Octo on the auction block Weekly Brief—4.1.2013

In this week’s Brief: Octo Telematics, TomTom, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Apple, WiFiSLAM, ABI Research, Texas Instruments, eCall, West Virginia, Google, and the New York Auto Show
In the last five years, Octo Telematics has established the world’s largest insurance telematics database while building up partnerships with more than 60 insurers in 26 countries around the world, with a growing presence in the U.S. since 2011. What’s next? According to Reuters, the company has put itself on the auction block and is looking for the highest bidder.
Octo Telematics hasn’t confirmed the reports yet, but Reuters says it has credible evidence that the company is interested in a buyer and plans to court potential bidders starting this month, especially private equity firms. An Italian investment fund currently has majority ownership of Octo.
It’s unclear what would change with new ownership, though international private equity firms have a penchant for leaning companies down while growing their footprint as fast as possible. Octo is yet to comment.
In other news, TomTom extended the integration possibilities for its fleet management solution, TomTom Business Solutions, by allowing third-party developers to create new applications for use in and around the vehicle. TomTom plans to grant access to the Bluetooth channel on TomTom’s in-vehicle LINK device, which the company hopes will lead to new apps that will allow businesses to enrich data from hardware, such as tire pressure sensors and temperature control units, to improve the management of their fleets.
“Our fleet management solutions already integrate seamlessly with hundreds of office systems, but now we intend to expand our integration possibilities in the field,” says Thomas Schmidt, managing director of TomTom Business Solutions. TomTom will invite developers to join its partner network to encourage innovation and participation by third parties.
Mercedes-Benz revealed that the new S-Class will come equipped with an enhanced infotainment system that customizes itself to users and which users can personalize with short cuts and display options. Users can choose, for example, what apps hover on their in-dash screen—a small nav map, fuel consumption display, data connection display or entertainment information—while a primary app is in use.
The car will also offer beefed-up navigation called “Navitainment” that comes with advanced integration of live traffic, an animated compass, and the display of Google Maps on the head unit and in the rear.
Similarly, Cadillac announced that its CUE infotainment system will now come with additional personalization capabilities and an interface designed to feel “tablet-like.” The personalization capabilities include user-created shortcuts to favorite content and features plus a navigation system that offers presets for frequently visited destinations and intuits inputs from partial information.
Users can also fully customize and save radio tone settings for a personalized music listening experience.
Apple made a move on the indoor maps front, acquiring the indoor GPS company WiFiSLAM for $20 million. WiFiSLAM is known for its indoor location positioning developer kit, which enables Android apps to receive precise indoor location information.
That will no longer be the case, as Apple’s acquisition takes the kit off the market for Android developers and likely will lead to backend solutions within the Apple Maps ecosystem, setting up a potential rivalry with Google Maps Indoor mapping capabilities.
Retail indoor location will bulge into a $5-billion industry by 2018, according to a recent report from ABI Research (“Indoor Location in Retail: Where Is the Money?”).
Texas Instruments introduced a complete reference design that provides designers all the analog and embedded processing integrated circuits required for automotive emergency call (eCall) systems.
Texas Instruments aims to help customers accelerate the design of their eCall systems with a low-cost solution that is scalable for other automotive applications, such as telematics, stolen vehicle tracking and HEV/EV sound generation.
On the distracted driving front, the U.S. state of West Virginia took a step against Google when it introduced a bill that would make it illegal to drive while sporting a Google Glass wrapped around your ear.
Google Glass is Google’s augmented reality headset/eyewear that aims to make a computer a permanent part of your field of vision—which lawmakers in West Virginia maintain would constitute yet another digital threat to vehicle safety.
The bill would slap first-time offenders with a $100 fine, rising to $200 and $300 and points on a license.
Finally, the New York Auto Show got underway at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City on Friday. The show runs through April 7. We will run a full breakdown of the telematics unveilings and announcements next week.

For exclusive business analysis and insight about telematics applications, see Industry Insight: Telematics and Apps

Coming up in 2013: Insurance Telematics Europe 2013 on May 8-9 in London and Telematics India and South Asia 2013 on June 5-7 in India, plus TU Detroit June 5-6 in Detroit.
For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports on In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Report, Human Machine Interface Technologies and Smart Vehicle Technology: The Future of Insurance Telematics.

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