Aric Dromi is Chief Futurologist for Volvo Car Group. He will be speaking at Apps World Germany on the future of connected cars and potential cyber security threats they might present.
Aric, can you tell us a little bit about what being a ‘futurologist’ involves?
I often joke that a futurologist convinces mortals that immortality is possible! They need someone to help them look behind corners. In a business sense, we take people beyond their comfort zones. A futurologist doesn’t predict the future per se – if only I could do that! Instead we help decision-makers navigate the future.
What kind of research is involved in predicting trends?
I consume something like 400-500 headlines a day. From that I choose 40 – 100, depending on the topic of the day. I used to have a folder on my computer called ‘I told you so’. A friend advised I needed to change it to ‘I showed you so’ and that is the truth. A lot of my work is conceptualising but I need to deliver at the end of the day.
Why did you move into the car industry?
Because I hate cars! That’s 80% of why I do what I do. I hate the stodgy, old school car which just moves us from one point to another. I love the idea of this wonderfully immersive, connected technology which will push us into a different realm altogether.
What specialised challenges does the automotive sector present in terms of predicting trends?
There’s a quote I like: ‘the current generation of politicians are forcing us to underutilise the potential of technology’. In the same way, in the traditional car industry, there can be a fixation on horsepower or infotainment, whereas the future is the massive potential of connected technology. There are definitely exceptions to this, e.g. the attitudes taken by Tesla or BMW.
The connected cars space is a fast growing area. Is there anything in particular coming out that you’re excited about?
It’s exciting to me that ‘user personality’ will be powering the car. The user smartphone that is based in the middle of the steering wheel will be driving the technology.
As car connectivity becomes more complex, what are the main cyber security concerns that carmakers need to address?
Carmakers have an old-fashioned approach to security – which is that EVERYTHING needs to be secure. Privacy died when the internet was born. They need to start thinking about how to deal with the openness of connectivity.
What do you think will be the main focus of cyber security measures for developers over the next few years?
For developers, they need to start thinking less about applications and more about service on demand. Code won’t develop in a silo – it is and will be part of an ecosystem. OEMs need to provide developers with a well-defined set of APIs.
As well as being a futurologist and a digital philosopher, you’re a self-described ‘professional trouble-maker’. In what way does it pay to push against the status quo?
Being a futurologist can be an incredibly lonely job. You will be ridiculed and dismissed. It takes a lot of strength to stand by your opinions when they are against the status quo. But what IS fun is to see the look in people’s eyes when they realise that you are speaking the truth! THAT is rewarding.