends, and their impact on customers. Hope you enjoy reading it, I'd love to hear your feedback on the trends, my analysis and an amateur attempt at the predictions

2017 Predictions for the connected car - What to look out for? - Part 2

In the first part of this blog here, I outlined the framework that was used to arrive at the predictions specifically the three phases (Incubate, Develop, Implement) and two different perspectives (Producer, Consumer).

Let me now explain each of the trends, and why they fit into the particular phase. Since there are 19 of them, I've kept the commentary minimal. For each of them, we will look at - what is the trend, why do I think it's in a particular phase and what is the impact. 

Let me now explain each of the trends, and why they fit into the particular phase. Since there are 19 of them, I've kept the commentary minimal. For each of them, we will look at - what is the trend, why do I think it's in a particular phase and what is the impact. 

i. Incubate

The trends in concept phase are ones that are on the drawing board, lots of white boarding, initial prototypes, analyzing the market and making sure they are relevant to the consumer, auto OEMs and other stakeholders in the value chain. Incubation is about nurturing the technology and helping it on it's way to research and realization 

  1. Modular and adaptable design: Borrowing from the software world, cars of the future will be modular, scalable, and adaptable to new features and technologies. The notion of a car being an unchangeable piece of equipment for the ownership duration will be challenged. While the software in the car is fast embracing the trend, there are other vehicle components which need to evolve. The impact on the customer will be significant since they can keep pace with the technology, lifestyle and demographic changes. The value chain players will have to significantly change their product development lifecycle to create such products

  2. Integrated digital experience: Weaving the car contextually into the customer's digital lifestyle by integrating various digital endpoints into a harmonious journey. The experience is moving towards intelligent and invisible computing based on location, context, behavioral learning and such. While there are prototypes that can be seen at auto shows, conferences a truly integrated experience is still being worked out given that the rest of jigsaw pieces are maturing (smart home, smart community, smart parking et al). The customer will start expecting the experience as hygiene given the digital explosion in their worlds. For the value chain players this will be uncharted territory since their exposure has been limited to components thus far

  3. Monetization: Interestingly, monetizing the connected vehicle services has been a topic widely discussed over the last few years, however there is no silver bullet. I believe there will be conversations around extending to other businesses (such as insurance), and partnership models that will evolve. Do the connected vehicle services subscriptions pay for themselves? I am not sure. Like in the telecom world, the impact will be encouraging for the customers since the auto OEMs can subsidize some of the services. For the value chain players, figuring out the monetization rules is absolutely crucial for long term sustainability

  4. Digital vehicle/twin: This is my personal favorite, eventually there will be a digital vehicle and customer i.e. a 1 to 1 model of the car and driver that is continuously fed field data. Imagine the impact of maintaining a live model that mirrors the on road usage and level of personalization that can be achieved. The concept itself is in a very nascent stage and is discussed in the industrial sector. The impact of digital twins is going to be immense for the consumer and producers given the precision with which many operations can be performed

  5. Machine Learning: Learning and adapting based on the customer's behavior, based on driving and traffic patterns - this will be a critical capability in the development of autonomous vehicles. Aspects of machine learning are introduced in pockets in navigation, Voice Recognition systems already. The customer will expect the system to progressively learn and keep track with a feature to override. More compute power, combined with big data from the cloud, in the vehicle to perform heavy duty analytics.

  6. Shared Mobility: Ownership paradigms are changing, shared mobility has many aspects to it such as car sharing, ride sharing, ride splitting complementing the traditional car pooling and public transits. The shared mobility concept is amplified by the real time data from the vehicle and embraced by the new generation. In addition, when integrated with public transportation, this can serve as a last mile connectivity option. As this trend picks up, this will have a major impact on consumer's life style. Automakers have to adapt to deal with this change in paradigm

ii. Develop

The "Develop" phase is characterized by trends that have gone beyond the incubate phase and are being actively worked upon by the entire ecosystem. These could be large programs that are just kicking off, field trials of some of the trends, essentially the technology is validated and being developed to be deployed in production

  1. ECU consolidation: The number of ECUs in luxury vehicles are close to 100, there is a clear drive towards consolidation given the complexity. Leveraging multi-core processing, the roadmap is towards domain based controllers such as ADAS, Infotainment, and Autonomous driving with shared resources and infrastructure across these controllers. The impact on end customer may not be apparent but for the auto maker this is a huge step up in terms of efficiency, system costs, overall weight, efficient supply chains

  2. Autonomous vehicles: There has been significant strides on this topic last year and every ecosystem player is investing in driverless vehicles. There are field trials, and billions of miles collectively. The space has expanded to autonomous fleets, delivery vehicles and such. The technology, regulations and ecosystem around driverless vehicles are still maturing and hence this is in the Develop phase. The customer impact is kind of out there, since the customers are not sure what to expect and surveys/feedback don't convey the real feedback. The value chain impact is significant since it brings in a whole league of suppliers and technology companies who were not involved in the automotive domain. 

  3. User adoption: Various polls have indicated that consumers are well informed about connected vehicle services and are willing to pay and share their data if it's going to help in driving. Despite this the uptick on user adoption is still in its infancy and not exploded. Features that drive adoption, will be researched further, and integration into the lifestyle will be a key element that will have an element. The customer will continue to look forward innovative features that make the driving experience unique. 

  4. Ethernet in the car: The explosion of multimedia content in the vehicle increases the demand for high speed networking inside the vehicle. There are specific requirements around Quality Of Service (QOS), Scalability, Open vs. Proprietary. Ethernet AVB is an enhancement to the IEEE open Ethernet standards and is expected to address the future requirements of networking in the vehicle while minimizing the wiring and weight as well. The widespread adoption of Ethernet AVB is still a couple of years away. The customer is going to have an enhanced experience in the car with respect to multimedia content and for the auto OEMs coupled with ECU consolidation, this is progress towards Design To Adapt philosophy

  5. Next generation platforms: While there is much discussed about the connected car platforms (Telematics Service Providers), these platform were designed and developed almost a decade ago. Since then there have been feature evolution, technology evolution, consumer preferences, behaviors has changed, business models have evolved and pretty much the entire ecosystem. While patch work helped in addressing some of the immediate problems, automakers are realizing that their platforms have to be modernized to scale for the future. The planning, design and development for these next gen platforms are in progress. For the customer, this is a step towards a harmonious, consistent and exhilarating experience inside and outside the vehicle. For the ecosystem, this is about building the foundation for the future. 

  6. Model based system engineering (MBSE): MBSE is a visually and semantically rich modelling construct that allows engineers, and processes to align towards a common goal of creating great products. Given the multi-disciplinary nature of connected vehicle features, MBSE brings together electrical, mechanical and software domains to interact on common ground through out the entire product development cycle. It addresses a key issue of diverse technologies, skills and tool sets and unifies them through a single system view of the product under development. The ability to simulate, perform what-if analysis and keep the model updated are obvious advantages. The approach will become de-facto standard in a few years and has far reaching implications for the automaker and entire value chain 

  7. Productivity Enhancer: While one might question the need to open a PDF document on the head unit of the vehicle, or connect through VPN, these are features that are being developed to amplify the productivity. In our experience Tier 1s are developing it and Auto OEMs would like it in their vehicles. The feature adoption is not as widespread but office in the car will be a welcome feature for the anytime, anywhere and always connected knowledge worker. Of course this will have a significant impact on the customer, the key thing to watch out for is driver distraction and as much as the feature is smartly designed, it will be on its way to being a blockbuster. The ISVs in the value chain will have a significant boost and have to figure out how to support the auto channel and it's regulations

  8. Regulations: There is increase in scope of regulations governing the automotive industry - these include manufacturing, driving, electronics, connectivity, driver distraction, autonomous vehicle, safety regulations, cyber security. I have not covered the entire list here but regulations have to be dynamic and need to be updated to keep pace with technology, behavioral and lifestyle changes. They also have to be include multiple stakeholders in constructive dialogue before rolling them out. The industry and value chain players are collaborating to form consortiums, standard bodies to define consistent frameworks as well

iii. Implement

The "Implement" phase is characterized by trends that are already in production or in the final stages that it will be released in 0-2 years. When you think about it, these were in the incubate phase beginning of the decade and are now mature enough to be in the car. Cyber security is being mandated by regulations, DevOps is one way to accelerate the product development life cycle and keep pace with the consumer electronics industry. Let us now look at the trends in this phase

  1. Advanced Voice Recognition (VR): The growth of Siri, Google Now, Alexa are signs of Audio User Interface as the next frontier in computing. Conversational interfaces that understand natural language are the next frontier. With a combination of on-board and off-board processing, VR is expected to minimize driver distraction. The customer impact is of course huge when the same home and phone experience transcends into the car. The ecosystem impact is significant since VR amplifies safety, however it is crucial that accuracy and reliability of these systems are top notch so that consumer adoption picks up

  2. Cyber security: The year 2017 will be defining from a cyber-security standpoint. The connected vehicle is a large computing device on wheels with estimated 100 million lines of code and generating roughly 438 billion GB per year. The attack surface has increased significantly, and there are multiple vulnerabilities in the entire chain. Consortiums and industry bodies such as Auto-ISAC, SAEJ3061 standards are defining frameworks for a consistent and unified response to this major threat. There are multiple security mechanisms in place already such as hardware hardening, secure communication, Over The Air updates and we will continue to see the mitigation responses increase. Automakers have a responsibility to enhance consumer awareness on this topic and the entire value chain has to collaborate to ensure that security specifications are addressed during the product development life cycle

  3. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS): ADAS systems are a natural evolution towards autonomous driving, there are a bunch of features that make up ADAS - Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning, Heads Up Display (HUD), Lane Departure Warning, Parking Assist, Drowsiness Detection, Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Blind Spot Detection and many more. Some of these features have become standard on cars in the road already and they will continue to proliferate in mass market and lower segment vehicles as technology matures, and costs of including the features are marginal. Generally speaking the acceptance and adoption of these features has been very encouraging since there is value and it amplifies driver safety. So, in 2017 - watch out for these features in most new models

  4. Firmware Over The Air (FOTA): Software updates as a technology is not new, this has been available since computers were networked. They have continued to evolve and with the explosion in smart phones, OTA updates have become part of our daily lives - there's excitement with new versions. FOTA will become a regular feature, Tesla has been a pioneer and averaging a software upgrade one a month. The communication, building awareness among consumers, and the entire software upgrade management will get fine tuned as consumers get used to software upgrades being delivered to their vehicle. Of course this will be a huge boost for the ecosystem players given the massive impact it can have on updating software in the vehicle. I'd still urge caution since the upgrades are not like the ones to the phone

  5. DevOps: Automobile industry is a century old, the practices are traditional and in many ways manufacturing operations in the industry have been a benchmark for other sectors to follow including software engineering. However, given the relative pace of change in various sectors fueled by multiple triggers. DevOps is a cultural change that focuses on rapid delivery through the adoption of agile and lean practices. DevOps emphasize people, process and tools and seeks to improve collaboration between Dev and Ops. This will mean changes getting into production faster, more reliably and hence the customer impact will be positive. For the industry, embracing DevOps will be an opportunity to shift from a waterfall based methodology to an agile way of working

I hope you enjoyed reading the trends, its impact and how they will pan out over the next few years. I definitely cannot predict the future, but this is an attempt to structure what I have learnt, heard, and read in my interactions over the last year. It has definitely been an intense exercise to list out the candidates, weed through them and then create the top list. I'd appreciate your feedback as I continue this exercise annually. 

December 6, 2016

DevOps - A catalyst for IOT solution development

Recently, I presented at the international SPICON 2016 - theme of "Energizing Delivery in a Digital Paradigm". I spoke about how DevOps is quintessential for IOT solution development and the feedback was very encouraging from the audience. You can find my presentation here. I have been actively evangelizing devops as a philosophy in IOT solution development.  

There is so much material on DevOps that I wouldn't want to add to it, however a slightly different take - DevOps definition is analogous to the blind men and elephant story that all of us have heard of. Enterprises who are thinking about DevOps as a magic wand to all their problems - let me implement Chef, Jenkins and Docker and voila all my problems are gone, must reconsider and reconsider really hard. You cannot be certified for DevOps, neither are there standards or checklists for implementing DevOps. I have also heard weird things such as DevOps is what Facebook, Google, Netflix does.

So what is DevOps - it is a cultural change that focuses on rapid delivery through the adoption of agile and lean practices. DevOps emphasize people, process and tools and seeks to improve collaboration between Dev and Ops. I have been guilty of the classic developer excuse - "You know it really worked on my system" or if you walk the corridor a few years ago during release time, you will hear someone screaming - "Hey is this the same version", "Did the QA team certify the release?" ... I am certain that all of you would agree that the scale, magnitude of these issues in a digital world is magnified and the business impact is massive. DevOps builds on principles such as "Fail early, Fail fast", "Get early feedback", "Deliver rapid and incremental value". Ofcourse the agile movement was foundational and DevOps has been building on it. 

IOT is about connecting things, devices, people, processes and systems to enhance value as data passes through every layer. There are multiple reference architectures for IOT solutions - devices and sensors, right at the bottom of stack which sense and communicate through wireless technologies which is then analyzed and integrated with enterprise systems to deliver business value. 

At each layer there are various aspects that need to be considered and tradeoffs need to happen. Of course cutting across all these layers is security, system integration, end to end performance testing and most importantly experience. Human centered design is at the core of IOT solutions - unless the solution development centers around the user and creates experiences that are meaningful, and contextual adoption will be a challenge. In the period between 2013 - 2020, the world population is expected to grow from 6.3 Billion people to 7.6 Billion people. In the same period, the number of devices that can connect are expected to grow from 500 Million to 50 Billion. In the world of IOT everything is about magnitude and scale. 

There are certain aspects that make IOT solutions unique - physical devices (sensors, and/or devices), connectivity and scale of data. It's pretty evident that the platform software which are the backend systems would follow classic devops however let's look at the uniqueness of IOT solutions - 

  1. Multi-disciplinary: Hardware, embedded systems, connectivity, cloud, analytics, messaging, protocols, and just about everything else ... 
  2. The vulnerability surface area is pretty widespread as well given the multi-disciplinary nature - there are more point to attack and hence security becomes vital
  3. The device layer is expected to work on low power, last long without maintenance, and under harsh operating conditions
  4. Device management across millions of devices becomes a key challenge as well
  5. Connectivity in a connected vehicle scenario connectivity can be intermittent - and hence testing for such conditions becomes crucial

Given the uniqueness of IOT solutions, testing and deployment are hotspots when it comes to DevOps. Let's now look at a few factors that are specific to testing and deployment

Start with testing

  • How do you mimic the field in your environment? What is the impact of data being ingested into the IOT platform - in the fleet management solution that we spoke about how do we mimic the truck being driven around across the country
  • What are the operating conditions - weather, connectivity, tampering, battery low?
  • Because of the proliferation and commoditization at the device layer how does the platform still continue to interface with older generation devices

Deployment is challenging as well

  • How do you ensure that all devices have been provisioned, are always online, have the latest updates? 
  • Let's take a connected farm as an example - you would have a few thousand sensors, how do you test for deployment under such load conditions - it is impractical to have them in a lab
  • In multi-geography deployments certifications play a crucial role - the ops team has to understand certification and regulatory requirements and isolate/stagger deployments accordingly

The intersection of DevOps and IOT is embryonic and expected to grow from strength to strength. Modern Service Delivery is quintessential for IOT solution development. Here are a few takeaways for those of you who are starting to consider DevOps for IOT? 

  • Don't force fit DevOps - assess for natural fitment, start with the low hanging fruits of software before extending them to the devices
  • Model the devices and it's attributes - start looking at Device As Code just like Infastructure as code
  • Emulation and Simulation are key elements of testing ... Emulators maintain the same look and feel of the digital object, they emulate device behavior and help create virtual assets that can be used for software testing. Simulation on the other hand is very software centric and refers to simulating interfaces, API, test data and so on
  • Plan for flexibility and scale - IOT solutions bring about different scenarios such as operating conditions complexity, models and versions. DevOps implementation need to start considering these.

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