LG drives towards connected car market with Cerence tie-up

LG has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Cerence to make a play for the emerging connected car market.

The partnership with Cerence, which has recently spun-off from Nuance Communications, will integrate LG’s webOS Auto In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) system with Cerence ARK (AI Reference Kit), to create a new voice assistant for the connected car market.

“We look forward to this collaboration with Cerence to develop a turnkey voice solution for today’s auto and component makers to accelerate the arrival of the connected car,” said I.P. Park, CTO of LG Electronics. “We will continue to evolve webOS Auto by offering a wider range of AI-powered experiences for both manufacturers and auto customers.”

“We are honoured and excited to partner with LG Electronics on a solution that harnesses the collective power and promise of webOS Auto and Cerence ARK,” said Sanjay Dhawan, CEO of Cerence. “This new offering will support automakers and tier-one suppliers as they rapidly innovate, speed the time to market, and deliver a state-of-the-art in-car experience unlike any other.”

Although still in the early days, the connected car market is accelerating very quickly. LG might be a bit a late to the party here and will have to scrap with some big names from Silicon Valley, the telcos and the OEMs themselves.

Looking at the internet segment, Google has been making promising steps forward with its Android Auto in-car platform, while Amazon has Echo Auto, and Apple has CarPlay to steal some share of the connected car segment. The likes of Huawei and Ericsson are also trying to wrestle attention in the space also.

Albeit distant competitors, some telcos have also shown ambitions to play a greater role in the connected car segment. While it does look like the telcos are destined to be the commoditised connectivity partner, the fortunes of this industry are far from settled.

Finally, you have to consider the car manufacturers themselves. The likes of BMW, Seat and Ford want to create a lasting relationship with customers to drive towards a more sustainable industry in the future. Simply selling and maintaining cars might not be enough but owning the in-car experience is one way to create value and new potential revenue streams.

The winners and losers of the connected car segment are far from settled, but this is quickly becoming an incredibly competitive environment.

Microsoft has also been a member of the eavesdropping gang – report

Microsoft contractors have been listening to Skype and Cortana conversations without the full knowledge and consent of the apps’ users, claims a report.

We were almost immediately proved wrong when we said Microsoft, in comparison with Apple, Google, and Amazon, “fortunately has not suffered high profile embarrassment” by its voice assistant Cortana. Motherboard, part of the media outlet Vice, reported that Microsoft contractors, some of them working from home, have been listening to some Skype calls using the app’s instant translation feature, as well as users’ interactions with the Cortana.

Motherboard has acquired audio clips, screenshots as well as internal documents to show that Microsoft, just as its peers, have been employing humans to constantly improve the software algorithm and the quality and accuracy of the translations and responses. Also similar to the other leading tech companies that run voice assistants, Microsoft is ambiguous in its consumer communication, lax in its policy implementation, and does not give the users a way to opt out.

“The fact that I can even share some of this with you shows how lax things are in terms of protecting user data,” the Microsoft contractor turned whistle-blower, who supplied the evidence and decided to remain anonymous, told Motherboard.

“Microsoft collects voice data to provide and improve voice-enabled services like search, voice commands, dictation or translation services,” Microsoft said a statement sent to Motherboard. “We strive to be transparent about our collection and use of voice data to ensure customers can make informed choices about when and how their voice data is used. Microsoft gets customers’ permission before collecting and using their voice data.”

“Skype Translator Privacy FAQ” states that “Voice conversations are only recorded when translation features are selected by a user.” It then goes on to guide users how to turn off the translation feature. There is no possibility for a customer to use the translation service without having the conversation recorded. Neither does the official document say the recorded conversations may be listened to by another human.

Due to the “gig economy” nature of the job, some contractors work from home when undertaking the tasks to correct translations or improve Cortana’s response quality. This is also made obvious by Microsoft contractors’ job listings. However, the content they deal with can be sensitive, from conversations between people in an intimate relationship, to health status and home addresses, as well as query records on Cortana. “While I don’t know exactly what one could do with this information, it seems odd to me that it isn’t being handled in a more controlled environment,” the whistle-blower contractor told Motherboard.

The report does not specify where the eavesdropping they uncovered took place, but the line in the Microsoft statement that “We … require that vendors meet the high privacy standards set out in European law” can’t help but raise some suspicion that the practice could run afoul of GDPR, the European Union’s privacy protection regulation.

At the time of writing, Microsoft has not announced a suspension the practice.