TU Detroit—Day One Wrap

TU Detroit—Day One Wrap

Telematics Detroit 2012 is the biggest TU Detroit in the event’s 12-year history. The most speakers. The most attendees. The most exhibitors. And yet, unlike last year, when day one of the event was a zoo of activity on the exhibition floor, this year a calmer air presided over the first day’s activities.

As I spoke with exhibitors and speakers, it became apparent that the relative quiet on Day One emanated from an important shift in the telematics industry, one from solutions to strategies.

Sure, new solutions are still highly valued and important to put on display, but the industry seems to be experiencing an inflection point in which its fundamental technologies are reaching maturity, and the challenge is shifting from the technical task of pulling off a connected car to the strategic challenges of making that connected car a reality.

As Thilo Koslowski, VP & Lead Automotive Analyst at Gartner, put it in his opening keynote address of the day, “The demand looks good, the technology maturity looks good, but there’s a real challenge on the strategy side.”

Hence the constant opening and closing of meeting room doors throughout the day, where vendors, tier 1 suppliers, and OEMs were locked in conversation to resolve the impediments to delivering a truly connected vehicle. Which isn’t to suggest that the exhibition floor or lecture halls were sparsely attended. A Jeep, a $100,000-plus Mercedes-Benz, and the original Aston Martin from the classic James Bond flick Golden Eye all sat on the exhibition floor amidst droves of attendees; the Jeep and the Benz were decked out with the latest connected car solutions.

Perusing the various booths, I was treated to demos of the latest fonts that are making dashboards safer for drivers, the latest platforms that are harnessing smartphones seamlessly, the latest data aggregators to deliver global radio solutions into the speakers of automobiles … the list went on.

In the main conference hall, following Koslowski’s presentation, a panel of auto OEM leaders took the stage to discuss the new telematics ecosystem and how solutions like those on exhibition will achieve OEM implementation. The topic of “controlled openness” was the most animated of the day, as different members offered their take on the spectrum between an open platform that leverages smartphones and is open to the developer community and a closed platform that OEMs control completely. Controlled openness seemed to be the most widely endorsed method, with OEMs securing a platform but leaving it flexible enough to evolve through time and for consumers to personalize it.

Later in the day, presentations split into the four tracks of Solutions for emerging markets, Infotainment and content for automotive, Telematics services, and Auxiliary and vertical markets.

After that, the crowd was off to an off-site party hosted by Slacker Radio, replete with two bands, DJs, driver simulation courses, strobe lights, dancers, cheerleaders, and an open bar. For a day that started off on the mellower side, it came to a close with a reminder that there’s a lot of noise left for the industry to make once its strategy and implementation challenges are overcome.

For more on our TU Detroit coverage, visit the conference website or follow its Twitter Feet at #TUDetroit.

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