60 years of innovation, and cars that know you

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Sixty years ago, IBM created the Hursley UK Lab campuses. And thus began six decades of relentless development and innovation.

To celebrate this Diamond Jubilee, last month we hosted a Festival of Innovation. It was our chance to show the world where IBM develops the software that keeps the modern world running. Members of the UK government, press, clients, academics, advocates, schools and business partners joined us and saw how we build today’s newest tech like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud computing, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT). It was modern technology in a classic English setting: a lovely18th century mansion in the heart of the countryside.


Hursley Labs has the look look like a classic English setting but houses some of today's most innovative technology, thanks to IBM.

The event boasted a huge range of demos, site tours, lightning talks and guest speakers (learn more at the What’s On page or from an enjoyable write-up from Physics World).

When your smart car knows you

At the event, I hosted an innovation booth in the AI section. My demonstration, “Your smart car knows you”, walked the audience through IBM’s Watson Assistant for Automotive and its broader Watson Assistant Solutions offering.

This IBM technology can create a digital assistant with a smart, voice-enabled conversational interface for a vehicle. But “voice” is just the start of this exciting technology. That’s because it also simplifies maintenance and upkeep for drivers. It proactively recognises what a driver needs from usage patterns and real-time events, and adjusts responses and automated actions. All of which heralds a new type of personalized journey.

All of this technology is designed for business. Watson Assistant Solutions uses AI, cloud, and the IoT to help businesses enhance brand loyalty and transform customer experiences. And it’s done while keeping the business and customer data private and secure. It can be embedded in any “thing” – a car, hotel room, retail store, conference room, and more. For consumers, if offers an easy-to-use, hands-free voice experience that delivers new levels of convenience as they live, work, and travel.

I didn’t just talk about the technology, though. As part of my demonstration, visitors had the opportunity to try it out. We set up a simulated car head unit for the in-vehicle experience. We also had a microphone array running a general purpose application similar to home consumer devices today. Also on display were a range of devices to provoke discussions. From simple Raspberry Pi computers (with microphone HATs) through Andrea Kit directional microphones to robots including the mighty from The Corpora. There was even a BB8 robot that you could voice control through Watson Assistant Solutions. As I said … any “thing” can house Watson Assistant Solutions.

Why IBM software matters

Happily, I had so many people who stopped by the booth. And I did not stop talking for over six hours. Overall, it was wonderful to be part of such a huge event and explain the important of IBM efforts. Did you know that IBM is responsible for running four out of every five airline reservations worldwide, nine of every 10 global credit card transactions, the protocol used by just about every Internet of Things device in the world (MQTT), and tens of billions of secure transactions every day?

That’s why I am excited to be part of the next wave in AI and IoT. And I hope to be responsible for the same in the coming years as AI, machine learning, cloud, security and blockchain continue to change the world.  I won’t quite make the next 60th anniversary. But I do plan to be there at the next decade’s anniversary showing off how our innovation has contributed and enabled modern life.

About the author:

With a passion for bleeding edge technology, Andy has spent more than 20 years helping clients and business partners find the right solutions. He’s always been keen to understand how things work, what happens when you deconstruct them, and – most importantly – what it means for IBM customers. In his current role, he specializes in AI and digital concierges, and helps clients use Watson Assistant Solutions to drive AI into their businesses and out to their customers. Before that, he was a head architect in IBM’s Digital and Mobile CTO Group and lead global complex systems integration projects across major technology trends.

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