I recently attended the Telematics Update conference in Novi, MI and thought I would pass along some thoughts on how telematics is looking here in 2011. Recall that GM essentially started the whole thing with On Star available on one model back in the day, and now we have every major car maker scrambling to launch an interactive connected car system. With the advent of more infotainment related systems, the stodgy safety and security message that OnStar lives on has evolved to bring some genuine excitement to the future of telematics.
- Intelligent navigation with real-time traffic is a top consumer demand; re-routing, learning your routes, and fully aware traffic coverage (not just highways, but secondary roads too) are all required to deliver the solution that people need. This is still THE top need in general polls, but I believe that entertainment is more likely the biggest need for younger demographics.
- Telematics will evolve to be a hybrid system of full integration with your smartphone AND have its own connectivity for emergency connections. The need for users to bring a piece of their DNA into the car (that’s their smartphone), and use it in that environment is too compelling. The need to have emergency connectivity is also compelling in the event of a crash – the car needs a cheap connection too. If the phone giants allow it; you’ll be able to add your car to a pooled data “Family” plan.
- Content and features will evolve to offer more that you need, dampened only be the fact that driver distraction is a big legislative issue, litigious issue and an evolving consumer concern. The content providers, telematics solutions providers and the auto OEM’s are all in a race to deliver what consumers want. The problem is that “we” want more than is probably safe for us to have. The Line will be drawn by NHTSA in the coming years; they are NOT going to let driver distraction become a bigger issue than it already is. In what might have been the best presentation of the conference, David Strickland of the Department of Transportation said, “I am not here to help you Tweet better, I am not here to help people post on Facebook better. It’s not my job.” He went on to talk about how many people die each year due to driver distraction (thousands), and how a connected car environment needs to serve the driver in their task of driving. His very direct opening remarks drained the air from the room of Telematic fanboys, but as he talked about the reasons behind his fervor and how he will chart the future of safe telematics, the audience seemed to warm to his message.
- Verizon presented their view of an LTE based future with huge-pipe bandwidth and streaming media. In a direct question to Janet Schijns, VP Biz Solutions about recent studies reporting on the potential for LTE to interfere with GPS signals, she craftily side stepped the issue, indicating that she hadn’t seen those studies. I can’t imagine anyone in the LTE area who pays attention to the business not understanding a potential barrier like the FCC having a concern over GPS/LTE interference. I don’t think the forgiving audience was that tuned in to catch the sidestep.
Who was there from the Navigation Space?
- Inrix was there, having won an award for best content aggregator, talking about their solutions and best-in-class traffic offerings. They are sponsoring the next telematics conference in Brazil; they aren’t currently in the market in Latin America, so draw your own conclusions about their plans. They continue to show that they are powering more and more applications with their offering. With consumer needs unmet, the quality of their data and their ability to serve their audience well (reference their award), things are looking good for Inrix.
- Garmin was there showing off their connected devices, their new Chrysler UConnect system; where they offer the mapping on the system behind the head unit’s other functions. Garmin Also showed off a prototype capability where they control the entire dash with an integrated and changable theme across the main dash readout to the head unit. It didn’t show amazing new mapping functionality in the main dash area, but instead showed off where things might go around changeable themes and holistic integration.
- TeleNav was showing off their integration with the newest Ford vehicles – the New Edge and the new Ford Explorer. Telenav works in the background to offer navigation on the new ford telematics system.
- Finally, Google Maps/Earth was there in a way -T-Mobile showed off the Audi Telematics solution that navigates you over a 3-D Google Maps satellite view environment with traffic overlays. It looks amazing, but comes at a data download cost. Each 100 miles you drive requires 1GB of downloads to occur from the cloud. Luckily they are cached after you drive a certain route, but man if that’s a lot of data if you ever go on that cross country trip.
Read more here:Future of Telematics – Telematics Update Conference Novi, MI