Tag Archives: Smart Machines

Video: Audi’s self-driving car hits the race track

Audi will be debuting its RS 7 Piloted Driving Concept under what may arguably be one of the most challenging conditions possible. In its effort to bring self-driving vehicles to the streets, the car manufacturer is hitting the race track to see just how its unmanned vehicles stack up against human drivers.

The driverless car will lap the Hockenheim track on October 17th and 19th at racing speeds ranging from 149 to 189.5 miles per hour. With 560PS (552hp), the Piloted Driving Concept is not your average autonomous car. According to the car manufacturer, the prototype is quite similar to the production model with the exception of its electromechanical power steering, brakes, throttle valve and eight-speed Tiptronic transmission being controlled automatically.

“We’re going into the curves, the cornering, just like a professional race driver. So for example, we have lateral accelerations of more than 1g,” Audi says in its promo video.


How will the vehicle stay on the track? The technology platform is equipped with specially-corrected GPS signals for orientation — these differential GPS data are accurate down to a centimeter and transmitted to the vehicle via WLAN. In addition, 3D camera images are compared in real-time against graphical information stored onboard. The system searches in each of the countless individual images for several hundred known features, such as building patterns behind the track, which it then uses as additional positioning information.

“The car is really able to cope with situations it was not directly taught. It handles unexpected things very well,” an Audi rep explained.

As previously reported on Bits & Pieces, forecasts are calling for 94.7 million vehicles equipped with self-driving capabilities to be sold annually around the world by 2035. Moreover, Gartner believes autonomous vehicles are set to disrupt the business dynamics of at least one-third of the industries in the developed world. From Mercedes and GM to Tesla and Google, a number of companies are already in the process of developing autonomous vehicles that will do everything from park themselves to take over the driver’s seat in traffic.


Gartner: Smart machine disruption will dominate this decade

In his session at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, Fellow Tom Austin revealed that the latest advancements in algorithms, hardware, networks and big data have paved the way for the emergence of smart machines — an era in which is now primed and ready to become one of, if not, the most disruptive in history.

As recently reported on Bits & Pieces, smart machines are among the research firm’s top 10 strategic technology trends for 2015 and beyond. Gartner notes that intelligent machines will continue to evolve from mere prototypes to actual autonomous vehicles, advanced robots, virtual personal assistants and smart advisors.

“Companies are building virtual personal assistants that will watch users’ actions — what they read, what they ignore, whom they listen to, what they say, which meetings they go to and which they skip, and so forth — to learn what they might do to make those users more productive,” Gartner writes.

What are some examples of these so-called smart machines? These range from self-driving trucks, unmanned aerial vehicles and virtual customer assistance to proactive search tools, natural-language understanding and real-time speech-to-speech language translation systems. Although Gartner classifies all these as “smart machines,” some may, in fact, be smarter than others.


In fact, autonomous vehicles — which will reshape transportation, logistics, distribution and supply chain management — are set to disrupt the business dynamics of at least one-third of the industries in the developed world. Gartner adds, “This is far more than a matter of eye-catching, futuristic devices like Google’s driverless cars, Jeff Bezos’ aerial delivery drones and Kiva Systems’ smart warehouse robots.”

Smart machines are defined by several key attributes. Among the traits, the firm believes these devices deal with very high levels of complexity and uncertainty in forming hypotheses based on what they have learned and testing those hypotheses to refine probabilistic conclusions. Furthermore, they have developed a better understanding of task-specific contexts than many people had predicted.

Whether it’s connected cars, delivery drones, autonomous robots or other smart machines, you can be assured Atmel microcontrollers will be at the heart of tomorrow’s intelligent world.


Gartner reveals its top 10 strategic technology trends for 2015

Gartner defines its strategic technology trends as those technologies that have the most potential to significantly impact individuals, businesses and IT organizations over the next three years. Indeed, this year’s batch of technologies come with little surprise as the Internet of Things (IoT), smart machines and 3D printing are all among the research firm’s annual list.

While it is now evident that 3D printing has gone mainstream in the enterprise, the IoT, smart machines and computing everywhere are key fixtures for 2015. The list, which was presented by Gartner Fellow David Cearley at the firm’s Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, shined the spotlight on our shift towards merging the real and virtual worlds.

“You need to be looking at linking to customers in new and unique ways; what technologies set the foundation to enable these moves,” explained Cearley. “And in the end all things run through a completely secure environment.”


Computing Everywhere

This simply refers to the concept of ubiquitous access to computing capabilities. Cearley says the idea here is that the trend is not just about applications but rather wearable systems and intelligent screens. These Intelligent screens and connected devices will proliferate, and will take many forms, sizes and interaction styles. Gartner urges that smartphones and wearable devices are part of a broader computing offering to include connected screens in the workplace and other areas of our daily life.

“Phones and wearable devices are now part of an expanded computing environment that includes things like consumer electronics and connected screens in the workplace and public space,” said Cearley.

With the continued advancement in smartphone technology, the firm assesses that an increased emphasis on serving the needs of the mobile user in diverse contexts and environments, as opposed to focusing on devices alone. Cearley did warn, however, that IT departments may not be well equipped for the design challenges involved in ubiquitous availability, and stated that companies may need to acquire the expertise. Cearley went on to emphasize that user experience design will be of critical importance in the coming years.

“Increasingly, it’s the overall environment that needs to adapt to the requirements of the mobile user. This will continue to raise significant management challenges for IT organisations as they lose control of user endpoint devices. It will also require increased attention to user experience design.”

Internet of Things

While the concept of IoT isn’t exactly new, we are entering an era of connected things and smarter objects — many of which enabled by Atmel | SMART ARM-based microcontrollers. Over the next couple of years, we can expect to see the IoT continue to expand, fueled by the ubiquity of user-oriented computing. Cearley pointed out that organizations will need to embrace the “Maker culture” so people within these companies can devise new solutions when problems arise. Gartner posits that this will be replicated both in industrial and in operational contexts, as it will be the focus of digital business products and processes.

Cearley believes IoT has enormous potential to deliver value to businesses, and said even small sensors that can detect problems in equipment before failure occurs, can save a business a significant amount of money.

“This is central to digital business products and processes. Deep embedding of technology will create touch points for users everywhere and create the foundation for digital business,” stated Cearley.


3D printing

While sit may seem like this trend has been on Gartner’s radar for several years, it appears that things are rapidly changing in this realm. Though the technology has been around since 1984, it is now maturing with shipments on the rise. While quite a bit of buzz surrounds consumer 3D printing, it’s really the enterprise use that can deliver immediate value. The cost of 3D printing will decrease in the next three years, leading to rapid growth of the market for these low-cost, [AVR XMEGAmegaAVR and SAM3X8E] MCU-driven machines. Industrial use will also continue its rapid expansion. According to Cearley, that expansion will play an integral role throughout the industrial, biomedical and consumer sectors, proving that 3D printing is a viable way to reduce costs through improved designs, streamlined prototyping and manufacturing.


Advanced, Pervasive and Invisible Analytics

“Every app now needs to be an analytic app.” As Cearley posits, analytics will continue to advance due to the Internet of Things and other embedded devices that are expected to snowball. Furthermore, security analytics will be at the heart of next-gen security models.

“Big data remains an important enabler for this trend but the focus needs to shift to thinking about big questions and big answers first and big data second – the value is in the answers, not the data.”

Context Rich Systems

Knowing the user, the location, what they have done in the past, their preferences, social connections and other attributes all become inputs into applications. Embedded intelligence that is ubiquitous combined with pervasive analytics will facilitate the development of systems that are alert and responsive to surroundings. Gartner highlights that context-aware security is an early application of this trend, but that others will emerge.

“Context-aware security is an early application of this new capability, but others will emerge,” said Cearley. “By understanding the context of a user request, applications can not only adjust their security response but also how information is delivered to the user, greatly simplifying an increasingly complex computing world.”

Smart Machines

To demonstrate the role smart machines will play in the near future, Cearly pointed to IBM’s Watson, which is “learning” to fight cancer, and mining company Rio Tinto, which is using automated trucks in its mines. According to Gartner, analytics combined with an understanding of context will usher in an era of smart machines. These “machine helpers” will continue to evolve from the existing prototypes for autonomous vehicles, advanced robots, virtual personal assistants and smart advisors.

“Prototype autonomous vehicles, advanced robots, virtual personal assistants and smart advisors already exist and will evolve rapidly, ushering in a new age of machine helpers. The smart machine era will be the most disruptive in the history of IT,” Cearley revealed.


Cloud and Client Computing

This highlights the central role of the cloud. An application will reside in a cloud, and it will be able to span multiple clients. Mobile computing and cloud computing continue to converge and lead to the growth of centrally coordinated applications that can be delivered to any device. Gartner notes that cloud computing is the foundation of elastically scalable, self-service computing for both internally and externally facing applications. Apps that use intelligence and storage of client device effectively will benefit from lowering bandwidth costs, coordination and management will be based on the cloud. The analysis goes on to note that over time applications will evolve to support simultaneous use of multiple devices.

Cearley explains, “The second screen phenomenon today focuses on coordinating television viewing with use of a mobile device. In the future, games and enterprise applications alike will use multiple screens and exploit wearables and other devices to deliver an enhanced experience.”


Software-Defined Applications and Infrastructure

Agile development methods for programming of everything from infrastructure basics to applications is essential to enable organizations to deliver the flexibility required to make the digital business work. Application programming interface calls render cloud services software configurable, and applications have rich APIs to access their function and content programmatically. Gartner notes that in order “to deal with the rapidly changing demands of digital business and scale up – or down – systems rapidly, computing has to move away from static to dynamic models.”

He added, “Rules, models and code that can dynamically assemble and configure all of the elements needed, from the network through the application, are needed.”

Web-Scale IT

In its analysis, Gartner refers to web-scale IT as a pattern of global-class computing technologies that deliver the capabilities of large cloud service providers. Gartner notes that more companies will think, act, and build applications and infrastructure in the same way that tech giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook do. There will be an evolution toward web-scale IT as commercial hardware platforms embrace the new models and cloud-optimized and software-defined methods become mainstream.

“The first step towards the web-scale IT future for many organisations should be DevOps – bringing development and operations together in a coordinated way to drive rapid, continuous incremental development of applications and services.”


Specifically, Gartner envisions more attention being placed on application self-protection in the near future. Cearley explained that all roads to the digital future success lead through security. Methods, once commonly looked to by organizations, will be broadly recognized as inadequate, and as a result, companies will seek multi-faceted approaches.

“Perimeters and firewalls are no longer enough; every app needs to be self-aware with regard to security, and self-protecting,” Cearley concluded.


Gartner shares its top 10 predictions for 2015 and beyond

Before a sold-out Symposium/ITxpo crowd, Gartner revealed its top predictions for IT organizations and users for 2015 and beyond, examining a shift in the age old relationships between man and machine due to the emergence of digital business.

“For some time now, there has been an ongoing shift in the roles machines play in our everyday lives. Machines are taking on more human characteristics in order to affect a more personalized relationship with human beings,” explained Daryl Plummer, Chief Gartner Fellow. “And we find ourselves contemplating a near-term future of a world in which machines and humans are co-workers, and possibly even co-dependents.”

Gartner’s top 10 predictions encompass these ideas of human machine cooperation and growth.

1. By 2018, digital business will require 50% less business process workers and 500% more key digital business jobs, compared with traditional models.


2. By 2017, a significant disruptive digital business will be launched that was conceived by a computer algorithm. Through 2015, the most highly valued initial public offerings (IPOs) will involve companies that combine digital markets with physical logistics to challenge pure physical legacy business ecosystems.


3. By 2018, the total cost of ownership for business operations will be reduced by 30% through smart machines and industrialized services. Plummer explains that smart machines will not replace humans as people still need to steer the ship and are critical to interpreting digital outcomes; rather, will displace the complacency, inefficiency and add tremendous velocity to business operations.


4. By 2020, developed world life expectancy will increase by 0.5 years due to widespread adoption of wireless health monitoring technology. As Gartner points out, wearable monitors — many of which powered by Atmel MCUs — hold huge promise.

Today, a simple wristband can collect heartbeat, temperature and a number of environmental factors. Wireless heart monitoring patches, smart shirts and sensors in accessories promise more accuracy, choice and comfort to wearers. Soon, data from remote monitoring devices will provide continued access from patients to medical practitioners.


5. By year-end 2016, more than $2 billion in online shopping will be performed exclusively by mobile digital assistants. In addition, these mobile digital assistants will have taken on tactical mundane processes, such as filling out names, addresses and credit card information, come late next year.


6. By 2017, U.S. customers’ mobile engagement behavior will drive mobile commerce revenue in the U.S. to 50% of U.S. digital commerce revenue. Increasingly powerful smartphones and tablets, and the correspondingly rich and powerful applications available for each, enable consumers and business customers to interact seamlessly with companies, content and commerce experiences at virtually all stages of the purchase process.


7. By 2017, 70% of successful digital business models will rely on deliberately unstable processes designed to shift as customer needs shift.


8. By 2017, 50% of consumer product investments will be redirected to customer experience innovations.


9. By 2017, nearly 20% of durable goods e-tailers will use 3D printing to create personalized product offerings. As consumers increasingly show an appetite to control more product features and capabilities, e-tailers are recognizing the business potential of moving from “configurable” products to “personalized” made-to-order products enabled by [AVR XMEGAmegaAVR and SAM3X8E powered] 3D printers.

According to Gartner, nearly every single durable goods category will see a surge in 3D-printed enabled personalization, and manufacturers will develop capabilities for bringing the consumer closer to the design experience. The companies that set the strategy early will end up defining the space within their categories, the research firm urges.


10. By 2020, retail businesses that utilize targeted messaging in combination with internal positioning systems (IPS) will see a five percent increase in sale. Gartner notes that indoor positioning systems have become increasingly viable.

Rather than using satellites, these systems use low-energy Bluetooth and Wi-Fi access points to pinpoint a mobile device’s location inside a building, with accuracies in the centimeter range. Support within newer mobile devices for IPS will enable location cues for targeted ads and messages, and real-time mapping to lead customers not only to store locations, but to specific products themselves.


Interested in exploring each of these 10 predictions in more depth? You can find the full list here.

Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle maps the journey to digital business

The journey to digital business is the key theme of this year’s Gartner Hype Cycle. As the Gartner Hype Cycle celebrates its 20th anniversary, the research firm highlighted that as enterprises set out on the journey to becoming digital businesses, identifying and employing the right technologies at the right time will be critical. In their latest report, Gartner crowned the Internet of Things and Natural-Language Question Answering as the two most hyped technologies with both expected to reach their respective “plateaus of productivity” (when they are will become mainstream).

Gartner’s 2014 Hype Cycle special report provides strategists and planners with an assessment of the maturity, business benefit and future direction of more than 2,000 technologies, grouped into 119 areas. Among the new Hype Cycles this year include Digital Workplace, Connected Homes, Enterprise Mobile Security, 3D Printing and Smart Machines.


“The central theme for this year’s Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle is Digital Business. As enterprises embark on the journey to becoming digital businesses, they will leverage technologies that today are considered to be ’emerging,'” explained Hung LeHong, Vice President and Gartner fellow. “Understanding where your enterprise is on this journey and where you need to go will not only determine the amount of change expected for your enterprise, but also map out which combination of technologies support your progression.”

According to industry analysts at Gartner, the IoT is forecasted to reach 26 billion installed units by 2020, up from 0.9 billion just five years ago, and will impact the information available to supply chain leaders and how the supply chain operates, depending on industry. Gartner anticipates a 30-fold increase in connected physical devices by 2020, which will continue to create a network rich with information that enables supply chains to assemble and communicate in new ways.

However, the analysts have pointed to a lack of standardization in the area, as well as the changing nature of the technology itself, as a factor in why widespread adoption of IoT may take longer than anticipated. “Standardization (data standards, wireless protocols, technologies) is still a challenge to more-rapid adoption of the IoT,” Gartner’s Hung LeHong writes.

Highlighted on the Gartner road map to digital business, there are six progressive business era models that enterprises can identify with today and to which they can aspire in the future:

  • Stage 1: Analog
  • Stage 2: Web
  • Stage 3: E-Business
  • Stage 4: Digital Marketing: The Digital Marketing stage sees the emergence of the Nexus of Forces (mobile, social, cloud and information). Enterprises in this stage focus on new and more sophisticated ways to reach consumers, who are more willing to participate in marketing efforts to gain greater social connection, or product and service value. Buyers of products and services have more brand influence than previously, and they see their mobile devices and social networks as preferred gateways. Enterprises at this stage grapple with tapping into buyer influence to grow their business. Technologies included in the Digital Marketing stage range from software-defined anything and big data to virtual reality and gesture control.
  • Stage 5: Digital Business: Digital Business is the first post-nexus stage on the road map and focuses on the convergence of people, business and things. The Internet of Things and the concept of blurring the physical and virtual worlds are strong concepts in this stage. Physical assets become digitalized and become equal actors in the business value chain alongside already-digital entities, such as systems and apps. 3D printing takes the digitalization of physical items further and provides opportunities for disruptive change in the supply chain and manufacturing. The ability to digitalize attributes of people (such as the health vital signs) is also part of this stage. Even currency (which is often thought of as digital already) can be transformed (for example, cryptocurrencies). Digital Business technologies range from enterprise 3D printing and bioprinting systems to wearable user interfaces and connected homes.
  • Stage 6: Autonomous: Autonomous represents the final post-nexus stage. This stage is defined by an enterprise’s ability to leverage technologies that provide humanlike or human-replacing capabilities. Using autonomous vehicles to move people or products or using cognitive systems to write texts or answer customer questions are all examples that mark the Autonomous stage. Technologies that fall within the Autonomous category include virtual personal assistants and smart robots to biochips and autonomous vehicles.

“Although we have categorized each of the technologies on the Hype Cycle into one of the digital business stages, enterprises should not limit themselves to these technology groupings,” LeHong said. “Many early adopters have embraced quite advanced technologies, such as autonomous vehicles or smart advisors, while they continue to improve nexus-related areas, such as mobile apps – so it’s important to look at the bigger picture.”


From home automation and smart metering to wearables and other IoT applications, a new generation of embedded products will increasingly power our lifestyle, as depicted by the Hype Cycle. Atmel is making it easier for designers to create a more intelligent, more connected world through its recently-unveiled Atmel® | SMART™ brand of ARM-based microcontrollers and expanded SMART portfolio. These solutions include embedded processing and connectivity — as well as software and tools — designed to make it faster and more cost-effective to bring smart products to market. Atmel | SMART MCUs combine powerful 32-bit ARM cores with industry-leading low-power technology and intelligent peripherals.

To explore the latest emerging technologies, you can access Gartner’s entire “Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2014” report here.