Startups are aiming to disrupt traditional businesses by leveraging technology and solving the problems of Users through tech innovation – often walking through a door left open by traditional businesses. A great example is Uber that simply used GPS technology to match supply and demand – a problem and technology that has been there for years.
In this blog post, I will be going through all the different tech innovations that you need to be aware of, and giving examples for someone interested in the car mechanic/ servicing niche (always more interesting to have a context!)
Latest tech include:
– Chatbots: very similar to a live chat but using artificial intelligence and natural language analysis to understand a User request (“What will the weather be today?” = “Today’s weather will be 21 degrees and sunny in your location”).
Opportunity: mechanics write questions in a chat section of an app and it makes product recommendations.
– Voice control – Alexa/ Siri/ Google/ etc. are piling investment to make this work. Much improved voice recognition means this becomes a viable option. A lot of similarities in data structure to Chat Bots as technology needs to understand your request and match it to most likely answer.
Opportunity: mechanics ask Alexa what oil a specific car needs and it makes product recommendations. Mechanics could also ask for available booking slots, check stock or to order parts. All of this to minimise their need to stop what they are doing to access a computer.
– OCR: Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is using the camera on a phone to match symbols/ letters/ numbers/ images to a database. This is how number plate recognition is powered. This technology is established and works well.
Opportunity: OCR app for mechanics that scans a Client’s number plate, matches it to DVLA database and finds exactly the right oil (or any other information available) in <1 second. This could also be used to scan a Client’s driving licence and save to a CRM their name/ address to save typing this out. Final interesting use is to take payment rapidly by scanning card (Paypal/ Braintree offer an integrated solution) instead of typing numbers.
– Augmented Reality (AR): this is all about augmenting what you see around you by overlaying information on the screen.
Opportunity: a driving app that uses the camera to show you the actual road ahead and overlays direction on the image including turns, speed restrictions and time to destination. We can also overlay information on top of a dashboard to give specific instructions to Clients – for example what do the warning lights on a dashboard mean? Point your phone and it will recognise warning light (via OCR) and pop up information/ video on what it is (AR).
Example app is Pokemon Go that became a worldwide phenomenon!
– Virtual Reality (VR): this is creating an entirely virtual world like immersive games. Training simulators for flying have been using this technology for a number of years. The most well know company in that space is Oculus Rift, a company bought by Facebook that makes headsets to play/ interact in VR. They strongly believe that this is the future of not just gaming but many industries, such as medical operation, or training staff on specialist equipment.
Opportunity: Creating a Mechanics training centre in VR through Occulus Rift.
Example apps are truly immersive worlds for people to discover.
– Machine Learning: this is something of a buzzword and effectively means that based on a User’s behaviour, your computer/ phone/ device learns your preferences and refines future suggestions based on that. This effectively means adding a tag to a User based on their choices, and applying this tag as an additional layer of filtering when the next request comes in. (For example: if you request a coffee, the machine will ask you questions like milk or sugar. Next time, with machine learning, the machine will know and perhaps simply cross check with you that you want the usual coffee with milk and sugar)
Opportunity: Creating a booking app for mechanics that enables them to scan a number plate and driver’s licence (OCR) and then asks the system availability (voice control + artificial intelligence) and based on options books it in automatically The Machine Learning component would stem from the fact that the system will have learnt your specific opening hours and pulled data from various to refine current availability.
Example app learns how user’s type and the words they use to come up with predictions.
– Beacons: beacons are low energy bluetooth emitting devices which are used for indoor mapping. The idea is to have a point marked by a beacon and measuring distance from beacon to your phone. If you have 3 beacons, you can triangulate a location. Accuracy varies on many factors (line of sight, people in the way, etc.). This technology is getting more established with use cases in airports or shopping malls to track people movement and direct them. More advanced tech in that space is Ultra Wide Band (UWB) which is an enhanced version for more accurate tracking.
Opportunity: This technology could be used indoor or outdoors to track where a car has been parked and give direction to that car. In a garage this could be used to trigger information on a screen – for example if a mechanic wants to know available time for an appointment, he could simply tap a beacon and this would trigger content on the screen showing free times (the beacon would be trained for a specific response). This could also be used to do asset tracking.
Example app enables you to track a tile that can be attached to various things like bags to help you find them – effectively asset tracking,
– 360 Degree: using a 360 degree camera, Users are able to create an image all around them. This used to be very expensive technology but now costs c. £200. Users are then able to view the image on their phone/ tablet and pan around the image to look left/ right/ up down/ behind them!
Opportunity: showing the inside of a car for sale so potential buyers can feel nothing has been hidden.
Example app is Shell Pay & Go app that has a race track 360 video section.
– Watch: these smart watches sync up with the phone to show you on a small screen essential information. The phone apps have been optimised for that screen space and for some have become a must have. Future tech means soon people will not have to take their phone with them and will rely only on their watch for messages/ calls/ apps but not everyone is embracing this.
Opportunity: Watch app to tie into a wider solution for mechanics could show booking times, incoming calls, etc. This minimises need to take phone out of pocket in a garage environment.