Allaa R.


Innovation Lead

Intelligent Mechatronic Systems (IMS)

Data for smarter, safer and greener vehicles


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What incited you to join IMS? What is your role as Innovation Lead?


Telematics is at the heart of IOT, and joining a company that has been in the business since 1999 and is currently leader in the telematics and IoT field was a great opportunity. Data intelligence and Innovation are at the heart of IMS’s work right across the board.


I have been working at IMS for almost 4 years and currently hold the post of Innovation Lead. It has been a very exciting and interesting journey so far. The Innovation group’s main role is to drive forward our products and technologies with tangible innovations that maintain IMS’s leadership in these fields and guarantees we are providing our client base with the best possible services. We use machine learning to build engines for data mining and data intelligence, work on numerous proof-of-concepts, experiment with future technologies, and also put together pilot projects.

As Innovation Lead, I manage research collaborations with industry, academia and government partners. In addition to that, I lead internal projects for IoT and Big Data Intelligence. I report to the Vice President of Innovation who sits on the IMS board.



What is IMS’s core business?


We are a connected car company - that is our core business. We want to make cars smarter, greener and safer. A car doesn’t have to be expensive in order to be safe. You can and should get a safe, smart and environmentally-friendly car, regardless of what make of car you are driving or what year it was produced. This has been our mandate from the very beginning, and what we have been working towards. We have a full suite of traveller intelligence solutions powered by IMS’s DriveSync platform. These currently include:


Usage-Based Insurance: An insurance telematics solution enabling auto insurers to create uniquely targeted policyholder programs based on their needs and objectives, across both personal and commercial lines.

Personal Telematics Services: A consumer-focused connected car solution delivering convenience, efficiency, productivity and safety services including young driver coaching, roadside assistance, remote diagnostics, emission monitoring and customized alerts.


Road Usage Charging: A unique, in-vehicle system that uses telematics to eliminate the need for expensive gantries and new physical road toll infrastructures. This system can help governments manage congestion as well as cover the cost of the road infrastructure and provide a fairer way of maintaining the road network than the petrol tax system, since it adopts the Pay as you Drive model: the more you use the roads, the more you pay for them. We are actually one of the biggest providers of Pay as you Drive Road Charging technology in North America.


Fleet Intelligence: A commercial fleet telematics solution offering vehicle tracking, vehicle health information and driver behaviour assessment. This fleet intelligence service is suited to both traditional fleets and synthetic fleets (rental agencies, car-share programs, dealerships, etc.), offering a broad range of relevant applications.


Dealer Intelligence: Empowering dealers with intuitive online and mobile interfaces to access vehicle assets, loT and maintenance, and enabling them to secure recurring revenue while deriving CRM insights from connected vehicle data.

IMS IoT Marketplace: The IoT Marketplace provides a broader set of consent-based sharing and data licensing opportunities across multiple telematics verticals and programs. This can help share program costs by allowing insurers to benefit from revenue sharing opportunities and offer a broader set of beneficial services to the policyholder.


Young Drivers Intelligence (YDI): The Young Drivers Intelligence (YDI) service is tailored specifically for the new driver market, encouraging on-going dialogue between parents or supervisors and recently-qualified drivers, thereby helping improve driving behaviour and reinforce safe driving habits. Through this service, parents and supervisors get objective feedback and insight into the recently-qualified driver’s behaviour, including performance measures based on rapid acceleration, speeding, harsh braking, sharp turns, excessive idling, driving during specific times of day, specific geographic regions, and anomalies in distance travelled.



What is driving the connected car industry? What are the challenges?


The term ‘connected car’ refers to its ability to connect with the outside world. The connected lifestyle we are living, accompanied by fast technological change, is pushing forward the need for connectivity in all aspects of our lives. Here at IMS, we view the term ‘connected car’ a little differently, considering it to mean being connected to the driver, understanding what the driver needs and providing him with actionable information about those needs at the time.


With vehicles now coming equipped with the equivalent of 20 personal computers and processing about 25 GB per hour, one of the key challenges is managing the humongous volumes of data that are being generated by all these vehicles and analyzing that data to extract useful insights. The data is definitely characterized by its huge volume, variety, veracity and velocity, with large numbers of data points from different sensors and mobile devices offering varying degrees of accuracy being sent with high rates. As a general rule, vehicle data is characterized by its varying precision, accuracy and data reliability. Another key challenge is mining insights from all this data, from understanding the vehicle dynamics to understanding the driver’s intent and state of mind. IMS’s extensive experience analysing driving and driver data provides significant value to the driver, parent, fleet manager, government, insurance carrier, and all partners across the transportation ecosystem. IMS’s pattern analysis expertise also allows for a range of additional analytics solutions, from identifying driving events of interest, aggressive driving behaviour and even passive driver identification.



This is driven still further by the needs of Gen Z, who are more globalized and convenience-conscious than other generations. Gen Z do not only use one mode of transportation, they use bikes, shared cars, trains, the underground etc. As a result, the concept of mobility as a service has increased in importance. By viewing Mobility as a Service, it is important to be mindful of the shift from vehicle ownership to vehicle usership. We have been working to include this in our platform in an effort to provide an immersive experience regardless of what type of transport you are using, making the switch from the connected car concept to that of the connected driver, the connected lifestyle.



At IMS, you are doing pioneering work in the Connected Car Systems field. Can you tell us more about your technological advantages?

Our biggest advantage is that we have a full logistic solution that ingests data from different sources, cleans it and applies data mining and intelligence algorithms to pull out all the useful insights that enable different verticals. This allows DriveSync to collect data from OBD II devices, or directly from vehicles which have connectivity, or even from smartphones and wearables. The OBD II dongle is a device that can be easily plugged into your car, as it simply slips into the diagnostic port, which is available in all cars. The OBD-II specification has been compulsory for all cars since the mid ‘90s. Another key advantage for our platform is the wide range of comprehensive verticals and value-added services that enhance the customer’s safety and offer a more convenient driving experience.



How do you connect all that data to businesses?


The DriveSync platform has an extensive set of well-defined business-to-business interfaces to support the data and integration needs of both existing and future third party partnerships. The DriveSync platform includes interfaces based on open standards to simplify the integration of data from both third-party aftermarket and automotive OEM embedded telematics modules. We are definitely an integration friendly company. We also publish and deliver aggregate data insights to our partners, customers and potential customers through specialized reports, white papers and academic publications.



Industry 4.0 and predictive maintenance is a hot topic in Europe. Where do you stand in this field?


Industry 4.0 is actually what drives the IoT forward. People think connected cars are cars connected to the cloud. A car with WiFi would be a connected car, but we see connected cars as being cars that are connected to the driver, that understand what the driver needs and provide him with actionable information about those needs at the time.


For instance, if a car is low on petrol, we will provide details of the nearest petrol station and relevant insights like the current price of petrol and the time to destination.

Also, predictive maintenance is one of the value-added services we provide. By taking into consideration the vehicle’s health, part wear and tear, driver behaviour, vehicle use and environmental conditions, we are able to predict the need for vehicle maintenance, the impact of such maintenance on the vehicle, and its estimated cost.



Your car technologies and services combine telematics, infotainment and data intelligence, but can we already speak about Artificial Intelligence?


IMS uses pattern analysis and machine learning to provide a range of analytic solutions from identifying driving events of interest, aggressive driving behaviour and passive driver identification. The DriveSync platform builds on years of innovation and advancements made possible thanks to IMS’s collaborative research and development activities and established partnerships. We are a Big Data company with terabytes of data points flowing every day, and we are working towards providing an even more comprehensive understanding of drivers and driving behaviour. Our understanding of how people use their cars and how we can give them non-invasive feedback to make their drives safer, smarter and greener is definitely based on artificial intelligence and machine learning.



What’s next on IMS’s roadmap? What issues will affect connected cars in the future?


IMS is highly committed to continuous innovation. Our roadmap consequently has a large number

of new features that are being released on a quarterly basis. Some of the key projects that are being released in the near future include:


First Notice Of Loss technologies: Crash or incident detection and first-notice-of-loss (FNOL) applications for IMS solutions can rapidly provide customers with details of emergency contacts, towing services and other roadside assistance services following an incident, and can even report the incident to the authorities and insurers, if the driver so chooses, triggering immediate assistance. This technology leverages available device sensors (e.g. accelerometer, gyroscope), collected driving data (e.g. speed), and contextual data sources (e.g. road segment data) to detect crashes with high confidence.


Distracted Driving Intelligence Module: IMS is taking an innovative approach to reducing distracted driving by providing a solution that seeks to understand how using a phone whilst driving actually impacts a driver’s performance, and then shares this information with the driver via a personalized, fact-based appeal to which he can relate. IMS’s Distracted Driving Intelligence quantifies the impact the user’s distracted driving activity has on his driving performance and safety.



Why is responsible innovation such an important part of your company mindset?


Responsible Innovation was first introduced during the Dutch Research Consul in 2006, and has been governed by an official EU framework since the EU’s Italian Presidency in 2014. Humans are driven by ethics and morals, and the challenge is to embed both into the technologies we are building, especially when talking about autonomous cars. I believe that IoT companies should be conscious of the need to embed ethics, security, privacy, environmental-friendliness and democracy (access to technology with no discrimination) in their systems. Future generations will inherit the burden of whatever we build today. The technology we are designing today will have an impact on their world tomorrow. The key approach when it comes to responsible innovation is that of many hands, ensuring lots of different people work on each technology, with each one responsible for one specific part. But that creates an ownership challenge.


As a connected car technology company, IMS is aware of how important responsible innovation is, and it is something we have been working towards. IMS is ISO 9001 and 14000 registered, and ISO 27000 and ITIL compliant. Our data is all secured and private, we are trusted by governments and large insurance companies for our secure data hosting and security.

IMS’s VP of Quality oversees the quality of operations in terms of the technology developed as well as the processes used. Our leadership team engages the IMS team to enhance the sense of product ownership. Our Legal team also has very strict regulations in terms of data persistence and who owns the data. The DriveSync platform builds on years of innovation and advancements made possible thanks to IMS’s collaborative research and development activities and established partnerships.



You are involved with Women in Tech… How important is it to get young women involved in these programs?


I believe that there is a global need for more women in technology and in general more diversity in the technology sectors. Having such diversity helps foster holistic product design. One good example is when vehicle manufacturers started developing the first airbag systems. These manufacturers had their team of engineers design the airbag system to provide additional safety features. However, when these airbag systems were deployed in the event of an accident, people with smaller body sizes, like women and children, got injured. They found that the design of the airbag system was based on the average size and weight of men, and they had forgotten to cater for the largest portion of vehicle users - women and children. Women may think, act, or approach problems differently. They tend to think not only of women, but of men, children and the elderly. Different perspectives can help build holistic solutions to the problems engineers are solving.


It is definitely important to build teams that are highly diverse. We need to design for a community, not for a single range of people, and encouraging diversity most definitely helps with that.


Allaa R. Hilal has over 10 years’ experience in Data Intelligence, IoT, and Intelligent Systems design. She holds a Doctorate degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Waterloo and specializes in Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence. Dr. Hilal has been granted numerous prestigious awards and has also been recognized as one of the most influential women in the M2M and IoT field by Connected World Magazine.


She has always been an ardent supporter of women in science technology and engineering, and for the past 9 years has been an active member of the Women in Engineering group at the University of Waterloo. She champions the Women in Technology peer-to-peer group at Waterloo, and has been mentoring young girls and women of all ages for the past 3 years. She is also Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Pattern Analysis and Data Intelligence lab at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Hilal currently holds the position of Innovation Lead at Intelligent Mechatronic Systems.