TU Detroit 2013: Day One

The 13th annual Telematics Detroit conference got underway today in Novi, Michigan, where the full spectrum of OEMs, telematics hardware and service providers, members of the media and consultants convened to explore the present state of the telematics market.

Two thousand conference goers showed up for Day One in total, and 100 vendors were on hand to demo solutions on the exhibition floor, making this the largest ever telematics conference.

Telematics at a crossroads

The conference comes at an interesting juncture for the industry. Telematics solutions have never been so widely available and openly embraced by OEMs, yet the magic recipe for how to package and present telematics in a format that consumers view as a must-have remains elusive. Day One’s keynotes and expert panels expounded upon this friction.

“Everyone agrees that, yes, we have to do something about the connected vehicle, but in regards to what to do about it, there’s not a lot of clarity,” said Thilo Koslowski, vice president for automotive vehicle ICT at Gartner, in the morning’s opening keynote. “That’s what needs to change in 2013 and 2014.” Koslowski floated some different possibilities: standardization, consolidation, increased collaboration and partnership. 

This is a decidedly different challenge than what the industry faced in years prior. Even just a year or two ago, the conversation at TU Detroit was all about getting OEMs to notice, let alone embrace, all the exciting telematics solutions that were on display.

Now, most of those same OEMs have acknowledged the inevitability of connectivity and engaged telematics in one form or another. The question is, How do they really make this work?

Smartphone on wheels? 

An increased focus on the consumer is one answer that emerged from the Day One presentations. More robust customer relationship management (CRM) platforms were a frequent point of conversation too, as were finding ways to make offerings more intuitive and contextualized for consumers.

If you try to build a smartphone on wheels, “compared to a mobile phone, you’re always going to lose,” said Robert Acker of Harman. “The car is another device on the Internet of Things, and we need to optimize that thing for consuming content while driving. Don’t make it a bigger smartphone device. That’s all Google or Apple can do. Rather, completely change the paradigm. Make it totally seamless, introduce gesture, head-up displays, steering controls. Make it truly revolutionized for the customer.”

“Our solutions must target the real needs that consumers have,” echoed Koslowski. “The car is not a laptop on wheels. It’s not a smartphone on wheels either. It’s a very distinct platform where you have to offer certain information and data bits when consumers need them. That’s what the connected automobile is all about.”

Going it alone is a no-go

Another general conclusion was that partnerships have become increasingly important. The idea of the telematics provider or the OEM as the one-stop shop is dead. Sure, some vendors may still view themselves in that light, but the reality is that the telematics ecosystem has become too complex.

“In 1999 we started as a one-stop shop, but it has evolved dramatically,” said Johann Jungwirth, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development.

Acker pointed out that OEMs are wary of having too many partners. They prefer to have “one throat to choke” in case something goes awry, he said, but still the need for a robust and collaborative telematics ecosystem remains.

Other topics of exploration included making big data useful data, creating dynamic HMIs for next-gen device integration and revolutionizing connected services through satellite and mobile networks. Day Two of the conference will include more keynotes, panels and demos on the exhibition floor.

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU. 

For more information on TU Detroit 2013, see here.

For more information about Telematics Update Awards, click here.

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

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Content & Apps for Automotive Europe 2013 on June 18-19 in Munich, V2V & V2I for Auto Safety USA 2013 on July 9-10 in Novi, MI, Insurance Telematics USA 2013 on September 4-5 in Chicago,Telematics Russia 2013 in September in Moscow, Telematics LATAM 2013 in September in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Telematics Japan 2013 on October 8-10 in Tokyo and Telematics Munich 2013 on November 11-12.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013The Automotive HMI Report 2013Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.


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