Canadian software company Lixar has been gradually making its way into the automotive segment over the past three to four years, working with such big names as Delphi, Verizon and QNX. It specialises in aftermarket connected car products, with experience in building car-to-cloud enterprise strength systems and mobile iOS and Android applications for automotive use. Within the automotive space it has worked on vehicle diagnostics, geo-fencing, geo-location, mileage tracking, Bluetooth Key Fob connectivity, fleet management and automotive data analytics, with an ever widening array of projects.
Megatrends asked Lixar’s Chief Executive, Bill Syrros and its Director of Innovation, Justin Moon, about the growth of the company’s automotive business and the key megatrends shaping its business strategy.
From a mobile angle
Lixar entered the automotive segment “through a mobile angle,” explained Syrros. “As a company we’ve focussed our efforts on mobile connected transportation technology.” An initial partnership with QNX Systems led to other automotive projects, covering visual displays, mobile applications, cloud-based systems and data analytics.
“Our interests are highly innovative and highly specialised development and technologies,” commented Syrros. “And being able to say those words and connect them to automotive is sometimes hard to believe, given the cycles in the world of automotive.”
Entry to the automotive segment poses certain challenges for any new company, but particularly for software companies like Lixar. “Traditionally the automotive sector has been slow to move in terms of integrating new technology. The long cycles in which those technologies get integrated in the cars means that it is difficult to be successful for software companies like ours,” said Syrros.
However, the industry is evolving at a dramatic rate, and Syrros noted “We slowly see that those traditional ways of thinking are starting to change.”
As Lixar has discovered, the move into the automotive segment automatically brings safety to the forefront. “At the end of the day, whatever we do in automotive, the safety aspect is the number one issue that people should be concerned with,” stated Syrros.
When it comes to connected cars, Lixar sees safety as the driving force. “When you hear the term ‘connected car’, many people see the advantages from an infotainment perspective, but Lixar is interested in developing technology that leads to a safer environment. As more technology is packed into vehicles, things like distraction really come into focus,” said Syrros.
Moon believes design is key to balancing the demand for new technology without compromising on safety. “It comes down to design and fundamentally understanding how to leverage that information,” he said. “You’ll see governing bodies push standards with regard to distraction which could potentially hinder innovation and technology moving forward. The idea of leveraging technology in a proper way, disseminating information in the proper way, will allow us further progression from a technological standpoint. At the same time, understanding how to interact with the data, we can further reduce distraction.”
The human factor
Moon believes the key in moving forward will involve looking at how this data is leveraged, and specifically how it is leveraged in terms of the driver. “One of the largest trends we’re going to start seeing moving forward is bringing the driver back into the conversation and the human factor,” he said. This involves understanding how to leverage the data and do something relevant with it. “Understanding when I need to deliver specific pieces of data, how I deliver it, which screen it goes to, how I interact with it… Understanding how to leverage that data not just from a Big Data environment, but how I as a human will interact with it,” Moon explained.
The movement towards this focus, Moon believes, is an inevitable one: “You’re going to see more and more that this will become an ‘in your face’ and upfront trend moving forward. It has to. Just look at the vast amount of data that exists today in the current connected vehicles.”
Just the beginning
Syrros believes the automotive industry is on the cusp of several dominant trends, which will all contribute to a dramatically changed interpretation of the car in the future: “Most of the presentations I’ve gone to lately address what the car of the future will look like in 2025. We’re in 2014 and we’re just starting to push out and do effective and measurable things today, but it’s just the beginning.”
In just six to eight years, Syrros expects to see a significant difference in the design and appearance of mass market cars, with most of that difference stemming from the energy efficiency boom and connected vehicle booms. Safety, which he described as “that slow moving juggernaut”, is also at work behind the scenes. “By 2020, the level of electronics in vehicles is going to be ten times greater than what you see today, if not a hundred times. It’s going to be so much more significant in the future.”
The key for Lixar now is to place itself in the best position for moving forward. “We’re pushing the envelope from aftermarket connectivity to OEM connectivity,” explained Moon. “We’re very much interested in how to create value that overarches that. Right now we are one of the largest aftermarket connectivity platforms. How do you transition the value from an aftermarket connectivity base? How do you maintain that consumer moving from an aftermarket device to a built-in device? We’re starting to look at what that strategy looks like.”
Overall, Moon believes that most OEMs will try to migrate to some form of built-in solution. For those in the aftermarket solution space, the question becomes how to enhance value and increase the consumer base while transitioning technology. “There are all kinds of players trying to figure out that,” said Moon.
“We have to recognise that we’re talking about a new paradigm in technology here. New talents are required,” Moon added. “Agile companies are going to pave the way in that respect.” With its muscles warmed up now through projects with QNX, Delphi and Verizon, Lixar is positioning itself for trailblazing work ahead.