Connectivity Enables a New Paradigm for Auto Mobility

As connectivity enables a new paradigm for auto mobility Telematics Update’s Susan Kuchinskas takes a look at the car and the Internet of Things, contextualised driving and HMI, disruptive innovations in the connected car space and much more.

Autos converge with digital lifestyle

Connecting with the broader mobile ecosystem will be the key for cars to converge with digital lifestyle, Koslowski said, describing a time, when consumers will finally be able to enjoy their favorite content and services without interruption, no matter what device they use.

Already, the sector sees the emergence of broader, non-automotive-specific business models, according to Koslowski. And some of the consumer electronics (CE) and Internet companies may, in fact, end up dominating some of these.

Noting Apple’s recent introduction of Home Kit for the connected home and Health Kit, a new framework for managing a user’s health-related information, Kevin Link, SVP & GM China, Verizon Telematics, went as far as to ask: “How long do you think it will be before we see the Car Kit?”

But there is a conundrum, said Tom Gebhardt, president of Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America: What is the best way to weave the car into the consumer’s existing and preferred personal digital lifestyle without asking him to change apps or services when he gets into the car?

If you’re interested to hear what consumers wants from telematics then read Consumer Panel from Detroit: Opinionated baby-boomers rule the automotive marketplace.

Hub or spoke?

At last year’s conference, several vendors introduced the hub concept: Cloud-based technology that can orchestrate a variety of applications and web services while providing security and authentication.

Automakers, not surprisingly, tend to see their cars as the hub – the center of everything, said David Miller, chief security officer at Covisint. “But what we have now, with the Internet of Things or the world of everything, the car will become just another thing that has to deal with the universe of all of my connected life.”

There are several other contenders for the role of hub. Vendors like Covisint and SiriusXM have developed products that promise to easily add, integrate and manage connected devices, including cars.

The mobile phone as the hub

But then again, the mobile phone might be the hub. According to Chris Ruff, president and CEO of UIEvolution, the phone will continue to play a crucial role for a variety of reasons, including it’s the fastest and easiest way for consumers to add services, content and apps.

“The smartphone will have to be relevant because we don’t know what apps will be hot, and we can’t plan what we’ll embed versus build,” he said.

Dominikus Hierl, CEO of Telit Automotive Solutions, said there are plenty of other clear benefits in using the phone as the hub instead of the car.

First, there are lower up-front costs for automotive OEMs because they can leverage the substantial R&D investments and huge developer ecosystems of the mobile phone industry. There’s also reduced risk, because – at least with any luck – app problems will be attributed to the device maker, not the auto manufacturer. This solution is highly scalable, as well.

The hybrid approach to connectivity

Should the smartphone indeed become the hub, it would go a long way toward settling the long-running debate on embedded versus brought-in approach to connectivity.

The majority of OEMs has now put a stake in the sand on one side of the debate or the other. But that doesn’t mean those stakes won’t move toward the center. In fact, the consensus among experts and industry leaders at Telematics Detroit 2014 was that the hybrid approach will dominate for some time to come.

Philip M. Abram, chief infotainment officer for General Motors, acknowledged as much when he said: “You can’t defend a position that’s indefensible. It’s inevitable, I believe, that people will want their digital lives brought into the car. Right now, that’s being defined by smartphones. As automakers, we have to accommodate that.”

The car as part of the Internet of Things

Hub or not, the connected car will be a key component of the Internet of Things, with a range of functions and services to rival any other mobile device, including the smartphone.

How about a car that monitors your heart rate and blood glucose levels? Or a car that checks your blood pressure, and if it finds it elevated, plays soothing music as it drops you off at work and then goes to park itself? Or a car that makes restaurant suggestions based on what food you and your friends like and then proceeds to make a reservation for a time of arrival that takes account of the restaurant’s location, local traffic conditions and your typical driving style?

Less is more in user experience

It’s been said for quite a while that the car is the most expensive mobile device a consumer owns. But when it comes to infotainment, it merely replicates a few of the functions of a smartphone – phone calls, navigation, streaming music, mapping – and often doesn’t do them as well.

That’s not a big deal for consumers; according to a Q1 2014 survey by Gartner, the services they are most interested in are fairly basic:

•Traffic information

•Map updates

•Weather and news updates

•Parking information

•Internet radio

But they need to be executed well. The first-ever panel of consumers to appear at a Telematics Update conference reaffirmed this.

Ranging in age from 26 to 65, each of the panelists spent approximately an hour in four different car models, attempting to do several tasks while driving. The tasks included calling a friend, finding a restaurant, setting two different destinations in the navigation and finding two different radio stations.

During the testing, three main problems emerged. It took multiple steps to achieve a task. Displays were mounted in places that took the eyes off the road for too long. And menus were too complex.

All three panelists saw greater benefits in smartphone integration. They singled out personalization, better functionality and the ability to keep the system up to date.

The generation app gap

Safety aside, it turns out there is also a bit of a generation gap when it comes to the desire for apps in the car – although not as big a one as it’s often made to seem.

The Bloomberg survey showed that 44% of all respondents agreed with the following statement: “I wish I could easily and safely access every app I want to use on my smartphone while driving.” But the percentage went up to 58% for 35- to 44-year-olds and 64% for 18- to 24-year-olds.

Bloomberg also found that the majority of consumers of all ages thought that mobile technology was more advanced than connected car tech, a conclusion that Bob Kennedy, vice president at LochBridge, disputed. “Mobile technology is really visible,” he said. “There is a lot of technology in the car that can be harnessed, but consumers take it for granted.”

Contextual awareness for the connected car

When it comes to contextual awareness, another prominent theme at Telematics Detroit 2014, and building services around it, automakers have an advantage over CE companies, according to Verizon Telematics’ Link.

Automotive systems know where the car is and where it’s going, and they can make educated guesses about the intent, for example, if someone leaves home at 8 a.m. on a weekday, it’s likely he is going to work.

Part of the promise of using context to shape services is that it can help eliminate driver distraction by reducing the need for drivers to interact with the system.

Contextualization can also reduce hassle, for example, by identifying heavy traffic on a standard route and suggesting an alternative. And it can improve comfort by, for example, automatically heating the car.

Mercedes-Benz is keen on the “predictive user-experience concept,” said Johann Jungwirth, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America.

The goal, according to Jungwirth, is to “create a passionate relationship between customer and car, and immerse the customer in a personalized Mercedes-Benz experience that follows him from one car to another.”

Panasonic’s Gebhardt added that letting consumers personalize what’s delivered in the car reduces the OEM’s risk of delivering the wrong thing. “If you let that individual decide, he’s 100% satisfied,” he said.

Future-proofing

A big issue the connected-car sector has struggled with for several years now is how to keep up with – or at least get a little closer to – the speedy product cycles and continuing innovation of the consumer electronics space in general and mobile phones in particular.

What was new on the subject this year was the buzzword of future-proofing. OEMs don’t know what consumers will want five years from now, so how do they design their systems in such a way that they might be able to deliver it?

Focus groups won’t work. Dan Teeter, director of vehicle connected services at Nissan North America, pointed out that consumers don’t even share the same definition of connected cars that the industry does, so they’re really not equipped to answer questions about future services.

Does the car have a jack to plug in an iPod? Does it have Bluetooth, Sirius XM or HD radio? Does it plug into an electrical socket for charging? “That’s ‘connected’ to our customers,” he said.

But what might work is one or several of the following strategies:

•Over-the-air updates of software and content

•Some way to adapt embedded modems to let them take advantage of the improved speed and capabilities of wireless networks

•Changes in design and production methods so that carmakers can be more flexible as a new car model moves toward release

At Telematics Detroit 2014, Abalta Technologies announced that it was working with Delphi Automotive on WEBLINK, a global solution that pushes Internet services from the smartphone’s browser to the in-vehicle infotainment unit. When the driver upgrades his phone, WEBLINK will be able to tap into the new phone’s more advanced power and capabilities, so that in-car services can keep pace with mobile phone innovation.

Threat from tech giants

Although many automakers are collaborating successfully with Apple and Google, the release of Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s announcement that it will produce its own autonomous car are worrisome to some.

Automakers believe that their human-machine interfaces (HMIs) are a competitive advantage – if they’re good – and also an opportunity to reinforce their brands. But with CarPlay, suddenly it’s the Apple interface showing up on the in-vehicle infotainment screen.

Still, not every automaker feels threatened. Already, some automakers have embraced the tech giants.

Edward Rhodes, senior group manager, Hyundai Motor America, said that Hyundai is continuing to leverage its relationship with Google and that its point-of-interest search is now powered by Google Voice because, he said, “It’s faster and more reliable.”

There is, however, the danger of letting the likes of Apple and Google advance too far, UIEvolution’s Ruff said. According to him, Internet and CE companies are motivated to enter the automotive space to sell more smartphones or increase usage of their apps.

“They’re not trying to make a better car,” he said. “OEMs should be careful – but it may be too late.”

After-purchase CRM

Selling cars could be just one part of the ROI equation for automakers, but they need to figure out a way to maintain the customer relationship once the car drives off the lot.

A good place to start is to make that connection to the car free of charge, said Strategy Analytics’ Lanctot, noting that OnStar is offering five years of basic service free and BMW a full 10 years.

“At least that modem will be turned on, so you can make offers to the customer,” Lanctot said. “That’s what needs to happen. Modem needs to be activated for a base level of service and then you can strategize selling more.”

He added that it’s possible that only 1% of all connected-car customers may ever make a purchase, but that 1% could pay for all the rest.

Big Data

This was the Telematics Detroit conference where Big Data became big news, according to Lanctot.

It’s clear that there is business value to be had from it, and yet most OEMs are only just beginning to contemplate extracting it. More connected cars equal a lot more data, however.

According to Airbiquity’s Frank, the Ford Fusion Energi plug-in generates 25 gigabytes of data per hour while Google’s autonomous vehicle is predicted to generate 3,600 gigabytes per hour. With all this data flooding in, Frank said, “We need to get smarter about what is the relevant Big Data set.”

One of the first steps, Frank said, is to invest in Big Data storage that can handle unstructured data. “It’s better to normalize data in a single data repository that multiple use cases can access,” he said. “Don’t control Big Data. … You can’t learn from something you never got, and we don’t know exactly what we can learn from what we have.”

Another step is moving from diagnostics to prognostics when it comes to exploiting the value of Big Data, said Mark Searle, vice president of development at Symphony Teleca. This could provide significant reductions in warranty claims and improvements in product development, for example.

The ultimate goal, he said, is “using data to drive services, rather than other way around.” “We’re just starting to understand how to use this data,” he said.

Disruptive innovator pitches

In what was a first for Telematics Detroit, automotive technology consultancy SBD brought together six connected-car start-ups to pitch their ideas to the audience, which picked the winner.

Eyeris

Eyeris CEO Modar Alaoui demonstrated a driver attention and emotion-monitoring system that, he claimed, would reduce collisions due to inattention and rage by 80%. The system uses an infrared sensor mounted on the dashboard to track facial micro-expressions and artificial intelligence to assign them positive, negative or indifferent values. According to Alaoui, the system can detect everything from joy to disgust to fear and intervene as necessary by triggering safety support systems or switching to autonomous driving.

CamFind

CamFind is a phone app that uses a camera with object recognition to perform searches without typing. In one demoed scenario, a child in a car used a phone to take a photo of animals grazing at the side of the road. The app identified the animals as cows and offered the information as a possible input for other in-vehicle systems.

Augary

Augary uses in-car cameras to collect information on temporary road conditions, gas prices and parking rules. Once processed in the Cloud, the information gets passed back down to connected cars as safety alerts, lane departure warnings and pedestrian detection. “We’re crowd-sourcing the acquisition of mapping data,” Augary CEO Dima Kislovskiy told the audience.

Roadtrippers

Roadtrippers is a platform-agnostic road trip planner for the Unite States. Available on desktops, laptops and also as a mobile app, Roadtrippers includes travel guides, points of interest grouped by theme, and the ability to book restaurants, hotels and Airbnb stays. Users can search along a route, plan the route with stops and stays, and then sync it with a portable device for turn-by-turn navigation.

Vicinity Systems

This Irish navigation start-up provides what it calls a “content-rich navigation,” which might include information on the risk of an accident or crime on the road ahead, as well as venues recommended by friends via social media.

Smartcar (declared winner of Disruptive innovator pitches by the audience)

Designed to work with Tesla’s Model S, this smartphone app learns your regular routine to then automatically calculate how much charging your car needs to get to typical destinations and to manage the charging based on when electrical rates are at their lowest. It’s also smart enough to pre-condition your car just in time for you to take off. While Tesla has its own apps to do this, charging or pre-conditioning must be manually started using a smartphone app.

For more on disruptive innovations in the auto industry take a look at Disruptive Innovations(link to this article)

Conclusions

The more we progress, the more we can feel that we’re falling behind. The telematics industry has taken steps to change its mindset, design and production processes in order to get closer to the rapid pace of innovation in the mobile industry.

But there’s still a disconnect between consumer expectations and the reality of automotive telematics. While consumer awareness of telematics is still relatively low, those drivers who are aware of it expect higher reliability from automakers than they do from phone makers while expecting connected-car services to be as fully featured as their phones are.

When the auto industry gets this right, the car will take its place as part of the consumer’s digital lifestyle and the connected society. Cars will be less prone to failures; issues will be addressed more quickly; and major recalls will be reduced or even avoided. At the same time, cars will work harder for their drivers. They’ll not only get them where they’re going while avoiding bad traffic conditions, but they’ll also help them keep in touch with family, friends and co-workers; offer them just-in-time information; and enable them to take care of little chores while driving.

The biggest enablers of this happy day will be Big Data from multiple sources and robust APIs that enable ecosystems of partners to provide and manage services. If technology is the driver of automotive success, the ecosystem is the fuel.

By Susan Kuchinskas.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics Brazil & LATAM 2014 on September 24-25, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Telematics West Coast 2014 on October 30-31 in San Diego, USA, Telematics Munich 2014 on November 10-11 in Munich, Germany, Connected Fleets USA on November 20-21 in Atlanta, USA and Consumer Telematics Show 2015, January 5 in Las Vegas.


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