Weekly Brief: New kids on the block

In this week’s Brief: RealVNC, Texas Instruments, Volvo, Thatcham, Trimble, AT&T, SiriusXM Radio, AudioVox, TomTom, BlackBerry, BMW, Chargemaster, DriveFactor, Admiral Group, ABI Research, QNX Software, Microsoft and GENIVI.
There’s an odd tension in telematics today: On one hand, industry pundits suggest that the next five years will witness drastic consolidation in the in-car connectivity sector as bigger players acquire smaller ones and emerging standards force homogenization; on the other hand, a dizzying array of products from new players and partnerships continue to hit the market.

Last week, RealVNC, which specializes in remote access software for desktop and mobile computers, partnered up with Texas Instruments to deliver a new infotainment bundle, with RealVNC supplying the remote access technology and TI the infotainment processors.

The resulting product is MirrorLink-certified, RealVNC says, and will turn any connected radio head unit into a multimedia hub. Features include screen replication and control of mobile devices from a vehicle touchscreen or fixed-input controls.

“VNC technology remains at the forefront of mobile to vehicle integration, and we are delighted to be working with TI to build VNC Automotive and MirrorLink support into its automotive infotainment processors,” says Tom Blackie, vice president mobile of RealVNC.

In other news, Volvo announced that its autonomous braking solution — City Safety Autonomous Emergency Braking system — will be fitted as standard on most new Volvos. The major selling point for the system, in addition to increased safety, is that City Safety will likely lead to as much as a $100 savings on subsequent insurance plans.

This is because City Safety has caught the attention of insurance companies and administrators that set insurance group ratings (like Thatcham) as a reliable way to avoid low-speed crashes. Some Volvo models have already seen their insurance groupings fall by roughly four levels.

Trimble announced a new app for fleet management, the Connected Farm Fleet app, which allows fleet managers and technicians to access their fleet information from any location. Using smartphones and tablets, the app enables the fleet management portion of Trimble's Connected Farm Web solution to go mobile.

With the app, managers can track the location of vehicles, receive geo-fence and curfew alerts, analyze vehicle status and view historical positions.

Last week, we highlighted AT&T’s new deal to provide connectivity for SiriusXM Radio's in-car connectivity solution. This week, it surfaced that AT&T has struck up another in-car partnership, with AudioVox.

Specifically, AT&T will provide network connectivity for AudioVox’s plug-in, on-board diagnostic device that enables cell phone restriction while driving, vehicle tracking, maintenance alerts, fuel consumption and efficiency alerts, and a "lot spot" feature that helps users find their cars with Google maps. AudioVox says the solution will work on all post-1996 vehicle models.

TomTom announced an updated agreement with BlackBerry to provide real-time traffic information for the maps app on BlackBerry 10. The new BlackBerry will feature TomTom Traffic, which offers precise traffic information and now also includes a crowd-sourced data-sharing feature similar to Waze.

The goal, says BlackBerry, is faster journeys, more accurate arrival times and a smarter navigation experience.

BMW launched its new i3 electric vehicle and, to highlight its commitment to building the infrastructure to support it, acquired a two-percent stake in Chargemaster, a U.K.-based provider of electric vehicle charging stations.

The two companies say they will collaborate for at least five years. Chargemaster charging stations are both for commercial and public use. Chargemaster controls everything from design to installation to maintenance.

On the insurance telematics front, DriveFactor partnered up with Admiral Group to expand usage-based insurance offerings throughout the U.K. Through this partnership, DriveFactor will power a version of Admiral’s Bell Safe Driver policy, which offers discounted auto insurance to U.K.-based drivers.

DriveFactor will support and manage the hardware and host an online user portal that gives drivers access to their data, including feedback on how they can improve their driving and lower their insurance premiums.

Finally, ABI Research forecasts that the the infotainment OS market, which QNX Software and Microsoft currently dominate with roughly 80% penetration, will broaden to accommodate a new wave of open-source Linux/GENIVI systems, in the coming five years.

ABI forecasts that open-source systems will grab additional 20% of the market, as the number of OEM-installed, telematics systems increases from around 7.8 million units at the end of 2012 to 46.8 million globally by the end of 2018.

QNX has already anticipated this shift with new mobile-developer ecosystems for Android, HTML5 and Qt 5 apps.

“The automotive industry is set for a number of dramatic paradigm shifts,” says principal analyst, Gareth Owen. “The adoption of open source platforms, such as GENIVI, is just one example. In this regard, the automotive industry mirrors trends in mobile.”

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Insurance Telematics USA 2013 on Sept. 4-5 in Chicago, Telematics Brazil & LATAM 2013 on Sept. 11-12 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Telematics Japan/China 2013 on Oct. 8-10 in Tokyo, Telematics Munich 2013 on Nov. 11-12 in Munich, Germany, Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2013 on Nov. 20-21 in Atlanta, Georgia, and Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco.

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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