The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by factors such as passenger safety and enhanced in-car experiences, and growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, sensors, and machine learning. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.2 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Artificial intelligence in Automotive: Smart factory systems. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

290+ innovations will shape the automotive industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the automotive industry using innovation intensity models built on over 619,000 patents, there are 290+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, manufacturability analysis, autonomous parking, and lidar for vehicle anti-collision are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Speed profile estimation, smart light dimmers, and driver drowsiness detection are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are road slope estimation and adaptive cruise control, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for artificial intelligence in the automotive industry

Smart factory systems is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence

The smart factory is an interconnected network of machines, communication mechanisms, and computing power that uses cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to analyse data, power automated processes, and learn as it goes.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 60+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of smart factory systems.

Key players in smart factory systems – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to smart factory systems

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Strong Force Iot Portfolio 2016 333 Unlock Company Profile
Ocado Group 62 Unlock Company Profile
GreyOrange 56 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 49 Unlock Company Profile
Murata Machinery 45 Unlock Company Profile 44 Unlock Company Profile
Toyota Motor 39 Unlock Company Profile
SEW-EURODRIVE 38 Unlock Company Profile
Fanuc 38 Unlock Company Profile
Rockwell Automation 31 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor Group 26 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 23 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing Geekplus Technology 22 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 22 Unlock Company Profile
Daifuku 22 Unlock Company Profile
Temasek Holdings 22 Unlock Company Profile
X Development 20 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil Holding 19 Unlock Company Profile
Sabre 19 Unlock Company Profile
Drishti Technologies 18 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba Mitsubishi-Electric Industrial Systems 18 Unlock Company Profile
Clearpath Robotics 17 Unlock Company Profile
Beckhoff Automation 17 Unlock Company Profile
JTEKT 17 Unlock Company Profile
Giant Eagle 17 Unlock Company Profile
Teradyne 14 Unlock Company Profile
China Electronics Technology Group 14 Unlock Company Profile
Stellantis 13 Unlock Company Profile
Starship Technologies 12 Unlock Company Profile 12 Unlock Company Profile
Fujifilm Holdings 11 Unlock Company Profile
Shopify 11 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 10 Unlock Company Profile
Honda Motor 10 Unlock Company Profile
Walmart 10 Unlock Company Profile
Omron 9 Unlock Company Profile
SICPA Holding 9 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 8 Unlock Company Profile
Ubisense Group 8 Unlock Company Profile
Mujin 8 Unlock Company Profile
Syrius Robotics 8 Unlock Company Profile
Pilz 8 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing Electronics Holding 8 Unlock Company Profile
Midea Holding 8 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 8 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 8 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 8 Unlock Company Profile
Krones 8 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 7 Unlock Company Profile
Bozhon Precision Work Technology 7 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Strong Force Iot Portfolio 2016, with 333 patents, is one of the top companies to file for smart factory systems patents. The company's primary focus is to employ a technology-driven strategy to monitor production and to optimise the manufacturing process. Toyota, Fanuc, and Toshiba are a few other notable patent filers in the same industry.

To further understand how artificial intelligence is disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Automotive.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.