Technology Travel

Autonomous Vehicles

We are living in the dawn of the age of autonomous driving. It’s still awhile before a vehicle capable of driving by itself under all conditions begins to take the road. That would be Level 5 automation. At Level 4 you get High Automation, where the vehicle is capable of all driving functions under certain conditions. In Level 4 and 5, the driver may have the option to control the vehicle. Level 3 is conditional automation, wherein a driver is a necessity, but not required to monitor the environment. The driver must be ready to take control of the vehicle at all times with notice. Level 2 is partial automation, where functions like steering and braking is automated but the driver must be engaged with the driving task and monitor the environment at all times. We are somewhere between Level 2 and Level 3 now.

Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) bring us safety. Imagine the number of accidents that can be prevented that happen now due to human error. That would be a huge win. AVs enable people of disability to lead a fuller life. AVs would improve productivity by enabling drivers to work or do something else useful while on the road. Family summer trips could be much more fun.

On the flip side, AVs won’t be accepted until they are as safe as human drivers. Humans have become extremely good drivers and vehicles are safer than ever. The technology to develop AVs is incredibly expensive. On top of it, a connected car can be hacked.

Tesla’s Elon Musk said on April 22 2019 – “Next year for sure, we will have over 1 million robotaxis on the road”. We are past April 2019 but the roads are quiet, for a different reason.

Technology wise bad weather, uneven terrain and difficulty of identifying and anticipating movement of moving objects remain a significant hurdle. Lots of legal and regulatory standards remain to be crafted. Insurance liability is one key hurdle. How does a AV decide when confronted with the decision of hitting a pedestrian vs crashing itself and potentially injuring it’s occupants? Consumer distrust and cyber security fears round up the challenges.

How does an AV see and navigate the world around it? There are a number of technologies:-

  1. LiDAR – Light Detection and Ranging. It fires millions of laser light pulses per second and uses the reflection to scan surroundings and create high resolution 3D maps of the vehicle’s surroundings. It’s able to detect if an object is a bicycle or a motorcycle or if a pedestrian is facing forward or backward. The drawback is that it’s very expensive and doesn’t work well in bad weather.
  2. Cameras – Used for traffic sign recognition, side and rear surround view, parking assistance. It provides highest resolution images and can do wide angle and narrower view of what’s ahead. Again, weather can be a factor in proper functioning.
  3. Radar – It sends out radio waves that bounce off distant surfaces. Most common uses include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind spot detection, parking assistance, collision avoidance and obstacle detection. Radar is proven for seeing hundreds of yards out and detect object size/speed. However, it can’t see detail and therefore no able to detect identity of objects.

Another cool aspect of AV is the development of V2X – Vehicle to Everything. This means passing of information to any entity / object that may affect the vehicle. A vehicle may communicate with another vehicle or communicate with infrastructure (street lights, buildings, pedestrians etc). All these scenarios are likely to come alive with 5G technology. In reality, this will take a long time.

An AV is really a data center on wheels. It represents the truest form of computing at the edge.

Fascinating developments in this area await us. I am really looking forward to a Level 5 AV hitting the road in 10 years. May the best technology win.

SmartHome Technology

Waiting for 5G

Waiting for 5G

The drumbeat for 5G is getting louder. By early 2020, we should have commercial 5G deployments, although some are predicting for that to happen that by mid 2019. Since 5G requires a lot of interplay with local governments and some governments can take their sweet time to decide on permits and regulation, mid to late 2020 seems like a better bet. Verizon and ATT are already conducting pilots in a few metro areas.

5G claims 20 times faster download speeds compared to 4G. 20 Gbit/s vs 1Gbit/s. Latency is expected to in 1ms range compared to 30–50 ms for 4G. In terms of connected devices 5G is expected to support 1 million devices per sq km. More details here.

These specs enable these enhanced use cases

  1. Virtual and Augmented Reality
  2. Internet of Things — Smart Homes, Buildings, Fleet Tracking
  3. Ultra low latency and high reliability — Autonomous Vehicles, Drones, Smart Cities

The core wireless technology that enables the enhanced specifications for 5G is use of millimeter wave (MW) spectrum. MW has been chosen to operate at high frequencies (30–300 Ghz). The 5G deployments are expected to use 30–100 Ghz range. MW is super fast, but it’s distance is limited, so it requires antennas that are placed much closer to people and therefore more antennas in a given area. Expect your street utility poles to start sprouting 5G antennas (also called small cells). The chart below shows expected carrier deployments. Verizon has the lead position among carriers for 5G.


Robot in Retail

Spotted this tall robot in QFC that was casually taking inventory





Facebook plans to introduce a crypto currency in 2020. Lots of reactions including

  • Crypto has finally arrived
  • All we need is now Facebook to control our financial system
  • Bitcoin is mentioned only once in the Whitepaper. How dare they …?
  • Investors not very happy… because they didn’t get to invest.
  • Bitcoin price didn’t budge much.
  • Every mega cap will now follow suit
  • All we need is a cabal of 25 companies controlling a decentralized model
  • Maxine Waters demanded FB stop development of Libra until she has a chance to figure it out.

FB had to do something big as a huge user base is showing signs of fatigue

ConnectedHome Security SmartHome Technology

The Connected Home – still fragmented!

We are in the age of Connected Homes and Smart Homes.

I was in Best Buy a few days ago and decided to check out all the gizmos and gadgets for the Connected Home. They had a few aisles dedicated to this stuff.

I recall going through a lot of frustration, pain and a huge budget 12 years ago when attempting to put together a system for my home. When we moved a few years ago, I decided to spend my time elsewhere. Anyways, this was an opportunity to evaluate if someone can implement a DIY (Do it Yourself) for a SmartHome.

Takeaway #1 – There is not one stop shop solution or company that provides useful functions in one package at an affordable cost that appeals to the mass DIY market.

Takeaway #2 – Looking at the packages, it seemed that you need some tech knowledge to get any of these installed and especially do any troubleshooting.

Takeaway #3 – Customers will expect a demo area where they can see these solutions in action. Right now, there are too many choices that prevent one from making a easy but informed buying decision. It seemed (rightfully so) that retailers are not yet stepping up a big way to set up these demo zones. I have read about Target having such an area in their San Francisco store.

There may be an opportunity for a Systems Integrator who can take these commercially available solutions and make a meaningful installation package. We could call it SHaaS – SmartHome as  A Service. To enable SHaaS, a number of things need to line up – such as a open common device protocol and a home gateway that can be truly independent. With Amazon and Microsoft releasing an IoT platform, one can envision (may be in a decade or so) being able to roll out such a service.  Amazon Echo seems to have lots of potential to be the central hub in the home, if they can truly get away from focusing on e-commerce as the ultimate goal.

Here is my rough priorities in a connected home:-

  1. Simple security – Alerts me or calls an independent alarm company or my security circle when there is a breach. One company that I have invested in – Kornersafe is shipping a very simple DIY solution in this space.
  2. Smart Temperature (Air and Water) Control of the Home
  3. Home Monitoring / Wi-Fi Cameras
  4. Elder Care Monitoring , for people whose aging parents live alone.
  5. Whole home Multimedia Control and Playback (Audio, Video, Pictures)
  6. Home Safety Sensors to detect moisture inside attics, crawl spaces
  7. Whole Home Lighting Control
  8. Home Access Control
  9. Smart Kitchen

Each of  these systems reside in their own silos that one has to use multiple apps, learn different ways of interaction and pay for multiple subscriptions. Frustrating indeed!   I come to the conclusion that an integrated experience is just a gargantuan task. Our homes and our needs are so vastly different outside the work environment.

Some pictures of the shelves in Best Buy

Smart Thermostats – Nest is first mover and leader in this space. I don’t see an adoption blocker for existing HVAC companies like Honeywell to make their own thermostats smart and controllable from the Smartphone.

SmartThermostats - Connected Home

Lighting Control from WeMo

LightControl - Connected Home

Wi-Fi Security Cameras from many vendors, including NestCam (Nest + DropCam)

Security - Connected Home

Simple Home Security Systems (Canary) Hoping to see Korner in shelves soon.

HomeMonitoring - Connected Home

Home Access (SmartLocks – August ..)

Home Access - Connected Home

Finally, in the eldercare monitoring space, my portfolio company Bevy360 is making progress in taking advantage of latest IoT and machine learning technology to forecast cognitive trends.

Here is to a fruitful Smarthome project!