Sony sensors not just for robot puppy

October 7, 2019  - By

The importance of sensors, whether they be incorporated in cute dog robots or autonomous vehicles, is gaining more traction.

At September’s Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) Expo, Sony Electronics President and COO Mike Fasulo told GPS World that its foundation sensors are going into autonomous vehicles, drones, agricultural solutions and other platforms.

“A lot of people also don’t know that more than half of the hardware in most smartphones is ours,” Fasulo said. “These sensors we are working on do things you and I can’t do. They can assess sunlight and darkness. They can put a safety cocoon around a vehicle.”

The Aibo robot dog uses artificial intelligence to mimic a real puppy’s behavior. (Photo: Kevin Dennehy)

The Aibo robot dog uses artificial intelligence to mimic a real puppy’s behavior. (Photo: Kevin Dennehy)

At the conference, Sony displayed a nearly $3,000 Aibo dog robot, which has many of the same sensors that go into many of the company’s other products, including its venerable camera line. Aibo has facial recognition technology and uses artificial intelligence to mimic a real puppy’s behavior.

Sony sensors seem to be a cornerstone in several new announcements. Less than two months ago, Sony and Yamaha Motor Co. announced the joint development of the SC-1 Sociable Cart, a small autonomous vehicle that will be deployed to golf courses, amusement parks and commercial facilities, the company said.

The SC-1, which is not for sale, features five seats, replaceable batteries, front and rear scope of view thanks to image sensors, an innovative vehicle design, and other improvements over an original prototype vehicle.

In addition to the image sensors, the vehicle has ultrasonic sensors and a two-dimensional laser detection and ranging (lidar) system, the company said. These sensors allow the vehicle to gather cloud travel data for safe-driving analysis.

Sony is working with Japan’s NTT Docomo to test the vehicle’s 5G mobile technologies for remote-controlled functions, the company said.

Geotab leverages sensor data

Sony and Yamaha Motor plan to roll out the SC-1 later this year in Japan. (Photo: Sony/Yamaha Motor)

Sony and Yamaha Motor plan to roll out the SC-1 later this year in Japan. (Photo: Sony/Yamaha Motor)

Canada-based Geotab has made big announcements this year, although the huge one is from the U.S. government to equip more than 200,000 vehicles with its telematics systems.

While that contract itself is massive, the company believes the more than 2 billion data points gathered each day, from millions of Geotab-equipped vehicles on the road, is the real valuable commodity.

The data gathered with the company’s connected-car technology can help companies and governments assess how their fleets are operating, said Mike Branch, Geotab vice president of data and analytics.

Branch, who leads a team of 40 employees, said the company uses the data to help cities assess road impediments — not only road quality. This includes analyzing ABS activation to look at black ice or other hazards. “While weather companies can only estimate conditions, we have sensors in vehicles that can give hyperlocal reports and ground truth,” he said. “People consistently slamming on their brakes in one area is an example [of aggregative data].”

Back in the day, which is less than 10 years ago, all that many companies expected from their fleet management systems was to let them know where their drivers were, by using GNSS and mapping technology. Today, the sensors — and data provided by them — allow managers to assess dangerous driving areas, save on fuel costs by rerouting trucks and compare routes throughout the United States, not just in big cities, Branch said.

In the smart cities space, Branch said that Geotab is working with municipalities for fuel intersection insight mapping. “This means if 20 vehicles, or even just two, are stopped at an intersection, our sensors can detect the wait times,” he said. “The big thing for us is looking at this smart-city deployment to leverage organic data in a private manner.”

Because of the nature of data procurement, privacy is big topic for the company, Branch said. “We treat it with high importance. Our view is that the data is owned by the customer,” he said. “They have full access to it. We will go through it, aggregately, so we can improve our customer’s experience.”

Keeping OBD port secure

The future of open on-board diagnostic (OBD) vehicles — and procuring secured and open data from them — is a concern for Geotab, Branch said.
“We have a full port safety committee with the goal of security and access to the port,” he said. “We believe in open access to this port. This gets to be a concern with mixed-fleet Fords, Mercedes, BMW and others as the data can slow down the port at any time.”

Branch said the company does not want to remove the entrepreneur, who is interested in working with the port in a safe manner. “We work with the OEMs on the future of telematics not just by pulling the data from our device, but pulling it from their feed,” he said.

Branch said that technology may make the port dongle obsolete in five to 10 years, but until then, the company has created an ecosystem to enable the use of the data. “There is going to be an aftermarket as cars are lasting an average of 11 years,” he said.

About the Author: Kevin Dennehy

Kevin Dennehy is GPS World’s editor for location-based services, writing a monthly column for the LBS Insider newsletter. Dennehy has been writing about the location industry for more than 20 years. He covered GPS and location technology for Global Positioning & Navigation News for seven years. His articles on the wireless industry have been published in both consumer and trade magazines and newspapers.