Like many people, I tend to analyze evolving markets and technologies by breaking them into three stages. First, what are some of the past trends and successes, and what have we learned from them? Second, what are the current challenges facing us? And third, because I’m a die-hard optimist, what are the future possibilities?
Recently, at Telematics Update Detroit I had to opportunity to feel the industry’s pulse, discuss the pressing issues with other stakeholders and leave with a better idea of the directions we need to take.
It was good to see that the enthusiasm and buzz surrounding telematics and infotainment continues to thrive and grow. This year, consumer and automotive electronics convergence is a hot topic. We all know that automotive is a challenging market. Merging our technology with that which keeps the iGeneration informed and entertained as they move about in their lives is going to require ingenuity and hard work.
Looking back, James Bond, in 1963’s “From Russia with Love,” spoke to M using a car radio/telephone complete with a full-sized handset, a thick cord, and a console-sized cradle. That was very high-tech then, but we have come a long way since. Today we have pocket-sized Bluetooth wireless technology enabled cell phones that let you talk through your car audio system. And many of the building blocks that have brought us this farBluetooth, WLAN and UWB wireless communications, GPS, radar, on-screen graphics, and digital imagingwere never originally developed for automotive applications.
Automotive electronics adopts and adapts
In a very real sense, we have been converging different technologies with automotive applications for a long time. But our current challenges are having to react to consumer-driven market demands quickerwe have to pick up the pace of new product development. Most consumers still don’t consider automotive compatibility a high priority when they buy their personal devicesiPod, media player, PDA, video games and more. In other words, “Will my new gadget connect with my car?” is still more of an afterthought.
This can all change tomorrow. At any time seamless compatibility can become a major influence in consumer buying decisions. I see the iGeneration as a consumer that seeks an uninterrupted flow of information or entertainment as he or she moves from home to the car and then to the office. What’s more, they expect no compromise in quality during the transition from one site to another, and they will expect, if they don’t already, that the in-vehicle environmentaudio, display technology and connectivitywill actually enhance the infotainment experience.
Most of us would probably agree that we have yet to adequately meet these expectations. And we can point to a number of challenges that have stymied our efforts in the past. First, there is an obvious discrepancy between automotive and consumer time-to-market cycles as well as different economies of scale. A company introducing a new MP3 player is interested in a consumer market for tens of millions of products. Automotive cannot offer these kinds of market numbers, so we have to simplify the consumer and automotive convergence and minimize the cost of adoption for both industries.