CES Turning into Big Tech Auto Show

January 13, 2012  - By
Navigating your way through thousands of booths and 140,000 attendees is a challenge in itself at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show. While there was a huge amount of location-based services news, the big deal was the presence of just about every automobile manufacturer. Such off-site meetings as the Consumer Telematics Show, Showstoppers and AT&T Developer’s Conference also highlighted the connected car.


LAS VEGAS — It took several years, but most major automobile manufacturers are onboard with the idea that a vehicle needs to be connected. Most automobile manufacturers came to the Consumer Electronics Show here to show off their connected devices and explain where they think the market is going.

“The connected vehicle has arrived, though it is not a smart phone on wheels. This the year we are seeing a lot of growth — and I have been doing this a long time,” said Thilo Koslowski, Gartner vice president. “From 2008 to 2012, the majority of car manufacturers have installed connected vehicles. From 2013 to 2016, we will see really major market adoption. A mature market expects connected vehicles — and that’s right around the corner.”

Koslowski says that automakers shouldn’t be locked into one specific market strategy. “They aren’t going to make it if they do.  Technology and business approaches evolve in parallel,” he said. “The traditional value and supply chains may not be the best way to market these systems…and you will see some consolidation.”

The aftermarket will take over the connected marketplace if the car makers won’t adjust their strategies, Koslowski said. He said in 2004, the CRM opportunity seemed to be more important to auto makers, but now it’s somewhere in the middle of importance. “We are primarily in the product differentiation phase now,” he said. “It is an open playing field right now, but it will be a challenge for companies who think they have it all figured out.”

Gartner’s research has found that consumers want wireless map updates, real-time weather and traffic, remote software updates and parking availability. What they don’t like are family and friend location information, creating and reading e-mail in a car, anon-demand music book, and such social networks as Twitter in the vehicle.

TomTom Signs Deal With Samsung

One of the bigger announcements in the location space at CES, and maybe the one with the most LBS tie in, was TomTom’s deal with Samsung. TomTom’s maps and location content will power Samsung’s Wave 3 smartphone. The deal basically allows the phone to have LBS, said Charles Cautley, TomTom managing director, automotive licensing.

The business-to-business market has been a strong one for TomTom, which estimated that around 40 percent of its earnings came from that segment, said Cautley, who spent considerable time at General Electric in the commercial vehicle market before coming to TomTom three years ago.

To cap off a big week, TomTom rolled out three portable navigation devices, Start, Via and Go Live. It also signed a licensing agreement with high-end automaker Fisker Automotive. Through a three-year-deal, TomTom will provide map and location data for the Fisker Karma electric sedan. “We absolutely think the electric vehicle market is going to grow,” Cautley said.

TomTom competitor Magellan also rolled out some new PNDs, including the RoadMate 9055-LM and back-up camera. “Overall, the PND is becoming less a novelty and more a utility,” said Magellan’s Stig Pedersen, senior director of marketing strategy. “We are moving more towards safety features in the next year.”

Auto Companies Announce Offerings At CES

Some in the automobile industry are now saying that CES is the place where car makers are rolling out the new technology, not at the concurrent Detroit Auto Show, which is used to roll out new cars.

Chrysler Group’s Uconnect now has a website that allows its users to get in-car updates for their in-vehicle system through a mobile phone, said Joni Christensen, Uconnect head of marketing.

After the initial cost of Uconnect, all that a car owner needs to pay for, after a year’s free service, is the Sirius radio, Christensen said. The navigation system, like Ford’s Sync, is tied to one system — and like Cadillac’s Cue, can be switched from one screen to a view that is incorporated into a car’s speed gauge.

OnStar will give “selected” developers access to a proprietary application program interface (API) to create mobile apps designed with OnStar’s suite of services, the company said. The first partner to use OnStar’s API will be RelayRides, a peer-to-peer car sharing marketplace.

In other company news, OnStar and Verizon Wireless are working on a second-generation connected research vehicle. The Chevrolet Volt research will receive streaming content from the Cloud enabled by the Verizon 4G LTE network and building on OnStar’s Advanced Telematics Operating System (ATOMS).

Audi said it is also offering a 4G LTE capability for its Audi Connect services. The company will continue to use Google Earth maps and will show a driver their destination in 3D imagery.

Telenav launched a new product called Scout at CES that can work with Ford’s SYNC connected unit. Scout provides customized navigation, entertainment, and convenience features for connectivity between a smart phone, vehicle, or a computer.  Scout Key features turn-by-turn directions, real-time traffic, and estimated drive times to specific destinations at different hours of the day. Scout also provides personal local search based on a user’s preferences for entertainment, restaurants, and other points of interest once they arrive at a destination.

“It’s free on iTunes right now, but we plan to launch it on other platforms,” said Sooner Heath, Telenav customer solutions manager.

Indoor Positioning Looking to Get Bigger

Soon all malls, shopping centers, airports, sporting venues and other businesses will feature indoor maps, which could be the boost LBS needs, particularly if big businesses come on board and advertise. At CES, CSR said it is working with Micello, Google and Nokia Location and Commerce on indoor positioning, that combines Wi-Fi and GPS.

Some of the capabilities include being able to see what floor in the building you are walking in, pedestrian dead reckoning, and turn-by-turn walking directions, said Blake Bullock, CSR product manager.

Fernando Villasol, Nokia Location and Commerce director of content, says the advent of indoor positioning will soon open up new market opportunities for developers.

In other CES news:

  • Kenwood says its marketing agreements with Garmin continue to produce great aftermarket sales. The company rolled out its $1,500 DNX7180 Navigation/Multimedia Receiver, which features navigation from Garmin, including Lane Assist with Junction View. A built-in free feature is the Navteq Live Traffic for the life of the product.
  • Location Labs’ new Safely line of services include phone controls to allow parents to lock kids’ phones, a family locator, a teen phone lock during drives that is available on Sprint and T-Mobile phones, and a social monitor for Facebook.
  • Like TomTom’s discontinuation of the Tele Atlas name, Nokia has basically done away with the Navteq company name, though many in the industry still say “Navteq” when talking about the mapping side of the business.
  • There was an LBS and Safety Zone at CES that was in a terrible area in the back of North Hall. While there was a lot of foot traffic, looks like smaller and international companies were thrown in the back — not near the bigger auto players which would have generated more attention to the booths/companies. Overall, CES is more of a connected vehicle show than LBS…a change that has been happening for two years.


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About the Author:

Kevin Dennehy is GPS World’s editor for location-based services, writing a monthly column for the LBS Insider newsletter. Dennehy has been writing about the location industry for more than 20 years. He covered GPS and location technology for Global Positioning & Navigation News for seven years. His articles on the wireless industry have been published in both consumer and trade magazines and newspapers.

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