Q&A: Telematics meets Tweddle

Q&A: Telematics meets Tweddle

Tweddle Group began 60 years ago as Tweddle Litho Co., supplying publishing services to the auto industry. Over the years, under the helm of three generations of Tweddles, it expanded and evolved to provide creative services, supply chain integration and fulfillment services aimed at providing just-in-time delivery of publications to support OEM manufacturing requirements. Toyota Entune, with its over-the-air updates of applications and services powered by Tweddle, is another step in that evolution.

You recently announced Tweddle Peer Communications Framework, an enhanced communications framework for transmitting data between a mobile phone and a vehicle's head unit. How could this address concerns about unsafe or rogue apps entering the car?

The Peer Communications Framework is the communications technology that we use today in-market to connect car to cloud through a consumer handset. It's combined with access control logic based on credentials that allows us to control that process, so only secure activities are moving in and out of the car. It gives us a walled garden: You're not going onto the Internet; you're going to our servers.

Toyota's Entune takes a step forward by offering OpenTable reservations and movie tickets. But we're still a long way from all the things we can do with our phones. When will we see more interesting in-vehicle apps beyond Internet radio?

We have over a dozen different branded services, and we enable the services in an appropriate way for automotive environment, enabling people to do more and more safely than they would with the phone. We're not trying to replicate the handset experience or copy apps already in the market, but to augment them around the driving experience. In bad software design, the quickest way to avoid distraction is to just shut it off when you're moving over five miles per hour, but then people will just use their phones. Good software design enables those features in a safe way. (For more on Internet radio, see Telematics and the rise of in-car Internet radio, part I and Telematics and the rise of in-car Internet radio, part II.)

What are the implications of the follow up to ‘Phase 1 Distraction Guidelines' for Tweddle's offerings?

We've always worked very closely with our partners at the automakers' engineering centers, who already have rules for managing HMI design and distraction. Early in the process, one of the concerns from NHTSA was, Are we introducing significant new levels of distraction? Part of our role in the design of products was to set a threshold for what services we will allow or not allow. We are the designers but the rulings come from our customers, who have relationships with NHTSA. We follow their guidelines, and the ultimate signoff comes from the customer. (For more on distraction, see DOT’s distraction guidelines as challenge and opportunity, What DOT’s new distraction guidelines mean for telematics and Distraction guidelines as a telematics business opportunity.)

Apps have certainly been a driver of tablet sales. Do you think they'll have a similar impact on consumers' choice of cars? If so, when?

Absolutely. They're a huge part of why this space is growing so quickly. Segments within auto manufacturers see this as a way to differentiate in the marketplace. But it's less about the volume of apps; it's easy to get a lot of apps in the car. It's more about the consistency and continuity of the experience, being able to bring in an app that will go through update cycles on a regular basis.

There's fragmentation and different lifecycles in this space. An app provider may update software quarterly, while a handset manufacturer is pushing out new prod every six months. Then, you have a car with a static piece of hardware in service typically for five to seven years. Compound that with different operating systems and hardware manufacturers, and on and on the fragmentation goes. How do you manage all that and keep it current? We've been successful at taking the very high quality requirements of automotive and mixing them with speed and flexibility of software. (For more on apps, see Special report: Telematics and apps.)

What's on the horizon for Tweddle?

Beyond the infotainment side of the business, which gets a lot more attention, the over-the-air update is a huge capability for automakers themselves. They spend hundreds of billions of dollars updating software on the car, usually by asking car owners to bring it back to the dealer to update the control modules. Today, we're making updates to the head unit over the air. Through that gateway, we have the ability, in cooperation with our customers, to also update software to any of the other modules on the bus. Our over-the-air updating capability allows us to improve the vehicle after you bought it or correct for issues that were detected later.

We have the ability to pull diagnostic data off the vehicle and communicate with the dealer that there's a fault. We could even work with the dealer to schedule a time with you; now we're getting more visionary. We have all the puzzle pieces to improve the experience for the consumer and improve costs for the OEM. With that connection, the subtleties of improved service come through over the life of your ownership.

Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU.

For more on apps, see Special report: Telematics and apps.

For more on HMIs, see Special report: Telematics and the human-machine interface.

For the latest on apps, attend Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2012 on December 4-5 in San Diego.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics Japan 2012 on October 9-11 in Tokyo, Telematics Munich 2012 on October 29-30, and Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2012 on November 13-14 in Atlanta.

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

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