Consumer Demands Drive Innovation

The leader of Ford’s Silicon Valley Lab sees an intensely personalized tech future.

Drivers’ desires and preferences have long driven car design and now that consumers expect technology to be everywhere the automotive industry is tapping Silicon Valley to help redefine the automobile user experience.

Vankatesh Prasad Ford Motor Co

"I think we will see cars that connect through your medical devices to give you alerts you might have missed, or connect to the cloud to give you health and wellness guidance," said Venkatesh Prasad, general manager and senior technical leader of the Ford Silicon Valley Lab.

Back in 2009, there were less than a million Internet-connected cars, but by 2017 there will be 42 million according to iSuppli projections. To meet accelerating consumer demand for technology, automakers from Nissan to BMW, Mercedes to Toyota have set up shop in the tech haven, and earlier this year Ford opened a facility in Palo Alto. As general manager and senior technical leader of open innovation for the Ford Silicon Valley Lab, Venkatesh Prasad leads a team that is working to redefine the automobile user experience.

The industry outsider joined the world’s fifth-largest automaker in 2006 after working at RICOH Innovations and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he worked on an inspection system used to design the International Space Station. Prasad’s vision is to build vehicles that can absorb new software and services, and allow people to use the devices they already own. In a recent interview, Prasad talked about how consumers are influencing the rate of innovation.

What set computing in motion?

We used to go to a central place to listen to music, but then portable music players like the Sony Walkman came along. Next came various forms of portable media and the notion of carrying your entire music library with you everywhere. That was just the beginning. That change brought a demand for more processing power, connectivity and applications.

Are consumers accelerating innovation?

That notion of “get me what I want when I want where I want” is beginning to bear fruit. Consumers place demands. Technology comes to serve those demands. Then consumers ask for more. It’s this duel where consumers are placing demands and technology can make a value proposition to the consumers.

The biggest change is the expectation that it’s just gonna work, and it’s gonna work wherever they are, and the notion that you could be on the road and access your music, contact list and photo albums. These things are really transformational.

Life factors can put a certain demand or burden on technology and it forces developers to leapfrog what exists. You’re seeing this at the consumer level and it has impact at the national level, where countries have skipped first-generation wireless and jumped right to 3G, or have gone away from landlines and straight to wireless.

How are consumers impacting business as usual?

I think the entertainment industry’s going to be intensely personalized. It’s not going to be multicast or simulcast. It will be unicast. The MGM, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures of tomorrow will be coming to you, the consumer, and it will be delivered intensely personalized and constantly learning. As soon as you say you like something or you view something, all of your friends can know about it if you want them to. When you are presented with choices, they will be fine-tuned to better suit your need. There’s going to be a constant evolution in that intensity of personalization.

How are automobiles embracing mobile communications and computing technologies?

We look at mobile technology as a platform that is now on wheels. Many of us are used to what mobile technologies do for us in our homes, at our workplaces and everywhere in between. The everywhere in between has mostly been my experiences working on a phone in cars.

We’re marching very quickly to an integrated, connected environment, one where your digital assets become constantly part of the mobile environment. By mobile, I mean anyplace where I want to experience things. Mobile applications are going to be easier to use while you’re driving, allowing you to participate and play extensively without moving (your hands from the wheel or eyes from the road). At the same time, mobile technology now has the ability to be part of your dynamic, kinetic lives, part of your data collection system to see what you or your friends did, or use mobile technology as your virtual coach.

I think we will see cars that connect through your medical devices to give you alerts you might have missed, or connect to the cloud to give you health and wellness guidance.

 
Related stories

Consumer Demands Drive Innovation

The leader of Ford’s Silicon Valley Lab sees an intensely personalized tech future.

Drivers’ desires and preferences have long driven car design and now that consumers expect technology to be everywhere the automotive industry is tapping Silicon Valley to help redefine the automobile user experience.

Vankatesh Prasad Ford Motor Co

"I think we will see cars that connect through your medical devices to give you alerts you might have missed, or connect to the cloud to give you health and wellness guidance," said Venkatesh Prasad, general manager and senior technical leader of the Ford Silicon Valley Lab.

Back in 2009, there were less than a million Internet-connected cars, but by 2017 there will be 42 million according to iSuppli projections. To meet accelerating consumer demand for technology, automakers from Nissan to BMW, Mercedes to Toyota have set up shop in the tech haven, and earlier this year Ford opened a facility in Palo Alto. As general manager and senior technical leader of open innovation for the Ford Silicon Valley Lab, Venkatesh Prasad leads a team that is working to redefine the automobile user experience.

The industry outsider joined the world’s fifth-largest automaker in 2006 after working at RICOH Innovations and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he worked on an inspection system used to design the International Space Station. Prasad’s vision is to build vehicles that can absorb new software and services, and allow people to use the devices they already own. In a recent interview, Prasad talked about how consumers are influencing the rate of innovation.

What set computing in motion?

We used to go to a central place to listen to music, but then portable music players like the Sony Walkman came along. Next came various forms of portable media and the notion of carrying your entire music library with you everywhere. That was just the beginning. That change brought a demand for more processing power, connectivity and applications.

Are consumers accelerating innovation?

That notion of “get me what I want when I want where I want” is beginning to bear fruit. Consumers place demands. Technology comes to serve those demands. Then consumers ask for more. It’s this duel where consumers are placing demands and technology can make a value proposition to the consumers.

The biggest change is the expectation that it’s just gonna work, and it’s gonna work wherever they are, and the notion that you could be on the road and access your music, contact list and photo albums. These things are really transformational.

Life factors can put a certain demand or burden on technology and it forces developers to leapfrog what exists. You’re seeing this at the consumer level and it has impact at the national level, where countries have skipped first-generation wireless and jumped right to 3G, or have gone away from landlines and straight to wireless.

How are consumers impacting business as usual?

I think the entertainment industry’s going to be intensely personalized. It’s not going to be multicast or simulcast. It will be unicast. The MGM, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures of tomorrow will be coming to you, the consumer, and it will be delivered intensely personalized and constantly learning. As soon as you say you like something or you view something, all of your friends can know about it if you want them to. When you are presented with choices, they will be fine-tuned to better suit your need. There’s going to be a constant evolution in that intensity of personalization.

How are automobiles embracing mobile communications and computing technologies?

We look at mobile technology as a platform that is now on wheels. Many of us are used to what mobile technologies do for us in our homes, at our workplaces and everywhere in between. The everywhere in between has mostly been my experiences working on a phone in cars.

We’re marching very quickly to an integrated, connected environment, one where your digital assets become constantly part of the mobile environment. By mobile, I mean anyplace where I want to experience things. Mobile applications are going to be easier to use while you’re driving, allowing you to participate and play extensively without moving (your hands from the wheel or eyes from the road). At the same time, mobile technology now has the ability to be part of your dynamic, kinetic lives, part of your data collection system to see what you or your friends did, or use mobile technology as your virtual coach.

I think we will see cars that connect through your medical devices to give you alerts you might have missed, or connect to the cloud to give you health and wellness guidance.

 
Related stories