Mobile Devices: “When behind the wheel, ‘availability’ will become utterly paramount”

Mobile Devices: “When behind the wheel, ‘availability’ will become utterly paramount”

What does your company do?

Mobile Devices delivers a complete environment for the resellers of connected location-based devices and services. This means that we are able to take any PND brand and provide a complete solution to get a connected PND with the services they choose within the space of about four months.

The core of our solution is built around an Open Telematics Operating System, which includes a dynamic navigation engine able to interact directly with the secondary app. Our communication protocol is able to efficiently manage the data to and from the device, irrespective of the number of embedded applications. Our cloud-based communication server is rapidly scalable and can host a vast array of application proxy, regardless of the content sources. With such a solution, we provide the devices together with the service infrastructure for brands such as Mappy and Coyote.

On top of that, we have about 200,000 units in the field of MRM, covering a wide range of applications, from ambulances to insurance and truck management—all of them running the exact same combination of Open Telematics OS on the device, communication protocol, and cloud-based gateway.

How do you differentiate your offerings from your competitors?

It has become virtually impossible to sell turn-by-turn navigation alone. The value has now moved to connected services integrated into the navigation engine. These services need to be adapted to the car environment. If you are using a driver assistant in your vehicle, you will need to be able to launch the navigation from any type of POI coming from any type of application running on the device, in one click.

Our key differentiator is that our Open Telematics OS and SDK allow the application service providers to develop on the embedded side, allowing for usability in the vehicle far superior to widget-based solutions. Another advantage is our flexibility with the hardware solution. We can provide for brands with the need to connect their devices and adapt their services to well-segmented target markets.

We provide a connected platform for PND brands to distribute applications and a solid Open Telematics OS to run a variety of compatible devices specifically suited to the in-car environment. For PND resellers, Mobile Devices offers the only option for deploying, in record time, connected devices with a range of services selected by them.

For insurance telematics service providers, Mobile Devices offers the only option for launching a dongle with the intelligence to run most of the driver behavior analyses on-board as well as the capability to plug that dongle into a smart screen with a range of extra services selected by the insurance TSP. For MRM service providers, Mobile Devices provides the only option for deploying, in record time, an offer including black box only, black box plus screen and connected PND only—all at once, all running the same OS and the same applications.

2010 has been a year of recovery. What services or trends have been integral to this time throughout the industry?

2009 was as good for us as 2008. In 2010, we expect our sales to double thanks to Mobile Devices’ ability to ride on specific trends. The fleet market is picking up again and is rapidly maturing. The service providers in the MRM sector are realizing that manufacturing everything themselves is both costly and inefficient. Turning to open solutions that enable rapid integration with their solution and cheap customization to their rapidly growing and increasingly varied customers’ needs is the way forward.

Smartphones have pushed the PND market into a corner and created a strong demand for navigation-based services, as well as increasing the availability for core technologies providing navigation. This has helped PNDs to become smarter, cheaper, and more easily connected.

Car manufacturers have yet to agree on a common telematics protocol, and their design-to-market cycle shows no sign of becoming shorter. Production cost limitation is still the top priority, so a standard-based external solution providing in-car services to the dumb installed screen is now starting to resonate very well.

The insurance sector has become a major opportunity, with the big players testing solutions in thousands of units. While solution providers rally to the demand and propose hardware-agnostic solutions, few realize what their chosen device will, in fact, be required to handle. Ultimately, we think eCall, road charging, insurance, and navigation services will put open platform-driven navigation-based services in every car. (For more on insurance telematics, see ‘Can telematics reinvent auto insurance?’.)

What industry milestones have you recently achieved?

In Q4 2010, we will announce a new partnership with our second major European PND brand. The device will be a connected PND with a very impressive application catalogue: a revolutionary, personalized live traffic service, speed limit, and speed radar info from Coyote, Yellow Pages local search, weather, and a host of POI sources.

We will also announce the signature of a 60k-device deal with a global driver-profiling provider using an exclusive version of our black box and dongles. Europe’s fourth biggest logistics and trucking operator will use the Dreevo in 5,000 of its vehicles. The company will also use our framework (SDK) to develop time management, task management, and eco-driving applications.

We will also announce second-stage deployment for one of the largest insurance companies in Spain (10k devices) and a first-stage deployment of 10k devices for a leading insurance player in Eastern Europe. Both offers are scheduled to start in October. They will be usage-based insurance products, including crash detection, stolen vehicle alert and, in some cases, fleet specific services.

By January 2011, we also will announce the next version of MCT, the Open Telematics OS, codename CNECT 3.0, and our MarketPlace, enabling MRM service providers to publish their apps at will and pro users to download new applications directly on their devices. The key difference is that all the applications on the MarketPlace will be able to run on any devices running MCT2.0, our Open Telematics OS, and they will do so side-by-side thanks to our ScreenShare technology that can split the screen in three.

Your session at Telematics Munich is entitled ‘In-car market place today: Benefit from an open Telematics OS to reach both business and consumer markets’. What is your key message?

Today, smartphone users pay an up-front cost to operators to get access to a vast array of applications. Apps are consequently very cheap or free. Therefore, reliability, start speed or long-term updates are not seen as a priority. The apps are used infrequently, typically fulfilling a very specific need at a specific time. This pattern is reversed in the case of the driver.

A driver subscribing to a navigation service, such as speed camera alerts or live traffic, will look for the option that is best adapted to the vehicle environment, the most reliable, instant and easiest to use. When behind the wheel, “availability” will become utterly paramount. Think of the Coyote V2 radar alert device: always on and snug under the sunshield. The Web-based approach to distribute and run applications does not work well in the vehicle for a multitude of reasons. It is not possible to rely on widgets to serve the driver’s needs, and there is a need to look at developing each and every service at the embedded level.

We think that application developers could port their apps to a number of connected PNDs and sell their services directly to the users. It is clear that there is an untapped opportunity there. Plus, a partially subsidized PND would leave some potential budget for the driver to spend on quality services. Yet the key for this business to take off is an Open Telematics OS that offers the ability to develop applications easily while ensuring they run on the PND as an integrated service with the navigation. An open OS would attract app developers to port their value-added applications in much smaller numbers than on the app store while keeping the quality level extremely high. For example, the traffic information service shows specific alerts on the nav screen or the speed trap application shows the driver how many scouts are in front directly on the nav screen.

Cyril Zeller will be taking part in a panel session at Telematics Munich. For more information, check out Telematics Munich.

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