The Internet of Things and the Honda Recall: An Interview with Anders Wallgren

[interview]
Summary:

In this interview, Anders Wallgren talks about the Internet of Things and how it played a role in the recent Honda recall. Anders also covers how future technology can affect our quality of life, as well as touching on some best practices for continuous delivery.

 

In this interview, Anders Wallgren talks about the Internet of Things and how it played a role in the recent Honda recall. Anders also covers how future technology can effect our quality of life, as well as touching on some best practices for continuous delivery.

 

Cameron Philipp-Edmonds: Today we have an interview with Anders Wallgren. Thank you so much for joining us today Anders.

Anders Wallgren: Great to be here.

Cameron: To start things off, you tell us a little about yourself?

Anders: Sure. I've been in the software industry for about twenty-five years now, working in all kinds of different areas, multimedia, text retrieval search, but I've spent about the last ten years of my time at Electric Cloud, working on helping our customers do continuous delivery and agile processes.

Cameron: Can you tell us about your role at Electric Cloud?

Anders: My role at Electric Cloud is a CTO. I kind of have a dual role there, because I do quite a bit of hands-on implementation work, but that sort of comes and goes. I also work a lot with our sales organization, marketing organization, and with customers as well. Handling sales, architecture, support incidents, and those kinds of things. I like my job a lot because I get to do a lot of very different things which is very cool.

Cameron: Now, you're going to talk to us today about the Internet of Things, and how it kind of relates to the recent Honda recall. To kind of start things off can you briefly explain what the Internet of Things is, and how it relates to the Honda recall?

Anders: Yeah. The Internet of Things very simply is just everything in the whole world is going to have software in it pretty soon. Sort of related to that, is every company is becoming a software company. So of course, when you're driving around in your car, unless your car still has a carburetor, there's a lot of software in a car. A new car has on the order of two- to three-hundred million lines of code.

Cameron: Wow.

Anders: A lot of that is engine management systems, transmission systems, but the bulk of it these days I think is starting to be in the entertainment systems. You practically have a digital entertainment system in every single car. It's pervasive and a modern car, I think I'm going to get the numbers wrong, but I think the latest Mercedes has over fifty or sixty different processors in the vehicle. This is a travelling network these days, it's not just a car.

The Internet of Things… look at all the computers that we carry around with us, laptops, tablets, phones, our televisions are now computers, they're not just glass tubes anymore. Our thermostats are computers, our smoke detectors are computers, so it's really down to the point where everything is going to be on the internet, everything is going to be connected. The ice bucket in my hotel room is probably connected to the internet somehow.

Cameron: Right, it measures temperature with the WiFi?

Anders: Yeah. (laughing)

Cameron: How does that relate to the Honda recall?

Anders: The Honda recall specifically, and I don't want to throw Honda under the bus obviously, but the unintended acceleration is due to a software bug. When you had a recall in the past for a car, it used to be that they had to go in and replace some physical part. Now what they're doing is bringing the cars in and doing a software upgrade to fix that bug, and that's very common. Toyota had a recall very recently with the same problem with the Priuses, where, a similar problem I should say, it was related to acceleration, but it was also fixed with a software update.

The newer car companies like Tesla for example are a little bit more sophisticated on their approach because their cars are internet connected, so they just download the firmware updates over the air at night at 2 a.m. is what I'm told, and hopefully people aren't driving the car at that time.

Cameron: Right.

Anders: So in order to do software upgrades Tesla doesn't need to bring the car in, they just do it over the air, and that will be the norm in the future obviously. The expense of having to bring a car into the service establishment and get the software upgraded like that is pretty expensive. The service establishments like it because they get a chance to sell oil changes and all kinds of other stuff, but the consumer has to waste an hour of two to wait for that to happen. Quite frankly for Honda itself to have to pay for that is a very expensive way to deliver software.

Cameron: While it's unfortunate that these cars are being recalled, it also kind of serves as a great example for us to take a step back and see how software is driving the quality of goods in our everyday lives. With that being said, and you kind of mentioned it earlier, how everything is connected now, including your ice bucket… is this an example of trying to over complicate something that was relatively simple at one time?

Anders: That's probably a little bit of a cynical thing to think, and I'm such a gadget freak that personally my answer to that would be a resounding “no.” I think a lot of these things in the end are quality of life. If you've got a GPS system in your car, try driving without it, you'll be completely lost. So do we become dependent on these things? Absolutely we do.

That's to our detriment in some ways I'm sure, but it sure is nice to be able to get to a place where I've never been before very reliably, and to be able to listen to the music I just downloaded at home five minutes before I left, and all of those kinds of things. I guess you could in some ways classify this as a first-world problem if we're concerned about that.

Having said that, do I want my refrigerator to be Internet connected? I don't think I found a killer application for having my refrigerator being connected to the Internet yet. I'm sure somebody will come up with it, but it sure is handy to have Bluetooth in my car and be able to be hands-free without having to do any intervention and all the other cool things that are in cars these days.

It's progress, it's inevitable, and I think we do benefit from it. There's always going to be room for doing it the purist's way of no software and just use a carburetor, and none of this fancy fuel injection stuff, and I think there's absolutely always a place for that. But I think this is where the world is headed, it's going to be electric cars and they're going to be run by computers, that's where we're headed.

About the author

Cameron Philipp-Edmonds's picture Cameron Philipp-Edmonds

When not working on his theory of time travel, Cameron T. Philipp-Edmonds is writing for TechWell, StickyMinds, and AgileConnection. With a background in advertising and marketing, Cameron is partial to the ways that technology can enhance a company's brand equity. In his personal life, Cameron enjoys long walks on the beach, romantic dinners by candlelight, and playing practical jokes on his coworkers.

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