Point B

Meet Your Hosts

Episode Summary

Point B is a Sibros original podcast that looks under the hood at the latest innovations in automotive technology and how they are impacting the trajectory of the industry. In other words, how are we getting from where we are now, Point A, to the future, Point B? In these quick, bite-sized episodes, we interview industry experts on key topics like micromobility, connectivity, electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, transportation 2.0, and more.

In our premiere episode of Point B our guest moderator Jo Borras of Clean introduces the regular hosts of Point B: Michael Kara and Steve Schwinke. From being a kid obsessed with cars to a dad who found his hobby-calling as a DJ, these guys dive into what first brought them to the automotive industry, the issues they’ve encountered, and where the connected vehicle industry is headed.

Transcript

- Hi, everyone, and welcome to "Point B", a Sibros original podcast where we talk about the latest and greatest in automotive technology. I'm Jo Borras. You probably know me as the host of Clean Technica's "Clean Tech Talk" and "The Electrifying News Podcast", and I am here today to introduce the regular host of this show, Michael Kara and Steve Schwinke. Now, Michael, you did a lot of work with HARMAN Ignite, which is, basically, a company that developed a lot of cloud software, brought cloud computing to the automotive space, and Steve, you're probably a little bit more well known with the general public because you did a lot of pioneering work with GM's OnStar. Steve, why don't you start us off? Tell us a little bit about who you are, what brought you here, and what part of the, you know, automotive world is really your favorite place to be and kind of where you're most comfortable.

- Well, thanks, Jo, I appreciate that. As you mentioned, I started my career a little bit before that, designing communication systems for fast attach subs, the defense industry, but moved back to Detroit and joined OnStar, which at the time, was interesting because we were convincing people that adding embedded connectivity to mobility products was a good idea, and so there was a little bit of an uphill battle, but it did catch on quickly. You know, when you make the promise to deliver safety, security, and peace of mind to your customers, it becomes an easy sell, and so they got, you know, the core value proposition of why embedded connectivity was put in these vehicles, and there was a lot of disruption too, at the time, trying to figure out a lot of technical details of how to add embedded connectivity. People forget, 25 years ago, communication isn't what it was today.

- That's awesome. Michael Kara is the Technical Solutions Manager at Sibros. Everybody has an issue, a problem that they wanna solve for, and you're the guy who goes in and solves those problems. Is that a fair thing to say?

- Yes, that is a fair thing. What I do is I kind of bring together the technical portion along with the sales. So I'm paired with the sales team to kind of represent some of the engineering stakeholders that are there so I do that translation from the business aspect down to the engineering aspect to make sure that good solutions are developed.

- Yeah, and when we talk about these solutions, we're often talking about something that is over the air, kind of cloud based computing, and your previous work, before you came to Sibros, was really pioneering in that aspect. Can you talk a little bit about how you came from your background and what kind of twists and turns brought you to Sibros?

- Sure, sure, so actually, you know, one of the things is I've always been a car guy ever since I was a little kid, but I had the technical skills and the sales acumen. So how do you bring those three things together? I spent a lot of time in workflow consulting and then, eventually, started making my way to the automotive industry with my move to Detroit. Once I got here, it was a matter of just trying to find how to marry those skills, and, really, my first foray into that was in the early days of OTA updates. You know, with my previous employer, they did a lot of work in that space, kind of doing all the groundbreaking aspects to bring OTA to those, but then, eventually, I started working in automotive ecosystems 'cause I think the auto industry started to notice what was going on in the mobile space and wanted to see how they can marry those two technologies into a vehicle, and one of the approaches of doing that was starting to work in the android ecosystem and bringing that interface to customers' vehicles.

- You know, it's very interesting that you bring up ecosystems. I was at an event several years ago, probably almost 10 years ago now, called Further with Ford. Their conversation was how do we create an ecosystem within our automobile that communicates with the smart home, communicates with the device, and effectively brings all of these services together and delivers a continuous, seamless experience for our customers that's gonna make them effectively more loyal to us? There's a ton of challenges that came into that, and you know, we're living now, 10 years later, in the era of internet of things, but I think the challenges and how we got from there to here are often overlooked because it seems like, yeah, you just take your device outta your pocket and everything works. Can you guys speak to some of the early challenges and how the technology and the products you're working on at CBRS kind of overcome that and make it invisible for your customers?

- One of the bigger challenges early on, I think, was connectivity. That was one of the cores is how to bring that connectivity to a vehicle that creates the ubiquitous experience that we're accustomed to from a mobile space. You know, obviously, first, you had issues with cellular networks in the earlier days, but as those started to grow, then what is the standards to be able to communicate back to the internet from a vehicle? And I think a lot of auto makers have done a great job of putting that together, but it's a lot of moving parts that happen on the backside because it's not just one guy that's making that decision and saying, "This is how we're gonna do it." You have a lot of stakeholders that are involved. As we've evolved into a connected vehicle space, and as it continues to grow, managing how those connections work, you have issues that come up with security, which is probably the number one. The second one is personal information and how to protect that, and then I'd say, the third pillar of that one that is of great concern is once you have that data, how do you manage it? And how do you roll that information out to make it usable and connect to some of these external systems and ecosystems that are all vying for that vehicle data?

- Let me add to that, too, Mike, as you talk about how OEMs are evolving. You know, you think about the automotive industry, which has been around for 120 years, and they're very set in their ways in terms of how do you approach the customer? How do you interact with the customer? How you design and build cars? And there's two areas that, really, where we're focused on disruption to change that, you know, the paradigm in which they operate. The first is if you think of your cell phone, you mentioned Apple, can you imagine having to go to back to the Apple store every time you got a software update, right? I mean, you probably wouldn't buy a cell phone where you had to go back once a month to your selling, you know, dealership or not your dealership, but the store that you bought yourself phone from and to get your software update. You'd expect those software updates, those new features, to come while you're sleeping overnight. They just show up or you download it when it's convenient for you. We think about the automobile industry. You're going into that service dealership. Well, it's painful, and what's the most precious thing, commodity, that we have today? That's people's time. So how do you save people's time? You don't make them go to the dealership anymore. You give them that convenience to update their vehicle either correct an issue or add a new feature while they're sleeping, and the other evolution that I see happening, if I just finished one point, is the way they design and build cars, right? So you think about the design. You go into, you talk to a customer, right? And you talk to a series of customers and you come up with ideas. What's the next thing that they want? You know, how do they want that product to look? How they want it to design it? What are the customer needs that they're gonna address with future designs? And it's all done through market research and clinical studies, as opposed to just how are people operating their vehicles today? You can get that feedback through data logging, and this is one of the things that we offer is complete data logging, really understanding your product, how it's performing, how it's being used, and what are the future designs you can take advantage of, or what are the things that you should be adding to your vehicles by understanding how your vehicles are using your product today? That can be fed back into that life cycle, and there's more evolution that's taking place with adding embedded connectivity to vehicles.

- So beyond the challenge from the design point of view, I think there's also technical challenges of how to, as you say, be reductive and get one thing to do multiple things, and I think, Michael, that's kind of in your wheelhouse to figure out the more technical solutions, right?

- Yes, I mean, when you get into looking at the data, obviously, it was born from engineering needing to look at that information, but there's other stakeholders that are involved in the vehicle design process. You have marketing. You have driver's wishes. You have dealership community, and being able to look at that data from different perspectives and from those different stakeholders truly brings a well-rounded view to what solutions drivers ultimately need and want. It's not just about the engineering design and reductive design. I think it also introduces how to comply with regulatory compliance. As we've seen over the last decade or so, government's getting a lot more strict about how drivers interact with their vehicles. For a long time, screens were flat out banned on vehicles and could not be put in because people were spending far too much time with their noses planted in there. So you raise a very good point about measuring how those features are being used and being able to change those features to address safety and compliance issues by region, by country, even globally.

- You mentioned the word opportunity, and I think that was really great. One of the things that you guys are gonna be talking about here on "Point B" as the show goes on, is micro-mobility, interconnectivity, vehicle to vehicle connectivity. Are you seeing a desire, a push, to have these different systems communicate with each other to keep people safe?

- Yeah, I think that... You know, this is dovetailing into what I consider the true value add of 5G technology. Everyone talks about low latency, high speed data, but there's a communication that's enabled through 5G called PC 5 communication, and this is, I equate it to Bluetooth on steroids, basically, devices to devices talking to each other, and so perception is expensive on automobiles today where you detect, you know, things that are out there. There's a lot of work going on with lidars and camera vision sensors, and things like that, and then you have to actually decide what that image is and what it's doing or you can just have two devices talk to each other and warn each other about what's going on, and so I think we're a few years away from, you know, broad implementation, but this is the part of 5G that I'm most excited about is how do you get things to communicate with each other and do it so that it ultimately, you know, results in better safety for everyone on these roadways.

- 5G introduces higher bandwidth, lower latency connectivity. That's probably the key. Everyone's familiar with how fast they can get data to their phones with LTE 4G, and, you know, what the difference is between that and 2G. You see the difference that, obviously, more bandwidth, more speed and receiving it quicker and being able to send it quicker makes all the difference in the world. The other part, I think, is also a challenge with some of these sensors, which still needs to be built out, is how those vehicle networks inside those cars can speak to the various sensors that are in there. It's only been recent that you started to see OEM starting to do full vehicle updates and having all that CAN information where they can grab it on demand and different OEMs are at different levels of that implementation. Everybody sees the requirement of going there, but it's not gonna be ubiquitous until you start seeing all OEMs start getting full vehicle connectivity, full vehicle communications, all connected to the cloud to where then you can do the V2V, the V2X type environments. So there's still work that needs to be done there, and as each OEM starts to discover their path and which way they need to go, we'll start seeing those types of technologies starting to roll out more and more.

- Guys, this is all fascinating stuff, and every question and answer kind of leads me to like 10 more questions, and there's no way that we're gonna talk about all of this stuff and get all these answers in one episode, which is probably why this is gonna be an ongoing series, right? So we've talked a little bit about kind of the industry, about Sibros' role in that, about how this is all gonna unfold, and some of the topics we're gonna be talking about down the road. Let's talk a little bit about the people that we're gonna be discussing those topics with. So Steve, you know, we've been talking here a little bit. I know you're a DJ, you've got a great sense of humor. You've kind of got your office set up there like you're standing in front of the stage at the improv. Tell us a little bit about yourself, and, you know, give us a taste of what we can expect on these upcoming episodes of "Point B".

- Yeah, no, thanks, Jo. So, you know, I've been in the automobile industry for a long time. I'm actually started a wireless engineer. I'm still a wireless engineer at heart, but what really drives me around adding embedded connectivity to transportation, you know, as a service type of industry really is twofold. It's driven by that we need to develop transportation services for a more sustainable future, right? And so we see the transition to EV. What's after EV? I mean, how do we reduce our dependency on fossil fuels is a big thing for me. So my role in that is I wanna provide insights, deep insights into new vehicle technology that's coming out and not just to a small group, but to the entire organization that has to come together to build these transportation products. How do we give them deep insights into how these systems that they're designing are performing and what can they do to improve them?

- That's great stuff, Steve. Michael, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself? I know you've got a pretty good sense of humor as well.

- You can call it an unusual sense of humor. Yes, that is about accurate. Yeah, so what got me involved in the automotive industry was really trying to marry two different passions of mine. One was automotive. Ever since I was a little kid, I was fascinated by cars, but then, also, technology, and my generation is the one that really started the internet in the commercial sense. My first time on the internet was in 1989 where I was presented with a prompt and really didn't know what to do when I paid 20 bucks to a college kid who gave me his login for an hour. So taking those two technologies and bringing them together is what really kind of drives me. There was a time that I actually installed a PC in my car in the late '90s because somebody stole my CDs, and I didn't have a way to play my music anymore. So I put a computer in the back of the car. So that wouldn't happen again.

- Yeah, that was the thing.

- So seeing- Absolutely, a full ATX computer and trying to convert from 12-volt DC to AC was a real challenge, and then every time you turn the key, it would cut the computer, and you had to wait three minutes for it to boot, five minutes, whatever it was for mechanical hard drives.

- The first car that I took to SEMA in 1997, you know, had a Hewlett Packard, I think, PC in there. So that is just awesome to hear, and, you know, Steve, you're a DJ, like I know we're not here to talk about that. We're here to talk about cars and automotive tech, but this has gotta be something in your wheelhouse.

- Yeah. I got into DJing because I started tailgating and started buying bigger and bigger speakers, and then my kids gave me a mixing board for Christmas, and I started to... I downloaded Serato DJ and then Fruity Loops and started doing some mixing, and the next thing I know, more and more people are showing up at my tailgates at U of M and at Michigan State. I don't really care where I DJ, as long as I got a crowd.

- Steve, Mike, this is all really great stuff. Thanks so much for inviting me to be a part of this pilot episode here for "Point B". I can't wait to listen to future episodes. I know it's gonna be really great stuff, and for those of you listening here, thanks so much and be sure to tune in for future episodes of "Point B".

- [Narrator] Thank you for tuning in to "Point B". Join us next time for more autotech innovations and trends. "Point B" is brought to you by Sibros.