From the IVI-based IoV to the mobile phone-based IoV (Qing Mobile), PATEO has created many "firsts" in the IoV field since its establishment ten years ago, while always maintaining innovation and leadership. Ken (Yilun) Ying has said that the next revolution is even more worth looking forward to.
PATEO, a company that opened up the era of the IVI-based IoV in 2010, carried out a "self-revolution" on the 10th anniversary of its establishment, bringing the whole industry into the era of the mobile phone-based IoV.
Inspired by Shen Yang, General Manager of SAIC-GM-Wuling (SGMW), PATEO has devoted nearly CNY 200 million and more than 300 personnel to R&D to introduce the Qing Mobile solution, successfully "putting a vehicle into a mobile phone".
It does not rely on an IVI, poses no pressure on data usage, is easier to use and costs less than the IVI-based IoV, and allows the user to remotely control the vehicle – completing such operations as locking / unlocking the car, opening / closing the window, and turning on / off the air conditioner – via a mobile phone app, and smoothly use third-party apps such as WeChat and navigation through voice.
"The R&D cycle of a vehicle is usually 3-4 years, while that of a mobile phone is 9 months, and also the phone is able to ensure that the IoV always uses the latest hardware such as the chip and the computing power never falls behind." Ken (Yilun) Ying, founder and Chairman of PATEO CONNECT+ even joked internally, “we’re ‘killing ourselves’".
Different from the simple mobile phone connectivity based screen mirroring solution, PATEO Qing Mobile embeds all the IoV capabilities, including OS, cloud, ecosystem, voice and map, in the mobile phone, and transfers the strong computing power of the phone to the IVI.
However, there’re still players in the industry who see it as a short-term, transitional solution.
In fact, PATEO has made use of such a low-cost solution to seamlessly connect the mobile phone and the IVI. In terms of actual user experience, Qing Mobile is significantly superior to the current IVI-based IoV, be it functional diversity, or speech recognition rate and response speed. In addition, PATEO Qing Mobile solution has also broken the original giant-monopolized closed system, and truly put the choice of third-party apps in users’ hands.
"The mobile phone-based IoV is not a replacement for the IVI-based IoV, but rather a supplement to it," Ken told AI Finance & Economics. In fact, what we are looking at is not only limited to the mobile phone and the IVI. The true core of Qing Mobile still lies in its software and cloud capabilities, data, and AI, which are exactly the platform-level capabilities possessed by PATEO."
Since its establishment ten years ago, PATEO has created many "firsts" in the IoV field, with innovation still going on. Ken and the PATEO team are planning the next "revolution", such as integrating the mature industry chain of consumer electronics into the vehicle to achieve more integration between them.
Ken said that this will bring a vaster space for imagination to the IoV. "The coming year is worth looking forward to."
AI Finance & Economics = AI
Ken (Yilun) Ying = YYL
“Put Vehicle into Mobile Phone”
AI: Reviewing PATEO’s growth over the past 10 years, what issues and user pain points do you think still remain to be solved in the IoV?
YYL: We have developed in the IoV field for 10 years. Throughout the entire digital age, the IoV has successively gone through several periods, respectively featuring safety & security IoV, aftermarket IoV, mobile phone connectivity, as well as OS and cloud ecosystem. Later on, innovative car enterprises, BAT and Huawei have also joined the competition one after another.
In our point of view, there’ve always been several problems with the IoV development:
Firstly, the hardware lags far behind. The IoV hardware itself appears two or three years later than that of consumer electronics. The life span of a vehicle is usually 10 years, but after two or three years of driving, the hardware has actually fallen behind.
Secondly, the capabilities of an IVI chip are many generations, and for now over 10 times, behind that of a mobile phone chip. In addition, the mobile phone comes with a GPU and an NPU, allowing its chip to perform image processing and AI processing; but the IVI doesn’t, most of them are only equipped with a CPU, so the performance of depth image processing and AI processing is impeded. At the same time, in the context of the current slumping car market, automakers care more about the cost.
Thirdly, people actually spend only two hours a day in the car, and even only forty minutes for those living in small cities. How to extend the use of the IoV to 24 hours is also a problem.
Fourthly, the number of car users is usually smaller than that of mobile phone users. How can we expand the user base by five or ten times? For example, for a family user, how do we make it easy for kids and parents in the house to use the IoV? Although there was the “one size fits one” personalization concept in the past, it was more like Microsoft Windows, always with a primary user and a guest user, which is not feasible.
Therefore, we believe that the IoV has actually entered a bottleneck period, manifested in that the products are becoming more and more complex, but the performance is far behind that of the smartphone that the user is accustomed to.
AI: How has PATEO solved the bottleneck?
YYL: Jun. to Nov. 2019 was the period when I was under great pressure or the one that’s most unforgettable to me. At that time, we were engaged in the R&D and production of the Qing Mobile product, with the involvement of more than 300 personnel.
The Qing Mobile idea was inspired by Shen Yang, General Manager of SGMW. Just as we noticed the bottleneck in the development of the IoV, in this Feb., Mr. Shen asked me, “Have you ever thought about turning a mobile phone into a vehicle? In other words, is it possible to put a vehicle into a mobile phone?”
I want to say that we worked on mobile phone connectivity from 2012 to 2014, but in fact, it is not the best solution, nor what the user and the automaker want. So, we got down to research and develop Qing Mobile. The workload was actually very heavy. Many people simply understand it from the technical perspective, thinking that it is nothing more than a simple screen mirroring solution, but this is not the case. As a matter of fact, we have embedded all the IoV capabilities, including OS, cloud, ecosystem, voice and map, in the mobile phone.
Our technical direction has been recognized by many mobile phone manufacturers who offer to cooperate with us. Among the approximately 300 or 400 mobile phones currently on the market, our products are compatible with about more than 280 of them. These more than 280 phones come with different performances and operating systems, and iOS is especially difficult to handle, so compatibility is a hard nut to crack. Therefore, we’ve made two sets of products, one for iOS and one for Android. At the same time, we’ve also specially developed a map and a voice system that are compatible with iOS.
In fact, the mobile phone-based IoV is rather different from the IVI-based IoV: Our Qing Mobile fully utilizes the computing power of the mobile phone — not only the computing power of the CPU, but also that of the GPU and the NPU — while also completely breaking the limitation on the usage time of the IoV, extending it from 2 hours to 24 hours, and from inside the car to outside the car; besides, through voiceprint recognition in combination with the application software for different users, we are able to achieve wireless connection within seconds, with children, women and the elderly all identified, thus increasing the number of in-vehicle users from one to four or five.
Most importantly, with the ecosystem open, the user is allowed to choose any map, music, video app, life service, etc., they want.
In retrospect, the whole process was quite difficult. We had to rely on the team's 10-year IoV experience as well as all our technology platform experience to make it happen. A green hand won’t be able to do it even if 400 or 500 personnel are provided. Frankly speaking, when we were working on it, the client didn’t make it clear that we would gain the business, so there was a risk involved. It wasn’t until after the client saw our first product prototype that came out this Oct. that they placed an order with us.
In 2010, the inkaNet that was jointly developed by PATEO and SAIC can be said to have inaugurated the era of the IVI-based IoV; in 2019, the most important thing for PATEO is that we opened up the era of the mobile phone-based IoV, a direction that has never been tried before across the world.
In fact, we’ve also created an IoV era that’s oriented towards superior mobility service for the user; we’ll no longer be tied to the physical car. Whichever city or whichever car the user is in, his / her experience, seat settings and all content services, etc., are kept the same. So, I think, by taking such a step forward in the mobile phone-based IoV, we may actually be ahead of the entire IoV industry. As a matter of fact, this is also a kind of revolution. Internally, I said we were "killing ourselves, not being killed by others."
“The price of the food stall vs. the experience of the Michelin restaurant”
AI: Some believe that the mobile phone-based IoV is more like a transitional product. What do you think?
YYL: Actually, today's IoV has solved the most basic issues in user experience. At least, the map can be updated online in real time, and the voice is also very user friendly. But for PATEO, we have the smart cockpit business and the IVI business for different clients and scenarios. Therefore, I think the mobile phone-based IoV is not a replacement for the IVI-based IoV, but rather a supplement to it.
Especially for Chinese self-owned brands, our Qing Mobile is able to help them cut the Cost per Vehicle (CPV) by CNY 800-1600. Assuming the annual vehicle sales volume is one million, the profit will reach up to CNY 0.8-1.6 billion. From this perspective, we definitely believe that this is a good direction.
In fact, the previous screen mirroring solution of the IoV is nothing but an alternative solution, because it only mirrors a few separate apps except the computing power to the vehicle.
For example, you cannot use the Huawei voice to invoke your Xiaomi speaker, because each company has its own voice system. In other words, the IoV has previously entered the "Family Bucket" mode — BAT follow the logic that the user has to use my whole package including cloud, map, voice and content, but this is very unreasonable.
I think all these choices should be given to the user, which is currently not possible with the IVI-based IoV. Therefore, the low price doesn’t mean that the experience will be poor. On the contrary, our experience is much better than that of the IVI-based IoV. Our goal is to deliver the "experience of the Michelin restaurant" at the "price of the food stall".
More importantly, what we are looking at is not only limited to the mobile phone and the IVI. In fact, behind Qing Mobile, what truly deliver the service are the software, cloud, data and AI, which are all the platform-level capabilities possessed by PATEO. What we are exploring and thinking about is whether we can integrate the mature industry chain of consumer electronics into the vehicle to achieve more integration with it, such as the camera and the speaker. I think this will set off the next revolution.
AI: Currently, what’s the proportion of employees that PATEO respectively puts into the IVI-based IoV and the mobile phone-based IoV?
YYL: PATEO now has about 1,100 employees, among whom nearly 850-900 are engineers. We don’t divide their roles according to the materialized forms of the mobile phone-based IoV and the IVI-based IoV, but by inside the vehicle, outside the vehicle and all scenarios.
The “in-vehicle” IVI and hardware team, the "in-vehicle" ecosystem team, plus the OS and cloud team, constitute the IVI-based IoV business unit, with about 300 to 400 personnel; and there are also separate teams for mobile phone software, mobile phone key & card, mobile phone services, ecosystem and iOS, which are combined to form the mobile phone-based IoV team.
The all-scenario services include map service, AI, voice, payment and mobility. Specifically, if you want to hail a cab, maybe any of the speaker, the headphone or the car is able to help you invoke the mobility service. We refer to such a service capability as the "closed-loop big mobility service". In future products, the map service will be a relatively core segment, which can be summed up as "MAC" (Mobile, AI, Cloud).
PATEO implements the "1 + 1 + N" strategy this year, i.e., IVI + Mobile Phone + N, wherein N refers to the various input and output devices, including headphones, speakers, watches and bracelets. The mainstream interaction in the future will become "one-time interaction with the input and output of multiple devices". For example, when you say "transfer the scenery ahead to the TV at home", you’ll actually invoke the microphone and the camera, and use video transmission as well as the 5G technology and computing power of the phone for communication; then when the image is transmitted to home, a device is leveraged to find out which room is occupied before turning on the TV in it.
AI: How soon could the user see and experience the interaction you talk about?
YLL: We’re already developing it and will soon put it into mass production, probably next Mar. to Jun.
“The coming year is worth looking forward to”
AI: Currently, many IoV companies are basically attached to a giant. What do you think is the biggest advantage of PATEO that enables it to develop independently till today?
YYL: We have many advantages, such as the most comprehensive client coverage and the most IPRs (intellectual property rights), but I think the biggest advantage of PATEO is the ability to rationally judge the development of the enterprise.
If you have to sell yourself to a giant to get survival rights, then you’ll have to sell. At present, there are not many companies focusing on the IoV, maybe only a few.
There are several reasons why we are able to maintain our features as an independent third party: Firstly, we don’t think that a big company is always a professional one; secondly, technically speaking, no company is able to make the comprehensive arrangement that covers 5G, chip, AI chip, autonomous driving computing platform, cloud, voice and HD (high-definition) map, so we only dive into the automotive sector; thirdly, from the structural perspective, our horizontal mobilization is very responsive; lastly, PATEO happens to be in good times, allowing it to stand on the shoulders of giants, e.g., partnering with Suning on retail, cooperating with over 20 automakers, and collaborating with F&I giants and mobile phone manufacturers.
Being confident and open is also very important. We’re confident because we’ve accumulated 10 years of experience; we’re open, so we can cooperate with others in depth, which not only outputs hematopoietic cells, but also reduces costs for each other.
AI: The R&D cost that PATEO has input over the past 10 years is also very high. Is there any financial pressure?
YYL: The pressure is pretty high. And yet, I don’t think it’s a good thing to have a lot of money, semi-starvation is the best state for a company to develop; to achieve the biggest success with the least money is a capability. Moreover, I think the IoV industry should follow the B2B model, rather than the B2C model characterized by subsidy competition. Of course, normal funds are still needed, so we are also financing.
AI: What are PATEO's goals and plans for the coming year?
YYL: First of all, we need to maintain continuous high-speed growth. We set the growth rate target at 150%. This goal is pretty good in view that the automotive industry is on the decline;
Second, in terms of the three dimensions of "Product, Platform and Price", the product has to deliver the ultimate experience, the technology platform has to be independently controllable, and the price has to be industry-leading;
The third is the “Five New” business we mentioned before, i.e., New Retail, New Finance, New Insurance, New Service, and New Mobility. During the past 1.5-year preparation, we’ve made some new attempts, while cooperation with Suning and efforts on helicopter rescue, etc., should be blooming and yielding fruits next year. Last month, without any advertising placement, we’ve sold 50 cars through a single store.
Also, we are thinking about and exploring how to unfold 5G, MAC (Mobile, AI, Cloud), blockchain, and IoV data security.
The coming year is a transitional year for PATEO, and also a year that is worth looking forward to.