Car Computers Are Stuck in Neutral, While iOS 6 and Siri Zoom Ahead

Eric Lai

(Updated June 11th, 2012 after Apple’s WWDC with news about Siri-Maps integration and the Eyes on Siri feature.) Of technologies sporting the largest gaps between vision and reality, I’d rank talking car computers up there with videophones, laser pistols and flying cars.

Who wouldn’t want to be zooming down I-5 while telling your personal KITT to book a reservation for two at the nearest four-star restaurant serving gazpacho? Or drilling into real-time sales pipeline data on a desktop-monitor-sized LCD touchscreen?

So I was shocked by Sam Grobart’s article in the Sunday New York Times, “Touch, Tap, Speak: Taking 5 Connected Cars for a Spin,” as it showed me how much state-of-the-art connected cars remain glorified GPS/stereo systems, and how much they lag their smaller mobile brethren, smartphones and tablets.

1) Voice control remains, for the most part, “comically bad” and rarely used, according to Grobart. That’s because making the software smart enough to figure out what to do when you say “Call home” without having to navigate verbally through a series of menus and sub-menus (i.e. saying “phone,” “call contact,” “home,”, “line 1,” and “yes”) is apparently pretty darn hard for most car computers. It’s not just because Siri is so awesome and car computers suck. Road noise, blaring stereos and the distance of the microphones from drivers’ mouths make accurate voice recognition very hard and costly in terms of processing power.

2) Alternate user interfaces are unsatisfactory in their own way. My visit last fall to the Tesla factory where I drooled at the Model S’s 17-inch computing-based infotainment system got me excited about touchscreens in cars. There are several issues that keep touchscreens from cars from being as useful as they are on tablets like the iPad. Multi-touch capacitive touchscreens that allow you to swipe and pinch don’t work with glove-encased fingers. A bigger problem is that touchscreens require users to look at them while they swipe. That’s not practical while driving.

As a result, car makers have tried to augment or replace plain old touchscreens with touchscreens that vibrate and/or buzz to provide yes/no feedback (Cadillac’s XTS sedan), joysticks that do the same (Lexus’s GS 350), or a series of rotary knobs and buttons (the approach of German carmakers like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz). And nearly all automakers with in-car computers offer buttons on their steering wheels. While handy in the midst of driving, it strikes me as being as crude as computers in 60s sci-fi shows that had no screens or keyboards, just switchboards with various one-control buttons and levers.

3) Think Android is fragmented? Think again. I don’t know any developers at ISVs serving the connected car market, but I’m guessing they are a depressed bunch. There is one popular multi-car platform called QNX CAR that is reportedly in use by 200 vehicle models, giving it 50% of the market. The problem is that many apps need to connect to the real-time sensors and controls of the car. How one does that varies a lot by car, and probably requires a ton of fussy, low-level programming that would sap any developer’s patience. Also, car makers like to customize the screen UI to fit their brand or the car model. And don’t forget the idiosyncrasies of each car’s physical UI, i.e. the vibrating buttons, knobs and joysticks. The net effect is that each carmaker effectively has its own platform.

Besides having too many slices, the pie itself is tiny. According to ABI Research, only 8.2 million connected cars will ship this year worldwide, growing to 39.5 million in 2016. Contrast that to the 1.8 billion smartphones that will ship this year, growing to 2.3 billion in 2016, according to IDC. Not a profitable scenario for would-be ISVs.

4) Innovation is excruciatingly slow. The lifecycle of a car is far longer than your typical smartphone or tablet (2 years). Os Grobart puts it:

“Automakers have a problem — the companies that make those smartphones and tablets are faster and nimbler, making significant updates almost every year. A car model may be in dealerships five years or more. If tech is Ferrari, the auto industry is Peterbilt.”

What Siri and iOS 6 Offer

The slow pace of innovation is one big reason I really like what General Motors is doing. Rather than try to create another marginal, proprietary platform, GM wants to let you leverage your smartphone and/or tablet while driving. In its Chevy cars, it is building 7-inch in-dash touchscreens that give you control of your connected mobile device.

This is not only less expensive for GM, but it also lets it ride on the much faster innovation happening in the mobile space.

Take the iOS 6 update announced Monday at Apple’s World-Wide Developers Conference, which will integrate Siri’s voice control into an upgraded Maps and GPS app (the latter courtesy of TomTom). Drivers will be able to say “Take me to the nearest sushi place with 4 stars on Yelp” and have Siri find and automatically create the route to take you there.

You could argue most of these carmakers already get it. BMW, Mercedes, GM, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler, and Honda have all agreed to integrate a new feature called ‘Eyes Free Siri’ into their vehicles. This allows drivers to press a button on their steering wheels or dashboards to prime Siri to accept commands, such as search for destinations, accept dictation, write Tweets, etc.

Again, the uncertainty is how smart Siri will be able to understand what you want in these expanded contexts, and how well it will simply be able to recognize your voice in a noisy car cabin. Mounting a Bluetooth microphone above the windshield in front of the driver’s seat would be the solution to the latter.


…speaking of things that go fast, SAP has a slew of Rapid Deployment Solutions that allow companies to deploy mobility within a matter of months or weeks. You can learn more from these videos.




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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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Why New Technology Has An Adoption Problem

Danielle Beurteaux

When 3D printing became a practical reality, in the sense that the actual printers became more efficient, less expensive, and more accessible to the average consumer, there was an assumption that the consumer 3D printing market was going to take off. We’d all have printers at home printing…. what? Our clothes? Toys? Spare organs?

That has yet to happen. 3D printing company MakerBot just went through its second employee layoff this year, driven by a market that’s developing much slower than predicted.

That same thinking is in play with a somewhat more prosaic technology – digital wallets. Apple Pay was released this year, as was Samsung Pay. There’s also Google’s Android Pay. During an earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “We are more confident than ever that 2015 will be the year of Apple Pay.” But that expectation has yet to be realized, at least vis-à-vis consumers.

Consumers aren’t using any of the digital wallets en masse. According to Bloomberg, payments made via mobile wallets – all of them – make up a mere 1% of retail purchases in the U.S. The reason is that consumers just don’t see a compelling reason to use them. There’s no real reward for them to change from SOP.

Both these instances highlight a problem with assumptions about mass adoption for new technology – just because it’s cool, interesting, and accessible doesn’t mean a market-worthy mass of people will use it.

Who is more likely to use mobile wallets? Emerging economies without a stable financial and banking systems. In those environments, digital payments present a more secure and quicker method for purchasing. These are the same areas where mobile adoption leapfrogged older technologies because there was a lack of telecommunications infrastructure, i.e. many never had a landline phone to begin with, and they went directly to mobile. The value-add already exists. (But there are also security issues, to which consumers are becoming more sensitive. A hack of Samsung’s U.S. subsidiary LoopPay network was uncovered five months post-hack. Although one was expert quoted as saying the hackers may not have been interested in selling consumer financial info but instead in tracking individuals.)

Here’s some interesting data and a good point made: mobile payments are most popular in situations where the buyer already has his or her phone in hand and the transaction is made even quicker than swiping plastic. For example, purchases made for London Transit rides are responsible for a good portion of the U.K.’s mobile payments.

Mass technology adoption is no longer driven simply by the release of a new product. There are too many products released constantly now, the market is too diverse, and the products often lack a true raison d’être.

Learn more about how creative and innovative companies are finding their customers. Read Compelling Shopping Moments: 4 Creative Ways Stores Connect With Their Customers.


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Three Reasons Why The Internet Of Things Is Showing Hockey Stick Growth

Paul Clark

The already massive amount of data being produced daily is going to proliferate with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). An innovative infrastructure must be able to accommodate the billions of connected devices being introduced worldwide that will generate unfathomable amounts of data.

“Within the next three years, the data created by IoT devices will reach 403 trillion gigabytes annually.”
– 99 Mind-Blowing Ways the Digital Economy is Changing the Future of Business, Source: Cisco, Global Cloud Index

Less than five years ago, Big Data was thought of as a data management challenge. Today, supercomputing power is everywhere, microprocessors are in every device, computers can be scaled as needed, and in-memory, real-time computing solutions are revolutionizing business software. As a result, data volumes are expected to grow to 6 billion petabytes, including unstructured data such as social networking and low-level IoT data.

The concept of IoT is not new, but what is new are the factors contributing to the popularity of IoT. The SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World, says the extensive growth in the IoT market is due to three main factors:

  1. Inexpensive sensors. The cost of product sensors has dropped dramatically, allowing even startups to easily create innovative IoT product applications.
  1. Stronger computing power. Analytics and in-memory computing solutions enable the computing power necessary to gain insightful meaning from big data and data lakes in real time.
  1. Internet protocol IPv6. The new IPv6 enables immense IoT expansion by increasing IP addresses from 32 bits to 128 bits, which could support up to 78 octillion Internet addresses, allowing an almost unlimited number of people, processes, data, and things to be connected to the Internet.

How to manage it all

As everything becomes more connected, how will we use and manage this unprecedented amount of data? Data management and in-memory computing solutions are increasingly essential tools. They enable companies to unlock immense value from the volumes of data being collected from an escalating number of sources such as product sensors, mobile devices, machines, asset monitors, computers, and social media platforms.

New advances in in-memory computing technology delivering enriched interactive analytics will make it easier for businesses to combine structured transactional data from existing applications with new contextual data from multiple other sources, including IoT applications.

As the number of IoT sensors increases, the amount of information created from this exponential growth in IoT is sure to bring new meaning to the term “Big Data.”

Learn more about IoT, data analytics, and other facets of digital transformation in the SAP eBook Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.


About Paul Clark

Paul Clark is responsible for developing and executing partner marketing strategies, activities, and programs in joint go-to-market plans with global technology partners. The goal is to increase opportunities, pipeline, and revenue through demand generation via SAP's global and local partner ecosystems.

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