Member Spotlight – Interview with Joel Obstfeld, Cisco

By | 2020-04-28T12:53:50+00:00 April 21st, 2020|Blog|

Joel Obstfeld is a Distinguished Engineer within Cisco and a part of Cisco’s Emerging Technologies & Incubation team.

Q: Can you please tell me a little about your role at Cisco?

A: I’m leading a team of people who are looking at the future of connected and automated transport systems. We’re considering all the various components needed for connected transportation systems – — not just for the vehicle, but what they connect to, the roadways, smart cities and the broader communications and computing infrastructure.

Q: Why was Cisco interested in becoming a part of the AECC?

A: Cisco’s involvement in the AECC stems from our work with roadway operators, authorities, and vehicle manufacturers from around the world. Cisco is particularly interested in the scope and charter of AECC, the challenge being to create a ‘fabric’ able to support the volume data processing needs of fleets of vehicles that are operating on a global scale.

Q: You mention many people being beneficiaries of this industry and the data. Where do you see the future of the connected vehicle going, and what types of business opportunities are available to Cisco and other industries?

A: We’re thinking about far more than “connected vehicles”. Connected vehicles create opportunities for gathering and sharing data that can be incredibly valuable. For example, city authorities would love to know how many people are on the streets in particular areas for all sorts of urban planning or transportation reasons. If you think of a connected vehicle as an increasingly intelligent sensor platform, and one that is part of wider fleet, then using data from the “digital exhaust” of connected vehicles is an interesting intersection that we wanted to explore. What are the possibilities when we leverage that data in different ways in order to extract new value? This opportunity isn’t far off in the distance – we are examining what the future can bring today.

Q: You are involved in the AECC as a board member and in a working group. Tell me about the work of the AECC  as it occurs in working groups.

A: The AECC Working Group One (WG1) focuses on the development of use case requirements. WG1 work entails gathering input to help create detailed service scenarios. Crafting these requires considerable attention to detail: being aware of and understanding elements of security, privacy, and other factors.

The AECC Working Group Two (WG2) focuses on solutions and takes the set of requirements from WG1 and considers how to best address each use case. A simple scenario may comprise existing solutions that need to meet requirements. More complex scenarios arise when we identify requirement gaps that require us to discover new approaches.

Q: Where do you see the future of the connected vehicles market?

A: Cisco is engaged with both conventional vehicle makers and autonomous vehicle companies. Analysts predict human-driven connected cars will operate in many areas of the world for many years to come. Gradually, autonomous vehicles will also be present, most likely for specific uses in specific areas, both on- and off-road.

One significant area of promise is the ability of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems within connected vehicles to improve road safety and reduce the number of road fatalities. Fatalities are a huge issue in many countries with both direct and indirect economic impacts. We want to drive the fatality rate down towards a lower number. Ideally zero deaths — that would be amazing.

Q: Describe the new technical report by AECC, the significance of its approach, types of proposed solutions, and how you see it influencing or helping global standards organizations.

A: The newest AECC technical report is Driving Data to the Edge: The Challenge of Traffic Distribution. It provides a high-level view and lays out the landscape of enabling massive future connectivity and computing requirements for connected vehicles and back-end systems. This report digs into the detail of how to address the particular challenges identified by AECC.

Some questions addressed by the report include: How will the use-cases impact how current communications networks support connected vehicles? What will the network of the future need to be able to do to support the broad adoption of connected vehicle services? The connected future poses fantastic scenarios – most of which now exist only on slides. The report focuses on technical steps required by stakeholders to achieve this vision of the future.

Q: What do you see as the benefits of joining the AECC?

A: AECC membership offers many benefits. Membership exposes participants to a greater breadth of experience and knowledge in multiple areas that don’t usually exist within a single organization. The exchange of ideas, insights, and experience is invaluable. For example, when Cisco has conversations with other vehicle makers, we hear similar kinds of issues to those raised within AECC. Membership helps us start to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, since within the AECC, we have the representation from the ecosystems of companies that will build the future, not just the voice of one vehicle maker.

Membership in AECC is also an opportunity to raise one’s professional profile. Within a group of companies working on a very focused set of requirements and use cases, there is an opportunity here to present what you are capable of doing and what the company that you work for is thinking. There’s also the ability to share what you hear within the AECC, bringing it back to your company, helping spread knowledge and information. Our ongoing publication of white papers and technical reports also benefits the organizations that are becoming members.

Q: What do you personally enjoy, and what have you learned as being a member of the AECC?

A: Well, my Japanese has improved! I can now read and write Hiragana and Katakana. That would not have happened otherwise, so that’s a good thing! However, I still need to work on my spoken Japanese.

Personally, it’s the exposure to new ideas and the opportunity to challenge your thinking. You may think that the world looks like “X” from your experience and perspective, but there are other views and other opinions, and you need to hear different kinds of thinking because every so often you get that “Aha!” moment where suddenly you understand why they are saying what they’re saying. You don’t necessarily get that from one meeting. It is a case of ongoing engagement — more discussion, contribution, being challenged — and it helps you grow.