International Finance

X marks the spot: Apple’s possible target beyond phones

The most interesting part of the September announcements was the A11 Bionic processor and of making their own GPUs

It was September second week, and most of the smartphone lovers or Apple fans waited for the tenth anniversary of iPhone like a festival of sorts. Apple launched the next generation iWatch – capable of running independently with cellular, the iPhone 8, 8+ and the much awaited flagship iPhone X. It was very clear that the Apple ecosystem of devices is expanding; what used to be a 3 model line-up has now increased to 5 models. But, the most interesting part was the A11 Bionic processor and Apple’s announcement of making their own GPUs.

Coming from the angle of ecosystem, the keynote delivered hidden messages sent out by Apple about their imminent ecosystem approach. While the devices take care of personal life, the technologies behind these devices – the processor, their GPU capability, augmented reality bring a clear angle towards their autonomous connected car approach. Most of the automakers are partnering with the likes of QUALCOMM and NVidia for processing and graphics power; Apple is designing the same in house.

This, in fact, is validated from the 87 companies they have acquired in total. Apple has invested big time in Biometrics and Machine Learning (Metaio for AR, Mapsense for Apple Maps, VocallQ for voice, Perceptio for Machine learning, Emotient for facial learning, LegbaCore for security, Lattice Data for AI, and the list goes on). It is clear that not only are these being used to develop the likes of Siri and Apple maps, but Apple’s autonomous brain is going to be powered by these technologies.

 When it comes to Biometrics, what’s more interesting with iPhone X is the integration of facial recognition technology. The facial recognition technology is offered by 3D sensor company from Israel called ‘PrimeSense’ that powered the gesture recognition technology on Microsoft Xbox, which was later acquired by Apple back in 2013.

The future is here: iPhone X

iPhone X uses ‘Face ID’ to unlock the device and authorise payments. While you follow the on-screen instructions to set up your face id, a dot projector  produces more than 30,000 dots of invisible IR light on your face to create a three-dimensional map of your facial landscape, measures and stores your face biological characteristic.

This IR image that is stored is the base on which your phone will authenticate the user. The images are sent to the neural engine can perform over 600 billion operations per second, and it’s used to do real-time processing of face ID recognition.

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One might argue the accuracy and reliability of such a system, but under the most favourable conditions, the accuracy can be as high as 99.99%; and there are 3 main variables that influence the accuracy: 1) Pose 2) Illumination and3) Expression.

Apple claims face ID is ‘a revolution in recognition’. But is the system really revolutionary and accurate? We just have to wait and watch for the reviews from users.

So what does this imply for the automotive industry? We all know like Tesla, Apple is an innovator disruptor in the smartphone space. What was considered a costly technology and still in the R&D stage in automotive industry has found its way into the smartphone through Apple. This insertion point marks the journey of facial recognition into cars when we look at personalisation, smart access and in-car payment solutions.

It has been very clear with iOS strategy, an operating system which runs on lesser RAM than Android phones but is way faster – this shows their approach towards integration of autonomous brain and functional safety based OS. iOS 11 might or might not have impressed a lot of people, but it comes from a background where Apple is able to offer nimble and intuitive interface which doesn’t require much of learning – which the automakers haven’t been able to do in their cars. Talk about contextual navigation, the AR will potentially drive the next generation of geo fenced services while the navigation becomes the search engine of cars.

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Apple Payments is another avenue which can be looked at from a B2C perspective – every transaction made inside the car potentially is going to generate revenues.

With investments in the right direction, patents related to connected car technologies, it is very obvious that Apple could potentially be the next Tesla here. They have the funds to trump the game. Apple’s target would be immersive experience; something that they have done with iPhones has to be mimicked to a car to potentially monetize the 45-60 minutes of average commute time.

The biggest challenge automotive industry has is that each and every component comes from a different supplier; addressing issues with disparate systems take a lot of time. Apple could potentially come with a full in-house capability – not only look at the autonomous car, but could very well be a competition to the OS vendors, biometric partners and eventually, of course, the content providers.

And the biggest deal is what if there is a service package which includes phones with data & cars with connected services offered as contracts — The entire ownership turns to user ship. With Samsung’s acquisition of Harman and all the non-automotive participants keen on the data monetising side of things, in a few years the Cupertino event could launch a new car – technologically advanced, hardware enabled with state-of-the-art architecture.

Update from Android

Android launched its latest iteration, Oreo over the summer. It promises enhanced security and battery life bundled with cosmetic additions that include downloadable fonts, linkable files and notification categories. This version of Android gives more freedom to application developers that allow them to provide adaptive icons.  Although the debate between Android or iOS still remains, each offer a unique user experience. However, flexibility remains higher on Android systems, which leads to certain user groups to choose Android.

Krishna Jayaraman is Programme Manager, Connectivity & Telematics, Mobility Team, Frost & Sullivan


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