Highlights from Telematics Detroit

Highlights from Telematics Detroit

Representatives from more than a thousand OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, and vendors across the telematics value chain arrived in Novi, Michigan, for the 11th annual Telematics Detroit conference. During two days of talks and panels, industry thought leaders probed the most pressing issues in telematics today, including smartphones versus embedded solutions, the viability of insurance telematics, and juggling glossy infotainment solutions versus scrupulous driver safety. Everyone from QNX to WirelessCar to Cybercom and Ericsson demoed solutions on the exhibition floor. In the opening keynote address, Thilo Koslowski of Gartner said, “The connected vehicle is here. This is a reality. It’s not just theory anymore.” By 2016, he contends, consumers will choose a car based on its connected services, HMI, and ADAS features as much as by its color, model, and horsepower.

The conference featured numerous announcements and product debuts. Mercedes-Benz hosted the world premier of its new AMG Performance Media system. The system will be integrated into the dashboard of future AMG cars and combines numerous telemetric displays like engine data, lateral and linear acceleration, and high-speed mobile Internet access. AMG Performance Media runs off an Android operating system and is open to third-party developers. The system will debut on the SLS AMG Roadster in the fall of 2011.

AT&T and Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America announced a working agreement to explore and test connectivity solutions for consumers and commuters. The new project provides a framework for the two companies to create customized products for global automotive manufacturers in North America. Initial concept testing for interfaces between in-car infotainment systems and emerging mobile devices will begin in late 2011, in the Peachtree City testing community. AT&T will provide network services and Panasonic Automotive Systems Company will supply the hardware and integration services. "As today's drivers spend increasing amounts of time on the road, they continue to seek vehicles that complement their 'always-on', hyper-mobile lifestyles," said Steve Deguchi, president of Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America. "Automakers that successfully make vehicles that deliver smart, personalized services to drivers on demand have a tremendous opportunity to stand out from the competition. The most appealing vehicles will be those that serve as yet another node in a driver's existing network of devices."

Hyundai announced annual subscription pricing for Blue Link, its new telematics platform. Blue Link will be available in three inclusive packages: Assurance (which offers driver safety features like automatic collision notification and SOS emergency assistance), Essentials (which adds mobile apps, voice text messaging, and remote control), and Guidance (which adds turn-by-turn navigation and POI features). Drivers will receive complimentary service periods of six or three months depending on the plan. Once the trial periods expire, the Assurance package will go for $79 a year, Essentials for $179, and Guidance for $279.

Pioneer announced that INRIX will provide real-time and predictive traffic data solutions for Pioneer’s new voice-controlled, integrated Web services platform, Zypr. Accessible in the car and on mobile platforms including Apple iOS and Google Android, Zypr enables software to integrate location-based services and data across smartphones, tablets, consumer electronics devices, and automotive telematics—all via voice control and with a single login across devices.

B&C Electronic Engineering unveiled 911 Emergency & Traffic Alerts (911ETA), a patent-pending technology that alerts the motoring public, including the deaf and people with hearing loss, of responding emergency vehicles in their area, via smartphones, PNDs and GPS. The app aims to reduce response times and the number of auto accidents involving first responders and the motoring public. According to NHTSA, approximately 200 people are killed and thousands injured every year in auto accidents involving responding emergency vehicles.

RealVNC featured the latest version of its VNC Mobile Solution for Automotive, which delivers remote access and control of mobile devices and desktop computers directly from in-vehicle telematics or infotainment systems. RealVNC also featured support for Apple’s iPod Out functionality, which allows an Apple device to output and display the iPod video interface on the screen of an in-vehicle head unit and to accept remote control commands from vehicle input devices. Last month RealVNC announced a new partnership with Jaguar.

JLT Mobile Computers launched Flexible Fixed, a new concept for vehicle-mounted computers that users can easily detach from the vehicle to execute mobile computing tasks outside the car. The product specifically targets the transportation, warehousing, logistics, construction and public safety industries, where such flexibility is in high demand. The first Flexible Fixed computer, the jFlex, will be available in the third quarter of 2011.

MindTree unveiled a portfolio of its EtherMind Bluetooth 4.0 dual-mode solutions, which expand the features of infotainment into the realm of personal health. The portfolio allows drivers to monitor personal health by using the car headset unit to wirelessly connect to a wide range of consumer medical devices that use Bluetooth technology. These include heart rate monitors, thermometers, glucose meters and pulse oximeters. Bluetooth 4.0 dual-mode smartphones are expected to hit the market in the second half of 2011.

TuneIn made its global Internet radio service, which includes more than 50,000 stations, available to all automakers. The TuneIn service includes simplified user-interface navigation, intelligent browsing, and flexible presets to make station exploration easy while addressing driver distraction concerns. Earlier this year, the company debuted as the provider of the integrated Web radio service available in all 2011 BMW and MINI models. The TuneIn Radio app is one of the top free music downloads in 45 countries.

At the Global Telematics Awards dinner, hosted by Ryan Seacrest the night before the conference started, a number of companies were awarded for outstanding solution and leadership in the telematics field. WirelessCar won best telematics service provider. Hughes Telematics won for best aftermarket device or solution. Audi Connect and BMW Connected Drive shared top honors for global OEM infotainment solution. Hyundai Blue Link and Toyota Entune shared awards for best cloud based in-car app.  And Blue Link won again for the 2010/11 Industry newcomer award. For the full list of winners click here.

Outside the conference, Hertz introduced the NeverLost Gen5 navigation system. Developed by Navigation Solutions, the system offers customized travel solutions for the unique needs of car rental customers. Features include real-time, two-way connectivity to view local weather, flight information, or download a trip; a personal download code to wirelessly retrieve trips saved and stored in real time when travelers register and log in; and concierge assisted routing services staffed by US-based travel experts. The devices rent for $12.99 per day.

Octo Telematics selected Telenor Connexion to provide embedded connectivity for insurance solutions throughout the United States and Europe. Through the new agreement, Telenor Connexion provides Octo Telematics with reliable and future-proof M2M solutions for services such as usage-based insurance, crash management, and road assistance. These solutions allow Octo Telematics to use one standardized connectivity solution for multiple markets including an online service portal and APN/VPN.

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

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