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McLaren enters esports race

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McLaren has become the first Formula 1 team to enter the esports arena, announcing World’s Fastest Gamer – an intense and demanding competition for virtual racers.

World’s Fastest Gamer is a contest that will see the winner offered the best job in esports – a role with the Formula 1 team as one of its official simulator drivers.

World’s Fastest Gamer is a collaboration between global sports and technology brand McLaren, founding partner Logitech G, a global leader in gaming gear and the founder of virtual motorsport’s famous GT Academy, Darren Cox. McLaren welcomes two further partners for launch. Sports media platform GIVEMESPORT and esport racing innovator Sparco.

The format pits the best gamers in the world across multiple racing platforms as they battle each other to discover the ultimate ‘champion of champions’.

The winner will be offered a one-year contract with McLaren to work in an official capacity as a simulator driver. They will work with engineers at both at the McLaren Technology Centre and at grand prix circuits across the world to develop and improve the machinery driven in the real world by the team’s drivers, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.

Billed as ‘the best job in esports’, the battle to find McLaren’s newest recruit will be viewable at every stage via a dedicated YouTube channel and McLaren’s social media channels. Six international finalists will be hand-picked by experts in both gaming and Formula 1 to join this year’s competition. A further four finalists will be selected from qualifying events online during summer 2017.

The grand finale, held at the McLaren Technology Centre in the autumn, will put all 10 hopefuls through one of the most rigorous job interviews in the world. Not only will they race against each other across a variety of different gaming titles on different platforms, they will also need to demonstrate their engineering know-how, ability to work as part of a team, and display the mental and physical strengths required for such a unique position.

McLaren Technology Group Executive Director Zak Brown said:

“This is a hugely exciting opportunity – not only within the gaming industry, but for everyone at McLaren and motorsport in general. We’ve long witnessed the growth of online sports gaming, and, right now, the parallels between the real and the virtual worlds have never been closer.

“This is absolutely the right time to be creating such a unique and exciting proposition; one that connects the worlds of racing and gaming in a way that’s never been explored before.

“I’m particularly proud that McLaren, alongside our partners Logitech, Sparco and GIVEMESPORT, have staked a claim as the very first sports and technology brand to venture into the diverse and fast-growing world of esports.

World’s Fastest Gamer really aims to democratise the process of finding the best virtual racer out there. The contest isn’t limited to one platform or one game; we’re very keen not to restrict access or entry for people, but rather welcome the worldwide gaming community, whether that’s on mobile or on high-end simulator platforms.

“And the winner will genuinely be a key part of our team at McLaren. This is for real: we absolutely require additional support across our two simulator platforms, so the competition and the selection process will be rigorous, ruthless and compelling to watch.”

Ujesh Desai, Vice President and General Manager, Logitech G commented:

“Logitech G has been in the esports world since the early days, and we’re happy to now work with McLaren to lead the next mainstream esport obsession! Joining McLaren as a founding partner of the World’s Fastest Gamer brings together our combined expertise on one virtual platform.”

“Logitech G Driving Force racing wheels are engineered for extreme performance and are designed to win; we’re proud to be able to provide them for these exciting events.”

“Logitech G and McLaren share an obsession for speed, cutting-edge technology and the passion of millions of fans. We can’t wait to see what the future will bring.”

Darren Cox, IDEAS+CARS Chief Maverick Officer, added:

“Gaming and esports are growing at an astonishing rate. The football industry has recognised this, with the result that activity has exploded between the real world and the virtual world in the last 18 months. Now, World’s Fastest Gamer will provide the focus for motorsport to talk directly to the huge numbers of passionate and dedicated gamers racing online – engaging and immersing them in the real world of racing.

“In McLaren and Logitech G, we have the perfect partner with whom to deliver this project: their constant focus on technical innovation and their authoritative position within motorsport’s digital communication sphere are the obvious major benefits. However, to align with a global sports and technology brand that is renowned for producing some of the world’s greatest Formula 1 cars, road cars, and that now applies insights from both to improve lives through its technology arm, gives us the opportunity to involve and integrate gamers from across a whole range of gaming platforms and racing interests.

“Motorsport will invest heavily in esports in the coming months and years, and World’s Fastest Gamer is at the very forefront of that movement.”

Where the real world meets the virtual world…

With teams, leagues and players from the world of sport investing heavily in esports – from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, to West Ham United and the Philadelphia 76ers – virtual/reality collaborations are a fast-growing trend.

In the US, esports are already catching up with baseball and ice hockey. A recent US report found that 76% of esports enthusiasts now prefer the gaming equivalent to watching their favourite sports on TV.

esport is now one of the biggest sports in the world, with revenues now overtaking those of Hollywood. Global gaming is worth $100 billion, with year-on-year growth of almost 10%, and the esports global audience has already reached 300 million.

As viewership of motorsport is adjusting to new digital trends, and leading brands start to invest heavily in gaming instead of traditional sports sponsorship, the message for the sports industry is apparent: virtual sport offers a compelling way forward.

Cars

Are you playing auto roulette with smart car devices?

Kaspersky analysed aftermarket connected smart car devices, and made a pleasant discovery

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There are currently two ways for car enthusiasts to obtain a connected vehicle – purchase a ‘smart by design’ car from a dealer, or improve their existing car with a number of additional ‘smart-devices’. While both scenarios create a greater driving experience, smart technology also represents a brand new area for malicious use, as the media and Kaspersky’s own research has repeatedly shown. This is inevitable – when a piece of technology becomes essential, related security issues tend to increase.

With this in mind, Kaspersky researchers set out to discover whether these reports on the security of IoT devices had any impact on manufacturers of smart devices for the automotive industry. The researchers analysed several randomly selected devices, including an OBD dongle scanning tool, a tyre pressure and temperature monitoring system, a smart alarm system, a GPS tracker, and an app-controlled dashcam.

The findings were a pleasant surprise: while the IoT industry has often been considered vulnerable, these automotive-related smart and connected devices proved to be quite secure, with no major vulnerabilities exposed. However, several security issues were also revealed: the ability to remotely access driving dynamics data via a scanning toll, the option to manipulate signals from the tire monitoring system, and, most alarmingly, the ability to open vehicle doors using the alarm system. However, all of these elements are either very hard to implement or bring no obvious or immediate outcome for a criminal.

“The devices we examined met many security policies and were satisfactory, with the exception of a few small issues. This is partly due to the limited functionality of these devices and the lack of serious consequences in the event of a successful attack through these products – but also thanks to the vigilance of manufacturers. We were glad to see that they have invested their efforts into making these devices more secure, a good sign overall for the automotive industry. Yet, this is still not a reason to relax: based on our experience, the smarter the device, the higher the chances that security issues will occur. That is why security should be considered more closely in the early stages of product development, especially as a new generation of smart devices come to the market,” notes Victor Chebyshev, security expert at Kaspersky.

To keep smart automotive devices even more secure, we advise:

  1. When choosing which part of your vehicle you’re going to make a little bit smarter, first consider the security risks. Think twice if the device has something to do with the car telemetry or access to its ‘brains’.
  2. Before buying a device, search the internet for news of any vulnerabilities. It is likely that the device you are going to purchase has already been examined by security researchers and it is possible to find out whether any issues have been found in the device, or have already been patched.
  3. It is not always a great idea to buy the most recent products released on the market. Along with the standard bugs often found in new products, recently-launched devices might contain security issues that haven’t yet been discovered by security researchers. The best choice is to buy products that have already been worked on with several software updates.
  4. Always consider the security of the ‘mobile dimension’ of the device, especially if you have Android devices – applications are often helpful and make life easier, but once a smartphone is hit by malware, a lot can go wrong.
  5. To overcome the challenge of smart device cybersecurity, Kaspersky has invested in Kaspersky OS, widely used in customised manufacturing hardware and software. This system can be used across a variety of fields: on mobile devices and PCs, IOT devices, intelligent energy systems, industrial systems, telecommunications, and transportation systems. Kaspersky sees opportunities in the further development of KasperskyOS to meet the needs of our customers and ensure the highest levels of security can be achieved in all these fields, including the automotive industry. More information can be found here.

Read the full text of the report on Securelist.

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How car-buying must change

The car-buying experience must innovate to evolve the automotive industry, writes TREVOR HILL, head of Audi South Africa

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Our relationship with motor vehicles is a complex mix of emotional and rational decision making. Add to this, external influences such as longer product-retention cycles (up from five years to as much as seven years), a struggling economy and probably the greatest product choice in the market we have ever seen; there is a significant need for manufacturers to reinvent the car-buying experience.

So, while the “future of mobility” is evolving to enable new technologies such as autonomous vehicles, connectivity, electrification and shared mobility – it is necessary that there be a proportional shift in how we can innovate how these products are purchased or considered at the onset.

This trend is not new. As early as 2013, global consulting firm McKinsey published a report highlighting three key trends that would impact customer decisions and engagement on the retail end of the automotive industry. These included: an enhanced level of what it called “touchpoint management”, sales and service upgrades and the role of the traditional Dealership in the customer purchase and sales decision journey.

Fast forward to 2019. The challenge for automotive brands is how to deliver a personalised, digital service in an industry once solely reliant on bricks-and-mortar Dealerships and a hard-sell sales approach. In the premium segment, there is even more room for innovation around the Dealership experience to meet the demands of personalisation and technology while still delivering on fundamentals. This includes aspects like physically experiencing the vehicle before purchase, expert product advice and the personal customer experience that enhances long-term brand experience and loyalty.

Behaviour-driven thinking dictates how we reframe and design the customer experience of the future. As an automaker in the premium segment, we focus on three key principles of behavioural planning:

  1. The paradox of choice: Offering customers more choices is not always better, as we can trigger an unintended “paralysis of choice”. When we have too many options, the likelihood that we will make a decision is reduced. Given this, Audi has reviewed our options specification for new products entering our model range and will be developing specific packages around various customer needs. This allows for reduced complexity of choice and ease of ordering a new vehicle. This will be reflected on our digital platforms when configuring any of the new vehicles such as the Audi Q8 and upcoming Audi A1 and Q3. This simplification is the first step towards addressing how customers experience us as a brand.
  • Availability: Creating opportunities for customers to assess choices through innovative and digital examples is a foundation of how we are slowly reinventing our Dealership experience. We are pioneering this by introducing the Customer Private Lounge (CPL) – one of a kind in South Africa and located at Audi Centre Centurion in Pretoria – that allows customers to build up their Audi using digital configuration and virtual-reality technology.
  • Relativity: Customers are more likely to make decisions based on the context. While traditional Dealerships will remain key to the customer’s sales journey, Audi aims to connect new opportunities within this environment. This includes a combination of traditional selling (knowledgeable consultant, premium environment) and digitalisation (customisation, low need to carry extensive showroom stock). 

The launch of the Audi Customer Private Lounge is the foundation of this latter effort. A recent Bain survey found that even web-savvy modern car buyers’ still make an average of 2.4 Dealer visits before making a purchase decision – underlining the critical importance of combining a relevant and unique Dealer retail experience when finalising a sale.

Another foundation of our retail experience effort effort is a 4000m2 Audi and Volkswagen Training Academy in Centurion, custom designed to continuously improve Dealer performance through training and skills development. Added to this is Audi’s global and digital initiative towards training – Audi Training Online. This is an online platform offering convenient learning for all Audi dealership employees around the world. Employees can access the portal at any time, from any location and easily upskill themselves on brand related topics, products, technologies and job related (technical and non-technical) subjects. Given the increasing technical complexity of our vehicles and new business and brand themes, a high level of knowledge and expertise is critical to ensure optimal customer satisfaction.

The evolution of training and customer experience is the first, necessary step to respond to today’s car-buying customers’ demand for a unique retail environment. As an industry, we need to respond to this opportunity sooner rather than later. This response must deliberately address the customer experience journey from information, to contact, to purchase, handover and to aftersales. This requires interventions in terms of personalisation, how we introduce opportunities for customers to be in control while still receiving expert guidance.

A more digital retail platform gives us a significant opportunity to better serve our customers through this journey. In the case of the CPL, a dedicated consultant, specially trained, takes the customer through the process of selecting the customised specification on their virtual-reality Audi, before they even encounter a salesperson. The CPL represents the first leg of Audi SA’s digitisation strategy. It’s progress in the retail realm, and a game changer for the automotive industry.

In future, automotive retail will require many new functions and roles to meet the demands of an omnichannel sales model. Building these new capabilities is a fascinating process, bringing in new skill and fundamentally refreshing the industry to benefit the most important stakeholder – the customer.

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