UPDATED Monday’s big news (other than the Dow Jones post-US election climb, China getting shirty on trade and the severe 7.8 magnitude quakes near Christchurch NZ where we hope our Readers are OK) is the $8bn acquisition of Harman International by Samsung Electronics. Those of us who are most familiar with Connecticut-based Harman in the audio area (in cars and Harman/Kardon speakers on this Editor’s bookshelf) will be surprised at their powerhouse status in the automotive industry as a technology hardware and software supplier to GM, BMW and Volkswagen. Its technology is in 30 million vehicles and is tidily profitable. It is also unusual for Samsung as they have tended to grown internally and organically, versus by acquisition. Harman will be operated as a standalone company. (Articles also point out the change at Samsung’s top, with a new generation ascending to control this family-controlled company.)
It diversifies Samsung well past the uncertainties and the maturity of the smartphone business not only into a direct supplier relationship with car makers, but also in how the relationship between man and car transportation is changing. Beyond the obvious like self-driving (piloted driving) cars where Tesla, Ford, Uber, Apple and Alphabet are playing (and the more near-term area like partial assistance in driving), there is a chicken-egg dynamic on cabin enhancements–what can be done versus what should be done. (Designer Raymond Loewy’s MAYA–most advanced yet acceptable.)
- What connected technologies are helpful and valuable to the driver and passengers?
- Which ones increase safety, autonomy and security?
- Which ones add to the driver ‘load’ of distractions and increase danger to the driver and others?
- Pilots term this a too-busy cockpit. Remember that drivers aren’t pilots and don’t go through checklists and walkarounds before and after driving. We want to turn the key, tune the radio and go.
- Which ones can be made to be not distracting?
- What happens when the technologies malfunction or break?
- What happens to cost and affordability? (All the whiz-bang tech can put a vehicle out of reach for the many. It would be counter-productive and elitist to return driving to the early 20th Century decades where cars were owned by the few and wealthy–Henry Ford and Alfred Sloan had a different thought), though some would like that outcome.)
- How seamless and secure can IoT be in a vehicle, as it is not secure at present?
All these are in the sub-text of five mega-trends noted at last week’s CES Unveiled New York by the Consumer Technology Association, notably as part of the cheerleading around ‘Transportation Transformation’ and ‘Connections and Computations’. (More about this separately in a later article on CES Unveiled.)
Let’s drill down into the nearer-term health tech aspects, where Samsung has been a leader in their phones and tablets, and what the Harman acquisition might mean there.
The first is the mobilization of what is presently in the home and phone. (more…)