SAP Adds MasterCard, Postmates, Here to Connected Car Lineup

Connected cars give consumers more ways to spend money while driving. SAP has now made some deals that will help grease the wheels for those transactions.

Three major companies have signed on to use the SAP Vehicles Network, a B2B marketplace that brings together providers of services with channels for selling them in cars. SAP announced the new customers today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

MasterCard will provide an in-car payment mechanism, Here will supply navigation capabilities, and Postmates will make its on-demand delivery service available to other businesses through the marketplace. In addition, SAP has integrated its own Concur Expense product with the Vehicles Network, through the Concur App Center, so mobile workers can more easily report trip details.

SAP launched the network in 2015 to help realize the commercial potential of in-vehicle Internet connections. Since then, more models have become connected and automakers and others have worked to make more services available in cars. For example, Ford offers tools to shop for parking and gas in its FordPass app. SAP Vehicles Network has about 50 customers now, but the deals SAP announced on Tuesday might do a lot to propel it forward.

The idea behind the SAP Vehicles Network is that many types of businesses, including gas stations, parking lots and restaurants, want to reach consumers while they’re driving. Connected cars make that possible, but not every provider of a service can have its own sales channel in the car. They need to work through channels such as automakers, car-rental companies, enterprises and mobile app providers to get in front of drivers. The network also includes suppliers of components for automotive services, such as navigation and payment systems.

The heart of SAP Vehicles Network is a common API that lets all those players meet in the cloud. SAP supplies the API and collects a per-transaction fee when it’s used.

The API is agnostic to mobile platforms and car brands. It can be used for many applications, but for now it’s available in versions for parking, fuel and food, Gil Perez, SAP’s senior vice president of IoT and Digital Supply Chain, told Connected Car. They are designed to make those types of transactions easier, Perez said in an interview.

For example, a driver who’s running late can find available parking spaces near a destination, reserve one of those spaces ahead of time, and pay for the space without taking out cash or a credit card, he said. The location of the chosen parking space can be sent to the car’s navigation system, and the gate to the lot can be automatically opened.

The API includes code for each of those steps. With the Vehicles Network, SAP wants to help parking companies offer spaces across the US on a single service by using the common API.

Now that Here has joined the network, parking services providers will have a way to integrate Here’s navigation platform into their software to help drivers find spaces, Perez said. Payments will play into even more types of in-car services. MasterCard is making its tokenized payment system available for secure transactions on the SAP Vehicles Network. The system replaces a consumer’s personal account number with a secure token, or alternative number, to keep transactions safe.

With it, consumers can buy gas or make other purchases from inside the car without having to hand over their credit cards, SAP says. Features for customer loyalty programs and analytics will also be available for those transactions.

Postmates integration will give merchants a way to reach drivers who want to order ahead and pick something up at home or the office.

SAP’s Concur Expense can use information from other components and services that use the Vehicles Network API, Perez said. For example, employees can automatically add mileage statistics or gas purchases to an expense report rather than filling out forms.

— Stephen Lawson is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Follow him on Twitter @sdlawsonmedia.

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