From Gas-Powered Engine to Super-Intelligence: The New Cognitive autoMOBILE

The automotive industry has been connecting to their customer for generations. Now that the Internet of Things is transforming many companies, how is your company innovating to connect to customers today? You’re not only connecting to your customer, you are also harvesting and learning valuable information about them.

And in this new era of digital information, CEOs and customers alike need to think about digital divorce as much as digital attachment: Once a customer leaves, will a company be required to delete their information? Will that information have to be transferred to the competitor your customer moved on to?

From a customer standpoint, most people already understand that applications and websites can track them, and that they can set their preferences to help control the flow of this information. The contacts on a mobile phone, for instance, can easily be shifted to a new phone. But in a cognitive world, information goes far beyond your address book to a more personal level. So if you like Bixby and want to move to Samsung, is everything Apple learned about you going to transfer? The answer: No.

Personal data is the new oil — and many leading companies have shown the value of collecting it and keeping it. Perhaps some day it will be regulated like a commodity, but we’re not there yet. Consumers will have to think about how to successfully divorce one digital device for another. Very soon, that will soon include automobiles. As mobility itself takes a massive leap forward that profoundly changes our lives, we’re going to have to factor data into our relationships with cognitive cars.

From a company’s standpoint, the new iterations of vehicles will require new business models and strategies. There are already companies transforming just how we use transportation. Car2go and Uber are but two instances of the original innovators, who thought beyond just a product to consider the profit potential for the whole service industry. In so doing, they are redefining what it means to need a car, from ownership to capabilities.

Not only should companies be thinking of these new models, they should be focusing on the investments needed to drive both OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and customer value — not just technology. They should think about subscription models, freemium, revenue sharing, on-demand and other newly developed models for a cognitive life. An OEM should work from the perspective of self-enabling, setting goals and tracking progress for both internal and external value. But it’s not enough to simply make progress towards change. Are your changes are quick enough to compete with the likes of Apple and Google?

Not only is your brand important, but so is its fit into the new ecosystems created by Amazon — where any product is just a search away. It’s also a question as to whether or not consumers even go to brand sites anymore. With technology and cognitive personal assistants in the home and in your cognitive life, there’s no need to search: a potential customer can just ask directly for what they want. The scary part about this is that brands like Google, Apple and Amazon have a control point that can make it difficult for a brand to be relevant anymore.

The automotive industry is feeling this change already: Uber is all about the brand and the experience, not what kind of vehicle you are riding in, how much horsepower it has, or the nature of its style. As the Cognitive Personal Assistant market moves towards supporting a customer-centric life, there are many challenges ahead. Trust and privacy will be of primary concerns to customers moving forward. To bring the type of transparency, integrity and security needed to support the future vehicle digital platform, blockchain technology is an option.

Autonomous driving for the masses will struggle in the short term, but with the mobility industry exploding from ridesharing to ownership sharing, this industry may see some of the first implementation. But everyone needs to think about what it these changes mean. Everyone needs to think about the difference between emotion and e-motion.

IBM first defined self-enabling themes for the automotive industry:

  • Self-integrating — a secure, seamless digital integration of the vehicle into the Internet of Things.
  • Self-configuring — a way of personalizing and customizing the environment.
  • Self-learning — to optimize performance for occupants and the environment intelligently.
  • Self-healing — to analyze and predict services and maintenance of the vehicle.
  • Self-driving — as in, the car, and also known as an autonomous car — capable of sensing its environment, and navigating without human input.  Self-socializing — the vehicle’s social networks can be used to assist others, utilizing the vehicle for ancillary tasks.

Certainly the automotive industry is a more mature industry in terms of the Internet of Things. It has learned much over the years. But these approaches can also be applied to a Cognitive Life, and as a model for other industries to learn from as they undergo a product-to-services transformation. Consider smartphone and technology brands, which are better positioned than traditional OEMs to support the digital platforms of the future, and are strategically moving towards more touchpoints with customers.

When considering your industry and your company, you can use these themes, setting goals for each to help drive and assess new products. For example, an automotive OEM may want to rate self-driving as low, because they want to keep their customers focused on driving, and not focused on the car driving them. Or an electronics OEM may want to focus on products that are more self-socializing and self-learning — very consumer driven — and then on self-healing. Self-healing is a tremendous example for the commercial industry, where up-time and low operational costs are important to the bottom line.

So, take your products, and align them to these self-enabling themes. See how this maps to your current product strategies and marketing. If you discover gaps, use design thinking and agile processes to drive the change in your products, and put the focus on customer experience. Apple has clearly shown how that works, but it’s going to go far beyond the parameters of technology.

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