The connectivity of things

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In the grand scheme of things, everything is connected. With the advent of the Internet of Things, our cars, homes, communication devices, entertainment appliances, and even the infrastructure in the cities that we live in are now able to communicate with one another seamlessly and wirelessly under Cloud computing, says Angelica Buan.

With the rising popularity of connectivity-enabled devices, we now know for sure that the Internet of Things (IoT) has finally come out of the realms of mere imagination. While still treading along virtual reality, IoT, a network of smart devices and infrastructures that interact with each other over the Internet, has significantly changed how we manage the different facets of our daily lives.

The utilisation of connectivity-enabled devices is forecast to grow. American technology company, INTEL, projected that the number of connected devices will skyrocket to 200 billion by 2020. Over that period, spending for IoT would have reached US$1.7 trillion, according to US-based market research firm IDC.

Connected cars on the roll

Traditionally, consumers would tick off fuel economy, motor power, interior aesthetics and comfort as vital criteria when purchasing vehicles. But today, with the adoption of connective technologies in automobiles, consumers consider this feature as a key differentiator when buying cars, barring potential issues in security and privacy that accompany cloud technologies.

Connected cars are equipped with devices that are connected to other devices (such as infotainment consoles, smartphones, digital dashboards, sensors) either within the vehicle; or linked to outside vehicles (vehicle to vehicle or V2V), devices, platforms, networks and services.

The demand for connected cars is growing, according to research by Markets and Markets, projecting the market to be worth nearly US$47 billion by 2020. Over that period, BI Intelligence estimates that 75% of the 92 million cars sold worldwide will be fitted with internetconnection hardware.

The recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016 held 6-9 January in Las Vegas, US, once again showcased connectivity-enabled products and cars.

At the show, Detroit-headquartered car maker Chevrolet unveiled its 2017 Bolt EV, which will be available on the market late this year and will carry an affordable price tag starting from US$30,000 (after federal tax credit), says the company. Equipped with connectivity technologies, the Bolt EV will offer more than 200 miles of range on a full charge. Its range of features include the latest mobile app to enable car sharing, advanced GPS routing and gamification. Many of the Bolt EV’s driver-focused technologies are supported by OnStar 4G LTE, which turns the car into a Wi-Fi hotspot, giving owners easier access to apps and services via a high-speed wireless connection.

Other connectivity and infotainment features include Bluetooth low-energy to minimise energy draw and seamlessly connect a smart phone to the car while the owner approaches the vehicle. As well, is a 10.2-inch MyLink colour touch-screen display with customisable, widget-based “flip-board style” operation; Rear Camera Mirror that provides a wide-angle view of the environment behind the vehicle; Surround Vision that gives a bird’s-eye view of what’s around the car for improved safety during low-speed driving and when parking; and MyChevrolet MobileApps that render several important owner and vehicle functions.


Likewise at the Vegas exhibition, German automotive supplier Continental laid out its range of technologies that represent the company’s “Holistic Connectivity” concept. These include the Dynamic eHorizon, a new usability concept on the next-generation head unit; the Curved Centerstack cockpit, and thin Adaptable Faceplate interior design.

The Dynamic eHorizon cloud-based technology uses information from the road ahead to directly enhance vehicle electronics. According to Continental, this data allows a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 4% with a 48 V Mild-Hybrid vehicle with Connected Energy Management. In another eHorizon vehicle, Continental used dynamic data to increase the driver’s field of view and warn about dangerous situations much before they become visible.

Continental exhibited its new usability concept on next-generation head units and infotainment platforms, which allows shifting content across screen boundaries and over various displays. The core technology, which is the human-machine interface (HMI) server, handles requests of the different applications. It presents this information following an intelligent strategy, not only according to the driver’s needs, but also depending on the driving situation, exactly where the driver needs to see it.

The AutoLinQ is an operating system-independent way to integrate applications from the driver’s or a passenger’s mobile device into the vehicle’s infotainment system independently. This technology allows apps to be installed from the smartphone onto the head unit and integrated directly into the head unit’s HMI concept by using HTML5 frameworks.

The Curved Centerstack system combines two 12.3-inch active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) touch displays with active haptic feedback, force sensing, and time of flight sensor for gesture detection. According to Continental, while the technology results in an attractive and flexible HMI, it also reduces driver distraction and increases driving safety.

The 17 mm-thick Adaptable Faceplate, meanwhile, makes for flexible regional and car line specific design capabilities for infotainment systems. Featuring no mechanical buttons, the faceplate can easily be exchanged by the automotive maker while keeping the background computing hardware unchanged, thus, reducing tooling costs. The entire faceplate is covered by a capacitive surface, which includes an electro-luminescent foil. Additionally, the reconfigurable software buttons allows drivers to create their own HMI by setting shortcuts from apps on the display to software buttons of the faceplate.


accident, the smart sensor automatically and quickly contacts emergency services. It uses acceleration sensors and intelligent embedded algorithms to detect an accident and then send data to a smartphone app via Bluetooth. This data is sent to a back-end IT system that can determine actions, such as a call centre calling the driver to provide assistance, or in extreme cases making an emergency call.

Because it can be plugged into a standard 12V DC socket, the Retrofit eCall can be retrofitted to any type of car.

Meanwhile, Connecticut-headquartered Harman International Industries took the floor of CES to introduce an industry-first for advanced safety, the Pupil-Based Driver Monitoring System. The new proprietary technology aids drivers who are tired or distracted by measuring the increases in the pupil dilation as an indication of a driver’s mental workload, thus, signalling the car’s other safety systems to adapt to the driver’s state. The technology represents a major step forward in the domain of Advanced Safety and Driver Monitoring Systems (DMS) for vehicles, said Harman.


Adoption of in-cabin cameras is growing rapidly, enabling features such as occupant detection and driver drowsiness monitoring, Harman said in its press release. The eye and pupil tracking technology brings additional value to the driver-facing camera, and eliminates the need for complex sensors built into seats and steering wheels, or biometric sensors that require physical contact with the driver.

Bearing the same torch for driver safety is Canadian automotive supplier Magna International with its vehicle-secured connectivity, eye tracking systems. At the CES, Magna featured in-cabin imaging and head-up display technologies aimed at reducing distracted driving and improving driver safety. Magna’s solution uses a camera-based monitoring system that detects the driver’s eye gaze and measures levels of drowsiness and distraction. The head-up display projects an unobstructed image from the rear camera, using eye gaze determination to identify when a driver looks up at the interior mirror to get a rear view.


Another technology shown at the show was a system that combines Magna’s secure gateway with Argus Cyber Security’s software solution to bring a proactive approach to enhanced vehicle cyber security. The Magna/Argus system monitors for suspicious and/ or potential malicious activity for early detection and prevention.

Opening doors for smart homes

Smart homes are no longer the four-walled enclaves that support the roof above our heads. They are fitted with connected appliances and may soon become staples in the realty market. Markets and Markets forecast the demand to rake in almost US$60 billion by 2020.

Although smart homes are not a relatively new concept, the adoption of connectivity used to be limited to upscale consumers. But that is expected to change. Thanks to rising competition in the sector, prices of connectivity-enabled home gadgets are becoming affordable.

With household management functionalities such as securing door locks and turning off lights via remote control, US-headquartered information firm IHS has forecast that cloud-based home management systems installations could reach almost 45 million by 2018. Additionally, IHS stated that many appliance makers have started to veer from low-profit, low-growth traditional or non-smart products toward the emerging high-margin, revenue-oriented smart connected appliance market.

Meanwhile, security devices are expected to account for US$7.7 billion share in the connected homes market by 2021, according to RadiantInsights, owing to the growth of replacement of obtainable security systems, automated connected thermostats, 3D video cameras and access sensors.

At the CES, consumer electronics producer Netatmo featured its outdoor security camera with intelligent detection abilities. Known as Presence, the gadget detects and reports in real-time if someone has entered your home, if a car enters your driveway or your pet is in the yard. What makes it stand out is that it can differentiate between people, pets and vehicles, being equipped with Netatmo’s proprietary Smart- Sight technology. It also has infra-red night vision and a smart floodlight function to ward off intruders. Moreover, Presence can record full HD video onto an internal microSD card and transmit recordings to an FTP server.

Another CES exhibitor, Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturer Realtek Semiconductor demonstrated its smart home and entertainment ware, the Bluetooth LE application (RTL8762A). It is ideal as it requires no directional pointing of the controller device, says Realtek. The Bluetooth remote control can control TV, STB, air conditioning, and other smart appliances. It also offers Bluetooth Voice, which can be used, for example, to voice control a remote toy car, or to voice control a room’s mesh lighting.

Another smart home product that Realtek presented during the show is the Motion & Voice Sensor Fusion DSP for mobile devices or RTS3110. It embeds a highspeed, low-power 32-bit DSP core and Realtek Voice Activity Detection (VAD) for motion sensing and voice wakeup/recognition detection. By combining the motion and voice functions into a single chip, system design complexity of always-on motion and voice sensing applications can be greatly reduced


Combining the power edge of a smart home and a connected car is what US-based smart home automation systems specialist Control4 showcased at the CES. The smart home app for connected cars utilises the SmartDeviceLink (SDL) technology, an open-source software designed specifically to integrate Internet functionality into vehicles, to unite smart home functionality with connected cars.

The featured app demonstrates one-touch smart home integration using an Android phone and a Toyota vehicle head. The Control4 app syncs with the vehicle’s head display unit to enable Control4 users to access and control their smart home devices, such as thermostats, lights, locks and garage doors, right from the driver’s seat.

Thus, the age of connectivity has come. And the plastics sector is set to gain advantages from the electronic gadgets as manufacturers seek lighter weight materials.


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