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CES: Honda intros augmented driving

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At CES in Las Vegas next week, Honda will feature global debuts of concepts that integrate connected, autonomous, shared, and electric (CASE) technologies into new mobility products and services. The exhibit will highlight the company’s continued evolution of Safe Swarm, the V2X connected safety system currently testing on U.S. Route 33 in Ohio. 

Honda will feature the following technology concepts and prototypes at CES 2020.

 Augmented Driving Concept
Honda will introduce its Augmented Driving Concept to address the cultural transition to autonomous vehicles. In the autonomous future, Honda believes that customers will be able to enjoy mobility in new ways when freed from the responsibility of driving. At the same time, customers may still want to experience the emotion and thrill of driving.

Honda’s Augmented Driving Concept features a seamless transition from autonomous to semi-autonomous driving operation. To respond quickly to the user’s curiosity, the autonomous driving system is constantly on standby, ready to intervene and control the vehicle when needed. The driving system changes between automatic and manual mode with a switch, and features more than eight modes between fully autonomous and semi-autonomous operation. Various sensors in the vehicle continuously read the user’s intention to smoothly shift between these modes, creating an instinctive driving experience. 

With its reinvented steering wheel, Honda’s Augmented Driving Concept offers new types of driving experiences. By patting the steering wheel twice, the vehicle will start. Pull the steering wheel and the vehicle will slow down; push the steering wheel and the vehicle will accelerate. CES attendees can experience a simulated demonstration of the Augmented Driving Concept.

Future Honda Mobility VR Experience
Honda will preview a mobility ecosystem forecast for the year 2035 and beyond with fully autonomous vehicles, shared autonomous mobility, and an aerial mobility infrastructure. In the Future Honda Mobility VR demonstration, CES attendees can experience a journey through the urban future with a V2X system safely navigating the drive, encounter an Autonomous Shared Mobility Pod, and take flight in a personal vertical takeoff & landing (VTOL) vehicle. 

Honda Xcelerator Collaborations
Honda Xcelerator, a global open innovation program from Honda Innovations, will debut collaborations at CES 2020 with startups focused on augmenting human capabilities and devices that enhance workplace ergonomics for the manufacturing environment. Honda Xcelerator also will showcase soon-to-be commercialized technologies based on successful collaborations with Drivemode, a startup that develops and operates smartphone-based connected services, and SoundHound Inc., the leading innovator in voice-enabled AI and conversational intelligence technologies.

Industrial Innovation Pavilion
Exploring new areas beyond the traditional themes of CES, Honda Xcelerator will feature four startup partners that seek to transform the manufacturing environment. In collaboration with startups Monolith AI, noonee, Skelex, and UVeye, Honda Xcelerator’s Industrial Innovation Pavilion will offer demos ranging from ergonomic devices designed to reduce risk of repetitive strain injuries on an assembly line to an AI-powered inspection technology that will dramatically change how the auto industry approaches quality-control. 

“Smartphone as Brain” with Drivemode
Honda and Drivemode jointly developed “Smartphone as Brain” technology, which provides a safe and convenient way for drivers or motorcycle riders to integrate their smartphones into the driving and riding experience while minimizing distraction. For instance, riders can connect their smartphone and motorcycle by Bluetooth, enabling them to control their smartphone either using switches on the steering handles or voice recognition. Honda acquired Drivemode in October 2019, and will demonstrate Smartphone as Brain technology at CES. 

Honda Personal Assistant Technology with SoundHound Inc.
Honda and SoundHound Inc. have developed a voice-enabled AI conversational assistant – Honda Personal Assistant – to support drivers and enable a comfortable mobility experience. SoundHound Inc.’s Houndify voice AI platform includes patented Speech-to-Meaning™ and Deep Meaning Understanding™ technologies to deliver unprecedented speed and accuracy in voice recognition and responses, and an ability to understand context, such as the user’s location or previous queries, to support natural interactions. Using the custom wake word “OK Honda,” Honda Personal Assistant connects people with their mobility products and realizes a seamless world where various functions are controlled by voice only.

Progress Toward Real-world Applications
Honda will show advancements in the following technology prototypes as the company works toward real-world applications and commercialization. 

Honda Energy Management Concept
Honda is creating convenient renewable energy solutions that will be on display in its Energy

Management Concept. The exhibit demonstrates Honda’s vision for when people have 24/7 access to renewable energy that can be used anytime and anywhere with complete confidence. 

The company has been developing the Honda Mobile Power Pack, a portable, swappable, rechargeable battery that has an output of 1kWh or more. When multiple Honda Mobile Power Packs are used simultaneously, they can power electric motorcycles, small-sized electric mobility products, and even become a stable supply of electricity in people’s homes. 

The Honda Energy Management Concept also will feature the U.S. debut of Honda’s EV personal mobility concept named ESMO (Electric Smart Mobility).

SAFE SWARM™ and “Smart Intersection”
Honda has been preparing infrastructure for the connected autonomous future and will show the progress of its Honda SAFE SWARM™ and “Smart Intersection” prototype safety system. Using V2X technology, Honda SAFE SWARM™ allows vehicles to communicate with surrounding vehicles and share key information such as location and speed. With this information, along with the sensor suite on the vehicle, the driver or automated vehicle systems can determine the safest course of action to prevent collisions and reduce traffic congestion. Over the past year, Honda has been evaluating SAFE SWARM™ in a real-world environment on the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor near the Honda R&D centre in Ohio, and will show its progress in developing merge assist and lane optimization technologies. 

Additionally, Honda will show a red light runner detection scenario of its “Smart Intersection” technology, which is currently being tested in a real-world environment in Marysville, Ohio. Traffic collisions at roadway intersections account for roughly 40 percent of all collisions and 20 percent of the nearly 35,000 traffic-related deaths in the U.S. each year. The “Smart Intersection” technology utilizes Honda’s proprietary object recognition software in conjunction with intersection-mounted cameras and V2X communications. This enables cars to virtually see through and around buildings and walls in nearly all weather conditions to help identify and alert drivers to otherwise hidden hazards.

CES attendees can experience demonstrations and simulations of technology concepts at Honda’s booth #7900 in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center from 7 to 10 January 2020.

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The shape of the SME future

What does the future of technology look like for South Africa’s SMEs? COLIN TIMMIS, general country manager of Xero SA and a professional accountant, looks into the tech crystal ball

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Over the past decade, technology has radically changed the way businesses operate. Now, even small businesses have access to powerful tools that were previously expensive or complicated.

The pace of change has been rapid – and it’s unlikely to slow down. Businesses must keep up with technology to stay competitive. According to research conducted by Citrix, 92% of companies across South Africa’s key industries agree that digital adoption directly affects company profits. However, 54% still feel unprepared for the future.

So, what does the future of technology look like for South Africa’s small businesses? How can the other 46% of companies prepare?

5G and WiFi 6 – faster internet speed

In the foreseeable future, we will see a rapid increase in the use of fibre across South Africa. According to Xero’s State of Small Business Report produced with World Wide Worx, 49% of small businesses surveyed used ADSL connections and only 37% used fibre. When asked to describe their internet connections, 45% said they were ‘great’, while 43% said they were ‘okay but not 100% reliable’. 57% of those who said their connection was ‘great’ were fibre users.

South Africa is still playing catch-up in terms of internet connectivity and speed. However, WiFi 6 is set to improve the way routers distribute traffic to connected devices and increase the transfer speeds by around 30%. For when you’re on the go, 5G is the next generation of mobile data standard. It’s already being trialed by South African carrier Rain, and a broader rollout is expected in 2020.

Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence – more efficient software

Even if you aren’t aware of it, you’re probably already using smart software which leverages machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) in your business. While only a tiny proportion of respondents (0.25%) from Xero’s State of Small Business Report say they are using them, most businesses are aware of how important they are.

AI and ML are great at taking large amounts of data and spotting patterns that humans might miss. They help businesses cover some of the more routine tasks so they are freed-up to focus on the most important priorities. For example, tedious tasks like bank reconciliation, can now be completely automated.

Blockchain – safer, more secure transfers

If you hear ‘blockchain’ and think ‘cryptocurrency,’ you’re not alone. However, the technology also has something to offer when it comes to existing payment technologies. Through its complexity and high level of encryption, integration with blockchain can make transferring valuable assets more secure. It can also be used for more effective fraud prevention and other security-focused tasks.

The cloud – access data everywhere

Cloud computing is starting to become a standard part of life for many small businesses in South Africa today. According to Xero’s State of Small Business report, 19% of respondents surveyed make use of cloud technology. Of these respondents, 98% reported a significant increase in profit thanks to adopting this technology – and 99% identified an increase in efficiency.

The trend towards cloud adoption is likely to continue as we see the development of technologies, like faster speed through fibre, WiFi 6, 5G, and machine learning powering it.

Integrated financial software

When it comes to accounting in a small business, these new technologies will enable much smarter ways of working. Take bank reconciliation, for example, where cloud storage and machine learning will search through documents and expenses on your behalf to compile reports.

Eventually, we will be able to access everything we want in one integrated, seamless hub. We can see this development through the use of app integration. Xero has 800+ apps already compatible, which enables small businesses to automate, gain better insight and grow their businesses all through one ecosystem of partners.

Access to capital

Open banking, the process of banks and financial services opening their APIs to the market, will shape how businesses access funding. By sharing their financial data instantly, potential investors have immediate access to a company’s revenue, profits and cashflow – enabling them to make fast, informed decisions.

Platforms like Xero keep all of a company’s financial data up to date. That way, when the company needs to file for a loan their documents are ready to go. Xero is also continuously pursuing new partnerships to help fuel small business growth. Earlier this year Xero partnered with three new alternative lenders, to help improve access to funding.

Digital adoption offers an island of stability in the volatile South African economy. Technology allows businesses to run more efficiently, remain globally integrated, and maximise their profits. Companies which keep up with the latest technology, from incorporating it into their processes to training staff, will have a real advantage over their competitors.

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Cash is here to stay, and other trends shaping payments

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As we enter the next decade, local and African merchants should support payment methods that suit their customers, rather than following global trends just for the sake of it. Peter Harvey, MD of payment service provider, DPO SA, looks at five trends we can expect over the next few years.  

  • Cash is here to stay – for now

Despite common perceptions, South Africa still has more than 11 million unbanked individuals and cash remains the preferred payment method for these and many other customers. 

Harvey says: “As we enter 2020, we can expect a host of new digital payment technologies that sound like excellent options – and they may well be for some – but merchants need to carefully monitor their customer behaviour before they rush to try the latest gadget or fad.”

According to Harvey the banks and card companies like Visa and Mastercard will be placing a large focus on enticing consumers to move from cash to card-based payments in the coming years. 

“Overcoming the reliance on cash will take a fair amount of time and effort,” says Harvey. “For merchants trading in a cash-based community, depositing money into a bank that tracks your spending, charges you to store your money, and then charges you again to withdraw it can seem unattractive. At the end of the day consumers will make their decision based on convenience, cost and risk.” 

Card payments are expected to morph over the coming years. In South Africa the tap and pay method is becoming more commonplace. Harvey believes this and other near field communication (NFC) methods of card payments will continue to grow in use as shoppers become more trusting of the technology and retailers see the efficiency benefits of moving customers through their purchase cycle more quickly and easily. 

  • Mobile is still king 

There is no doubt that the means to facilitate most digital payments in Africa will depend on mobile technology. 

According to South African communications regulator, ICASA, South Africa has a smartphone penetration of 80%. In Sub-Saharan Africa meanwhile, the mobile phone penetration is 50% and the GSMA expects smartphone penetration to grow from around 40% to 66% in 2025. 

Harvey says smartphone technology and wearable technology will allow for the growth in some of the newer payment tech, like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, but these payment methods will remain in the hands of the top LSMs and have little effect on the bottom of the pyramid customer base. 

“For the moment USSD technology will still underpin the majority of mobile payment methods. Until smartphones increase in penetration, payments like m-Pesa will continue to dominate. Customers know and trust the solution and its these types of offerings that will need to be beaten by any new entrant over the next two to three years at least.”

  • New decade, new banks 

Harvey is upbeat about the new digital-only bank offerings like Tyme Bank, Bank Zero and Discovery Bank. 

“It appears that 20Twenty was two decades too soon,” says Harvey. “The local markets are now finally ready for a new digital offering without the fuss and cost of the traditional offering. These banks stand a good chance of making an impact and making headway towards financial inclusion in the country.”

Harvey believes, that in order to boost the number of people using digital payments, the banking institutions, merchants and payment service providers need to start incentivising consumers to make the switch. Loyalty and Rewards will start playing an even bigger role in the near future.

  • New services for the payment ecosystem

Based on demand, Harvey believes forward thinking payment service providers will work closely with their banking partners to focus on providing their mutual merchants with a ‘fully managed service’. This service includes: instant sign-up; a full suite of payment products; risk screening; account reconciliation; anti money laundering checks; access to shopping cart plugins; and a variety of other value-added services in the online digital payment space.  

These services will enable digital retailers to quickly and easily start selling their services online, while protecting them from the associated risks.

The service benefits the banks as well as the broader digital ecosystem, as the payment service provider actively monitors and manages merchants and transactions, removing risk from the process and facilitating ‘good’ transactions.

  • Identity technology takes centre stage

Looking at newer technologies, Harvey believes biometrics will continue to be the key focus.  

Harvey says voice and facial recognition are set to take off in South Africa in 2020 and 2021 and he believes the key driver in this regard is the increasing use by the government. 

“Banks and Home Affairs teaming up for the renewal of ID documents and passports is a major win for the average citizen,” Harvey says. “This falls neatly into the ‘convenience’ motivator and as people use and trust the biometrics used by the banks for this service,  they will become less afraid to try it for payments.”

As technology rapidly improves, the payments ecosystem can expect some exciting advancements over the coming decade. Chat commerce and even augmented and virtual reality developments will almost all come with payment features. However, Harvey cautions against over exuberance. 

Harvey says “Make sure you cater for what your customer actually wants, not what you think they should want. If working closely with African merchants, banks and customers has shown us anything, it’s that the fastest way to drive away business, is to dictate how customers pay. Provide the options and let them choose.”

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