Telematics and innovation

Telematics and innovation

There’s no shortage of ideas when it comes to improving navigation solutions, integrating advanced driver assistance systems, or unleashing in-car connectivity. Just look at the surfeit of platforms, apps, alliances, and start-ups all vying for attention and market share. For businesses looking to acquire and venture capitalists looking to invest, it can be a challenge to siphon the best ideas from the mediocre ones.

Enter the value of incubation networks and business competitions, which can encourage large participation and offer start-up support and advice while providing key insights about an idea’s merits and opportunities.

“It’s very often not easy to really see the potential of a certain idea,” says Thorsten Rudolph, CEO of the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC), which recently announced its 2012 winners. “There are main challenges in our world today that everyone is aware of, so you see many new business cases trying to address them. Figuring out the best is a struggle for our work.”

Stimulating innovation

The ESNC began back in 2004 with a focus on stimulating innovation around Galileo satellite navigation and has grown to include 24 regions split among Europe, the Middle East and Africa, North America, and South America. Participants can enter the competition in any region, no matter their current place of residence, as long as they intend to launch a business in the selected region. Each region offers a prize to the regional winner and runner up, as well as free networking and support via workshops and coaching sessions about patents and investments. The overall winner from all the regions receives an additional €20,000.

Rudolph says what’s impressive about the ESNC is that, not only does it generate new ideas, but it has a knack for filtering out the best of them and helping to bring them to fruition. In the run-up to this year’s award ceremony, the ESNC team analyzed past winners and found that of the 170 winners during the last nine competitions, about 70 percent went on to develop their products and start successful companies.

“I believe this is one of the unique selling propositions of our innovation competition,” says Rudolph. “The fact that we can offer these services via our partner regions, and on the other side we have a strong business incubator network that really can support entrepreneurs, with the technical support and access to venture capital, is a differentiator.”

And the winner is …

The 2012 overall winner of the ESNC was a joint project between two universities in Portugal—Fraunhofer Portugal and the University of Porto’s Faculty of Engineering. The solution offers reliable, anytime, anywhere navigation by seamlessly switching the source of its positioning data between GNSS and indoor navigation. Its use of ultra-low-frequency magnetic field communication (ULF-MC) makes reliable navigation possible inside buildings, like department stores, underground parking garages, and airport facilities.

The runner up went to Great Britain’s regional winner, iGeolise Ltd., for the Travel Time Platform, a point-of-interest search engine whose motto is “time is more valuable than distance.” The engine provides eateries or other destinations within 15 minutes of the user, rather than a filter based only on distance. The application has already gone live commercially across the UK and been successfully tested in most major European countries.

This year, the ESNC also included a prototyping prize run by the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) in Taiwan. The prize’s theme was the connected vehicle, with a particular focus on making use of short-range communication between vehicles.

The top prize went to the Taiwanese company HAITEC, which leveraged three modern technologies, including the vehicle-to-vehicle communication system DSRC (dedicated short-range communication), to create a new communication model for drivers. The team envisions drivers warning each other of emergency situations and sending back courteous thank you messages in acknowledgement. Automatic warnings will also be sent to nearby vehicles when, for example, a driver who has parked goes to open a door.

New trends in telematics

For the past several years, some of the most exciting ideas from the ESNC competition have aligned with or, according to Rudolph, gone on to spark new trends in the following years. “Very often the most spectacular ideas really were a starting point for a new trend,” he says.

Often the innovation curve follows a six-year arc, he adds. “If I look back over the past nine years, we see a trend emerge one year in the competition. This will be realized in the next two years, and very often this is then implemented two years later.”

Augmented reality navigation, harnessing GPS for games, and indoor navigation have all played prominent roles in the competition in the last three years. Rudolph sees car-to-car communication as an important trend in the future. “Car-to-car communication offers the possibility not only to communicate between cars but to sense the actual position of a car, its velocity, and predetermine a possible collision,” he says. Bicycles and pedestrians will increasingly factor into the equation, he notes. (For more on car-to-car communication, see Industry insight: Telematics and machine-to-machine communications and Industry insight: Telematics and V2V/V2X technologies.)

The second trend is seamless position services that, like the overall winner of this year’s ESNC competition, integrate outdoor and indoor navigation. “We’re going to see the integration of these different kinds of positioning services into one service infrastructure, so that a user is aware of which kind of positioning service he is using, but it must be seamless,” he says.

Lastly, Rudolph highlights inter-modular travel planning. These navigation systems will combine different forms of travel over the arc of a trip—car to plane to train to bus to taxi to hotel, for example—so that local, regional, and national services are interconnected. “Like Expedia, you want to travel from A to B, then you can get a travel plan, make a booking and get a voucher or ticket, which you can use in every one of these traffic systems.”

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

Coming up in 2013: Consumer Telematics Show 2013 on January 7 in Las Vegas, V2X for Auto Safety and Mobility Europe 2013 on February 20-21 in Frankfurt, Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2013 on March 19-20 in Amsterdam, Telematics India and South Asia 2013 on April 16-17 in India, Insurance Telematics Europe 2013 on May 8-9 in London, Telematics Russia 2013 on May 14-15 in Moscow, Telematics Detroit 2013 on June 5-6 and Content & Apps for Automotive Europe 2013 on June 17-21 in Munich.

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

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