Going ‘glocal’: Global telematics for local markets

Going ‘glocal’: Global telematics for local markets


Global production of communication modules is coming closer to reality thanks to the standardization of SIM cards, which can now be embedded during production. Communications standards are key, but so are simple things like making all SIM cards the same size. Embedded SIMs are still more expensive, and the majority of those used in cell phones are still popped in. But as the phone market moves toward embedded SIMs, costs will begin to come down for telematics solutions, too. "It's much easier now than it was a number of years ago, when everything was aftermarket and needed to be installed with the SIM card locally," says Gilli Coston, head of M2M at Telefónica UK. "It took a number of years to get the standards straight."

Countering the trend of supplier consolidation, Continental is making fewer components and buying more—from regional suppliers. "In the early days of telematics, it was quite easy to put together a CDMA 1x modem and you were good," says Brian Droessler, vice president of strategy and portfolio, infotainment and connectivity at Continental. "Now, we are doing a combination of make and buy for our cellular modem products."

The new strategy lets Continental's internal experts and mobile technology providers keep current on emerging cellular standards like LTE, while serving markets with different standards. Droessler sees promise in modules and chipsets that can be configured for 2G, 3G or 4G. "That's important to developing a world solution," he says. In the meantime, Continental is developing multiple solutions, sometimes within a region, because of differences in connectivity.

Global telematics platforms need to be adapted to the nuances of local markets, even beyond the issues of languages and maps, which can be problematic enough. The automotive telematics industry is going through the same realization that the IT and telecom industries have before them, according to Leo McCloskey, vice president of marketing for Airbiquity: "They all strive for global production, so their cost-per-sale is lower. [But] they found out that you can't create an end-to-end product and roll it out to lots of people."

Airbiquity hopes to let OEMs and tier 1s go beyond localization to personalization, so that individual drivers can select the services they like and even customize the interface.

Platform advantage

Coston says having a global service delivery platform is essential. Telefónica and Jasper Wireless entered into a strategic partnership to provide machine-to-machine (M2M) services in 2010. "Having multiple relationships in different countries isn't that viable," Coston says. "We need to be able to have one platform that's fairly self-service and enables you to have visibility into and control of SIM cards." While providing a common set of services is always the aspiration, the platform should include the ability to offer some specific services for different regions or countries. (For more on M2M, Telematics and M2M communications: Creating the Internet of thingsTelematics and M2M: New business models and M2M telematics: The need for flexible pricing models.)

Some hardware and software products lend themselves to the kind of customization needed to suit local markets. QNX is touting its software-based Adaptive Partitioning as a solution that makes it easier for OEMs to work with multiple tier 1s in different countries or regions. The technology can dynamically re-allocate unused CPU cycles to other partitions; it can also create a firewall between different applications. "Adaptive Partitioning will allow automakers to customize services for different markets without changing the system shipped by the tier 1," says Andrew Poliak, director of business development for QNX.

For example, when one of QNX’s OEM customers expanded to Asia, it wanted to hand off its original tier 1's software to be localized by a second. The second tier 1 had trouble getting its software to run well because the first was using so much processing power. So, the second used Adaptive Partitioning to constrain the processing demands of software components that weren't useful for the Asian market. This freed up CPU cycles for the second tier 1’s software.

These companies definitely are positioning their offerings as global solutions that can respond to the demands of local markets. In January, Airbiquity and Hitachi Automotive Systems announced that they would power the Nissan Leaf's Global Telematics Platform. The jointly developed solution provides the technology infrastructure for the Leaf's ICT. "If we put an American program out in Europe, it won't be successful,” McCloskey says. “Part of our pitch to the OEM is that by standardizing on Choreo, our service delivery platform, we can enable them to customize by region, model, year or a combination of the three.”

Working with competitors

Working across national borders, some companies will need to forge bonds with former competitors. For example, Telefónica has begun to partner with other local or regional wireless carriers in order to adapt to the spectrum and handset requirements of each territory. "Roaming agreements and the way we work in a roaming capacity are really important in M2M," Coston says. "We're developing new kinds of relationships and ways of working, because a lot of it doesn't exist today. So we continue to develop those relationships with entities that might have been competition in the past."

Finally, providing structure to support telematics customers becomes a greater challenge as providers move into new markets. On a technical level, OnStar's launch into China was fairly easy, according to Poliak. "The big challenge is the backend infrastructure and call centers for native languages," he says.

In September, 2011, Shanghai OnStar Telematics opened its second call center in the city of Xiamen, with seats for 1,000 advisors speaking a variety of Chinese dialects, allowing them to cater to distinct regions. Tier 1s are also looking to move into the global arena. As they expand, Poliak sees them struggling to build local teams that can adapt the hardware for local markets. Whether it's forging new business relationships or appealing to individual consumers, going glocal will always be a people-led proposition.

Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU.

For more all the latest telematics trends, visit Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2012 on March 26-27 in Amsterdam, Content & Apps for Automotive 2012 on April 18-19 in Germany, Insurance Telematics Europe 2012 on May 9-10 in London, Telematics Detroit 2012 on June 6-7, and Insurance Telematics USA 2012 in September in Chicago.


For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports on In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration ReportHuman Machine Interface Technologies and Smart Vehicle Technology: The Future of Insurance Telematics.

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