How a leading automotive company is using crowdsourcing to improve life on board the car of the future.
May 6, 2019
By Enrique Ramirez
The democratization of knowledge is causing the acceleration of technological change: fossil fuels are being replaced by clean energy, traditional materials like plastics or metals are being replaced by natural fibers or composites, human labor is being replaced by robots, cheaper electronics are enabling the introduction of intelligent functions everywhere…
These changes are generating new opportunities for companies that want to accelerate their innovation through the development of better products and processes. While some companies react to these changes by adjusting their prices and eroding their margins, others clearly bet on added value and innovation.
Crowdsourcing: Benefits and Challenges
Access to global knowledge is becoming an effective approach to innovation. To achieve it, organizations attract a wide diversity of professionals, companies, freelancers, academics and entrepreneurs from other countries and industries.
This methodology, crowdsourcing, is nothing new for many companies that have been using it for a long time like General Electric, Amazon or Procter & Gamble. In fact, the latter was a pioneer almost 20 years ago, proving that it is possible to attract the knowledge of thousands of scientists, engineers or mathematicians to accelerate innovation processes.
Our experience shows that having an organization adopt crowdsourcing is a cultural challenge in itself. The challenge of connecting with external people becomes even bigger when internal people do not have the time to take care of it. However, crowdsourcing can save a lot of time on scouting for different solutions, and the diversity of solutions obtained tends to be very rich. Sometimes, these solutions have even been tested in other countries, or are already working efficiently in other industries, or are completely new.
Crowdsourcing is not being used more in some sectors or others. Actually, it can be found in companies with a more progressive focus on innovation. We have seen that the decision to use crowdsourcing is either tactical (to tackle a specific challenge) or strategic (to build a knowledge network to amplify the company’s innovation ability).
A real case of a company using crowdsourcing strategically
A practical example of strategic use is the recently launched open innovation program from Grupo Antolin, one of the biggest world’s car interior manufacturers. With ANTOLIN i.JUMP, the company intends to attract and collaborate with engineers, physicists and other STEM professionals like entrepreneurs, startups, SME’s, tech centers and universities.
Grupo Antolin aims to lead the transformation of the automotive industry, following the trends of the electric and connected vehicle and the digitalization of the processes.
This program intends to help its +1,500 R&D engineers with outside ideas and experiences, and serve as a talent pool for the future incorporation of the best professionals to the team.
As a first step, this company has launched three innovation challenges in collaboration with ennomotive, a crowd-engineering platform with +15,000 solvers.
The first challenge revolves around finding new functions based on intelligent systems to improve life on board the vehicle that can operate without user intervention. Said systems will combine monitoring and control actions using sensors and actuators.
Such new functions relate to the field of interior architecture, safety, comfort (temperature and humidity control, air quality, acoustic conditions, interior lighting…), infotainment, storage solutions or any other aspect that brings value to the driver and/or the passengers.
The second challenge is related to the purification of the air on board the vehicle. Pollutants that reduce the quality of the air find their way into the vehicle cabin through the ventilation system, or HVAC, or through window openings, imperfect seals and other holes. Grupo Antolin intends to eliminate those pollutants with a complete air quality management solution for the interior of the car.
For instance, the future systems will measure the temperature, carbon dioxide, humidity, among others, to quickly and efficiently regenerate the air inside the car.
Finally, the third challenge focuses on reducing the heat generated by the ever-increasing integrated electronics into car. In fact, new requirements such as 5G connection, autonomous driving, sensors, and monitoring are exponentially increasing the need for a higher number and more powerful electronics in the vehicles.
This new higher-power consumption generates more heat which, in combination with the limited room available for housing these electronics, and other specific factors such sun radiation, increases the temperature in the electronics located between the metal car body and the interior parts.
The challenge is to eliminate the risk of high temperatures that might significantly reduce the life of the electronic components and even damage them.
Enrique Ramirez is an industrial engineer who has worked in operational excellence for manufacturing companies for more than 20 years. Today, he is the CEO of ennomotive, a global hub for engineering innovation.