How to customize telematics to meet consumer preferences

How to customize telematics to meet consumer preferences

Last year, the connected car was a lot like the World Wide Web in 1995—it had only a smattering of content and services, and not many people realized its full potential.

But as the car is re-imagined as another mobile device—albeit the largest one—consumers will expect not only the same breadth of content and services as on today's Web, but also the same degree of personalization.

"We've come into a period where the alternatives are so vast that people don't fit into buckets anymore," says Leo A. McCloskey, vice president of marketing and product management for Airbiquity, a provider of vehicle telematics and solutions for connected services.

“Therefore, it's nearly impossible for any entity to organize a set of content that will be sufficient for a large body of people.”

The only way to keep consumers happy, McCloskey thinks, is to let individuals create their own micro-niches.

Instead of in-car services, we need in-car service environments: technologies that make the car a platform through which to deliver selected services and allow consumers to integrate their phone- or Internet-based services.

For example, using Airbiquity's infrastructure, carmakers could send targeted messages to individuals while they are in the car.

This ability could be used for enhancing brand loyalty and even marketing messages from partners.

An automaker could segment its customers based on which model they owned as well as, eventually, other habits, such as whether they frequent metropolitan areas or suburban malls.

Location, location, location

While we may think of personalization in terms of content, services that pinpoint location are among the most useful and critical in the car.

Trials of NAVTEQ's LocationPoint advertising platform show how important location is.

In a test in Finland, 7 percent of drivers clicked on location-based McDonalds ads and 39 percent of those went on to "click to map" locations for nearby McDonalds restaurants offering burger deals.

The next step in personalization, according to Chris Rothey, vice president of NAVTEQ Media Solutions, is allowing merchants to recruit consumers for ongoing CRM activity, such as subscribing to newsletters or opting in for additional offers or marketing messages.

While hyper-localization is a big buzzword for small businesses, they typically have an individual idea of how big their local area is.

For example, a ubiquitous chain like McDonalds would want to contact drivers who were within a few blocks or less of a store, while a specialty merchant with little competition might want to advertise in a 20-mile radius or even wider.

Says Rothey, "As we add more navigation devices, mobile handsets, and automobiles, as the installed base becomes significant, it will be more interesting to these small merchants."

Customizing the interface

High-end cars may eventually let their owners personalize not only content but also the look of the user interface.

For example, QNX Software Systems' auto interface for ng Connect, a reference implementation, would allow automakers to easily re-skin the HMI.

Drivers might be able to select from a menu of skins or even choose the predominant color or graphical look, according to Andrew Poliak, director of automotive business development at QNX.

Poliak suggests that personalization could even extend to the configuration of the car itself.

Wouldn't it be nice if, when you walked up to the family car, it not only unlocked the door but also adjusted the seat and the mirrors just the way you like them?

This could be accomplished with a smart key or by automatically pairing the car with your phone as you approach.

Blackberry, which acquired QNX, recently applied for a Canadian trademark on the name "Blackberry Drive," covering the use of key fobs and other small items for a wide variety of uses, including Internet services, messaging, retrieving content, and advertising.

Integrating smartphones

Automakers can also piggyback on the personalization users have already implemented with their mobile phones.

Nokia and the CE4A working group have released the Terminal Mode technology specification as a proposed standard for integrating mobile phone applications into the car environment.

"Terminal Mode provides the missing link between the phone and car infotainment system," says Jorg Brakensiek, lead researcher in Nokia Research Center’s Terminal Mode project.

"The user takes a device into the car that is already personalized to his needs. Terminal Mode allows him to see every application and function of that smartphone on the dashboard and operate it the same way."

However, if consumers demand access to their favorite content, automakers must push back when it comes to safety.

Texting is great; texting while driving can be deadly.

And, if an app is running on a car's system when it distracts the driver and causes a crash, lawyers will go after the automaker.

This is especially an issue with systems that connect the car to applications running on a smartphone.

"There are not too many things more personal than your personal device," Poliak says. "Now, how do I make it safe and fun?"

For an interview with Airbiquity’s Leo A. McCloskey, see ‘“Consumers expect services tailored to them from their selected information sources”’. Click here.

For more on telematics and the mobile Web, see ‘What telematics firms can learn from Web 2.0 ’. Click here

For more on telematics and hyper-localization, see ‘Telematics and local search: The next big thing ’. Click here

Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU.

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