Tiziano Albani, the head of VIA Europe, recently shared his views about how the combined forces of digitization and electrification are creating a seismic shift in the auto market in a recent interview with the top Italian tech website Bits and Chips. He also talked about the steps VIA is taking to enable customers in traditional industries like transportation to accelerate the digital transformation of their operations with our growing range of highly integrated intelligent systems.
Here are the highlights of the interview. The original version can be found here.
1. VIA is developing a lot of products for the 5G & automotive markets. What is the role of VIA in this market and what do you think about competitors such as Intel and Nvidia?
Our focus is on developing intelligent systems for automotive after-market applications. These systems do not just include the system hardware itself, but also the software, AI, ML, and cloud connectivity components.
With the VIA Mobile360 D700 AI Dash Cam, for example, we have developed our own Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, and Driver Monitoring System AI applications that alert the driver of risky behavior and potential dangers on the road ahead and transmit the data and videos of critical events to the cloud for monitoring and analysis. Enabling seamless cloud connectivity is a critical element of our design philosophy. To make it easy for customers to integrate the device into AWS cloud platforms, for example, we recently launched our new VIA Fleet AWS Cloud SDK that removes the need for device-side development and therefore minimizes deployment costs. The beauty of our intelligent systems is that we can constantly optimize them to meet evolving customer requirements.
What I find most exciting about the D700 is that we are seeing customers from a lot of different segments such as trucking, last-mile deliveries, taxis, law enforcement, public transportation, and even insurance adopt the device. The potential opportunities are enormous. We are in the very early stages of growth in this market. By providing an intelligent system that can be seamlessly plugged into an existing cloud infrastructure, we are making it quicker and easier for traditional industries like transportation to accelerate the digital transformation of their operations without having to make huge investments in building up their own internal development resources.
The nature of the intelligent solutions market is very different than the semiconductor space. We do not see ourselves competing with Intel, Nvidia, or any other silicon players for that matter. With products like the VIA Mobile360 D700 AI Dash Cam and the VIA Mobile360 AI Forklift Safety System, our goal is to leverage the most advanced AI, sensor fusion, and cloud technologies to enable our customers to boost the safety and efficiency of their vehicles, equipment, and operations. We are focusing on serving those needs rather than worrying about potential competitors.
2. The automotive market should have been the Eldorado according to several journalists and CEOs, but today it is still a tiny market compared to bigger markets like for example Mobile or PC. Do you think it will explode soon or it will be a marathon?
The automotive market is so large, complex, and strategically important that I would liken it more to a triathlon than a sprint or a marathon! Right now, we have only just passed the starting line of a seismic industry shift that involves both the digitization and electrification of vehicles. The challenges for both established players and new entrants in building new R&D capabilities, new manufacturing and supply chain ecosystems, and even new business models are huge – and should not be underestimated!
Although it will take some time for this transition to take place, the long-term trend is very clear: within the next couple of decades all new vehicles will be a computer on wheels and the auto market will dwarf the PC and mobile phone markets. In the next five years, we believe that the pace of digitization and electrification in the auto market will accelerate very quickly, and we see a lot of exciting opportunities not just in the traditional passenger and commercial vehicle space but also in emerging segments such as autonomous delivery vehicles, industrial robotics, and automated mining, construction, and agricultural equipment.
3. Moving on to professional development boards we can see two boards in the price list at the moment: VAB-950 ($299) and VAB-820 ($229). These boards are not available in European online stores, do you sell many? Are they profitable? Some years ago, there were more models in your price list.
We have streamlined our board development activities to focus on platforms where we can deliver unique value to the market. We launched the VIA VAB-950, for example, to meet growing customer demand for high-performance AI and computer vision applications such as facial recognition, object identification, and OCR. It is proving very popular for “contact-free” installations like patient registration systems for hospitals and access control systems for buildings. By leveraging our strengths in AI and computer vision, we expect to see continued healthy growth in our board business over the next few years.
4. Last question is about schools: can you tell us something more about VIA Pixetto and the advantages it offers to young students?
Our aim with VIA Pixetto is to make it easy and fun for students from the age of twelve to develop their AI and ML knowledge and skills they will need to participate in the rapidly changing world of work. It provides an ideal gateway for learning coding and robotics with its programmable vision sensor functions and can also be used for more advanced projects using Python and TensorFlow Lite.
We are very excited about the response we have received from schools, educational professionals, and students throughout the world, including Taiwan and Italy, and are seeing a lot of innovative projects being carried out with the platform. To showcase the possibilities, we have published a series of articles and tutorials on the VIA Pixetto website at: https://pixetto.ai/.