Commentary

Samsung's Harman Shows Future In-Car Experience At CES

CES used to be manageable at the massive Las Vegas Convention Center, referred to locally as the LVCC.

Over the years, CES expanded to accommodate what is now more than 4,000 exhibitors and some 180,000 attendees. Now hotels around the city house various pieces, while the LVCC is totally packed with vendors loudly showing their wares, some with staging booths the equivalent of a city block.

Aside from all the "official" extension of CES at hotels including The Sands, Aria and Westgate Las Vegas, lies the Hard Rock Hotel, where Samsung’s Harman sets up camp in a very big way for those invited to check it out.

Harman is in the process of reinventing how everything works for people inside a car.

At the moment, Harman is demonstrating how a consumer’s home life will integrate with their car life.

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Ralph Santana, the executive vice president and global chief marketing officer of Harman International, walked me through the future vision of where connected cars are heading, including an impressive demonstration of the connected car experience consumers can expect.

“People don’t want to be off the grid,” Santana said. “The connected car will put us back on the grid. It’s about the experience in the vehicle.”

Harman announced at CES a new communications feature, In-Car Communication (ICC), which combines microphones, voice processing and in-vehicle audio signal processing, allowing two-way conversations within a car. For example, ICC allows the driver to communicate directly with passengers in the back seats without having to turn around or take their eyes off the road, and second and third-row passengers can communicate easily with the first row, without having to raise their voices.

In addition to the numerous  products and features Harman launched at CES, Santana showed me a detailed vehicle demonstration of how a car and home will be connected down the road.

As I rode as the "passenger" in the connected car simulation demo, the driver received messages, set reminders by voice, took and placed calls, received car-fueling suggestion and used auto turn-by-turn directions, all with content between home and car seamlessly integrated.

The connected car of the future will not require a cellphone, since the car itself will be the connected hub.

New in-car capabilities will result from the connections, most notably with the coming features to be made possible due to the high, instant speeds of 5G.

“This is going to change what kind of experience we can control in a car,” Santana said, adding a caution that “a big miss” for future in-car marketing would be a billboard marketing approach, suggesting that new forms of contextual content will have to be created.

Santana has no doubts about the significance of the connected car of the future. “This is the biggest opportunity since the cellphone,” he said.

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