Weekly Brief: So long, ad-free connected cars

Weekly Brief: So long, ad-free connected cars

In this week’s Brief: Aha by Harman, Placecast, Quiznos, Toyota, Ford, Honda, Porsche, TomTom, Total Traffic + Weather Network, INRIX, Car Connectivity Consortium, Volkswagen, European GNSS Agency, European Commission, Delphi Automotive, U.S. Cellular, Vista Equity Partners, Omnitracs and Qualcomm.

For years, YouTube refused to feature commercials. Now, you’re hard-pressed to watch an online video without laboring through a 30-second advertisement first. In-vehicle infotainment screens may be headed down the same road.

Last week, Aha by Harman and Placecast released a video demoing location-based, in-car ads. Harnessing geo-fencing to allow advertisers to target vehicles within a certain radius of their locations, the service is optional for consumers and piggybacks on the Aha Radio app, which brings Internet radio into the vehicle via the smartphone.

Once the app is engaged with the infotainment screen, it shares the GPS coordinates of the phone (and, by extension, the car) with a universe of surrounding brands, which can send audio ads and promotional coupons as drivers approach their establishments. Aha and Placecast are running a nationwide pilot in December, with the sandwich shop Quiznos the first participant.

Given the fact that the Aha Radio app has more than two million users and is available in more than 50 car models in the United States – from Toyota to Ford to Honda to Porsche – this is significant news for in-car advertising. Aha and Placecast are yet to comment beyond the video and basic details of the pilot.

(For more on location-based, in-car ads, see From pay-per-click to pay-per-drive.)

In other news, Toyota Tsusho Corporation introduced a real-time traffic solution for developing countries. Rather than rely on roadside sensors that are commonplace in the West but expensive to install, Toyota’s solution collects location and speed info at 15-minute intervals from vehicles equipped with smartphones and GPS capability, such as taxis and trucks, then collates that data into a real-time map of traffic flows.

The company has launched the solution in Thailand, via contracts with taxi companies, and hopes to follow suit in Indonesia and places across Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

TomTom reached an agreement to supply its real-time and predictive traffic data to Total Traffic + Weather Network, replacing INRIX. This is a big win for TomTom in North America as TTWN is the largest private data-gathering and broadcast traffic navigation network in the United States and Canada. The combined data offering will be available across multiple platforms including radio, television, automotive, online and mobile.

A week after launching an update to its smartphone integration standard, MirrorLink 1.1, the Car Connectivity Consortium reached an agreement with Volkswagen to begin offering MirrorLink in 2014. VW says it will feature the technology in all of its mid- and high-end radios. Smartphone makers have been waiting for a major automaker to adopt the standard before releasing the MirrorLink app on their phones, so presumably a spate of MirrorLink releases for smartphones will follow in 2014. We’ll keep you apprised.

The European GNSS Agency and the European Commission invited all tier 1 eCall manufacturers to participate in a test to assess their compatibility with Galileo, the global navigation satellite system that will power eCall. The tests will focus on the compatibility of telematics devices with the reception and processing of Galileo Open Service Signals.

The campaign is being undertaken in the build-up to the 2015 eCall launch date and is in cooperation with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, which will examine devices at its test site in Northern Italy.

Delphi Automotive announced that it will offer its car-to-Cloud/Cloud-to-car connectivity system to U.S. Cellular. The wireless communication provider plans to roll out the system as a new aftermarket telematics solution. The new Delphi Connect service will allow drivers to remotely control, monitor and track their vehicles in real time via a smartphone or computer over the U.S. Cellular network. The solution will plug into car OBD2 ports and sell through U.S. Cellular retail stores and website.

Finally, private equity firm Vista Equity Partners finalized its acquisition of Omnitracs, the telematics-based fleet management and GPS tracking company. Vista Equity Partners purchased Omnitracs from Qualcomm for $800 million in cash. The sale includes all of Omnitracs’ operations in the United States, Canada and South America.

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 Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco, Consumer Telematics Show 2014 on Jan. 6 in Las Vegas, Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2014 on March 12-13 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Content and Apps for Automotive Europe 2014 on April 8-9 in Munich, Germany.

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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