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.


Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

Eric Lai previously worked in Enterprise Mobile Solutions Marketing at Sybase, an SAP company. His specialties include blogging, journalism, social media, marketing communications, content strategy and writing and editing.



Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Hans Thalbauer

Numerous sectors are experimenting with 3D printing, which has the potential to disrupt many markets. One that’s already making progress is the food industry.

The U.S. Army hopes to use 3D printers to customize food for each soldier. NASA is exploring 3D printing of food in space. The technology could eventually even end hunger around the world.

What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.

And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.

Supply chain spaghetti junction

The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.

To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.

With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.

You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.

First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.

Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.

Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.

Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.

Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain

As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.

Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.

Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.

And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.

Want to learn more? Check out my recent video on digitalizing the extended supply chain.


Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.

How to Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace 

John Hack, Sam Yen, and Elana Varon

SAP_Digital_Workplace_BRIEF_image2400x1600_2The process of designing a new product starts with a question: what problem is the product supposed to solve? To get the right answer, designers prototype more than one solution and refine their ideas based on feedback.

Similarly, the spaces where people work and the tools they use are shaped by the tasks they have to accomplish to execute the business strategy. But when the business strategy and employees’ jobs change, the traditional workspace, with fixed walls and furniture, isn’t so easy to adapt. Companies today, under pressure to innovate quickly and create digital business models, need to develop a more flexible work environment, one in which office employees have the ability to choose how they work.

SAP_Digital_Emotion_BRIEF_image175pxWithin an office building, flexibility may constitute a variety of public and private spaces, geared for collaboration or concentration, explains Amanda Schneider, a consultant and workplace trends blogger. Or, she adds, companies may opt for customizable spaces, with moveable furniture, walls, and lighting that can be adjusted to suit the person using an unassigned desk for the day.

Flexibility may also encompass the amount of physical space the company maintains. Business leaders want to be able to set up operations quickly in new markets or in places where they can attract top talent, without investing heavily in real estate, says Sande Golgart, senior vice president of corporate accounts with Regus.

Thinking about the workspace like a designer elevates decisions about the office environment to a strategic level, Golgart says. “Real estate is beginning to be an integral part of the strategy, whether that strategy is for collaborating and innovating, driving efficiencies, attracting talent, maintaining higher levels of productivity, or just giving people more amenities to create a better, cohesive workplace,” he says. “You will see companies start to distance themselves from their competition because they figured out the role that real estate needs to play within the business strategy.”

The SAP Center for Business Insight program supports the discovery and development of  new research-­based thinking to address the challenges of business and technology executives.


Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.


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.


Mobile Marketing Continues To Explode

Daniel Newman

If your brand isn’t among those planning a significant spend on mobile marketing in 2016, you need to stop treating it like a fad and step up to meet your competition. Usage statistics show that today people live and work while on the move, and the astronomical rise of mobile ad spending proves it.

According to eMarketer, ad spending experienced triple-digit growth in 2013 and 2014. While it’s slowed in 2015, don’t let that fool you: Mobile ad spending was $19.2 billion in 2013, and eMarketer’s forecast for next year is $101.37 billion—51 percent of the digital market.

  1. Marketers follow consumer behavior, and consumers rely on their mobile devices. The latest findings from show that two-third of Americans are now smartphone owners. Around the world, there are two billion smartphone users and, particularly in developing regions, eMarketer notes “many consumers are accessing the internet mobile-first and mobile-only.”
  2. The number of mobile users has already surpassed the number of desktop users, as has the number of hours people spend on mobile Internet use, and business practices are changing as a result. Even Google has taken notice; earlier this year the search giant rolled out what many referred to as “Mobilegeddon”—an algorithm update that prioritizes mobile-optimized sites.

The implications are crystal clear: To ignore mobile is to ignore your customers. If your customers can’t connect with you via mobile—whether through an ad, social, or an optimized web experience—they’ll move to a competitor they can connect with.

Consumers prefer mobile — and so should you

Some people think mobile marketing has made things harder for marketers. In some ways, it has: It’s easy to make missteps in a constantly changing landscape.

At the same time, however, modern brands can now reach customers at any time of the day, wherever they are, as more than 90 percent of users now have a mobile device within arm’s reach 24/7. This has changed marketing, allowing brands to build better and more personalized connections with their fans.

  • With that extra nudge from Google, beating your competition and showing up in search by having a website optimized for devices of any size is essential.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) helps people find you online; SEO integration for mobile is even more personalized, hyper local, and targeted to an individual searcher.
  • In-app advertisements put your brand in front of an engaged audience.
  • Push messages keep customers “in the know” about offers, discounts, opportunities for loyalty points, and so much more.

And don’t forget about the power of apps, whose usage takes up 85 percent of the total time consumers spend on their smartphones. Brands like Nike and Starbucks are excellent examples of how to leverage the power of being carried around in someone’s pocket.

Personal computers have never been able to offer such a targeted level of reach. We’ve come to a point where marketing without mobile isn’t really marketing at all.

Mobile marketing tools are on the upswing too

As more mobile-empowered consumers themselves from their desks to the street, the rapid rise of mobile shows no signs of slowing down. This is driving more investment into mobile marketing solutions and programs.

According to VentureBeat’s Mobile Success Landscape, mobile engagement—which includes mobile marketing automation—is second only to app analytics in terms of investment. Mobile marketing has become a universe unto itself, one that businesses are eager to measure more effectively.

Every day, mobile marketing is becoming ever more critical for businesses. Brands that fail to incorporate mobile into their ad, content, and social campaigns will be left wondering where their customers have gone.


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photo credit: Samsung Galaxy S3 via photopin (license)

Daniel Newman

About Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication service provider. Prior to this role Daniel has held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual. Parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies. Daniel is also widely published and active in the Social Media Community. He is the Author of Amazon Best Selling Business Book "The Millennial CEO." Daniel also Co-Founded the Global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 Business and Leadership Accounts to Follow on Twitter. Newman is an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, IL. Newman currently resides in Aurora, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 9, Avery 5). A Chicago native all of his life, Newman is an avid golfer, a fitness fan, and a classically trained pianist