Does Automobile as Ultimate Mobile Device Include LBS?

June 9, 2011  - By

As touchscreens get larger in vehicles, so does the thought that location-based services should be included. At the Telematics Detroit 2011 conference, while most industry observers say that some sort of advertising will soon be in every vehicle, not everyone is sold on having advertising flashed to drivers as they go by a business.


NOVI, Mich. — While the automobile may become the ultimate mobile communication device, it remains to be seen how big a role location-based services will play in this new development, said an analyst here at the Telematics Detroit 2011 conference.

“We have been looking into LBS for 10 years. The idea of driving by a store and getting a coupon is one that [consumers are] cool to. There is a big privacy issue that may backfire on companies,” said Thilo Koslowski, Gartner vice president. “In our studies, social networking still scores low for the average car consumer. The people who are buying cars are not thinking about Twitter while driving their cars — though the numbers are higher among younger drivers. Navigation is still the top feature that consumers want.”

Because of larger screens going into many vehicles, LBS seems like a natural advertising fit, but Koslowski says it will be more along traditional display-type marketing models.

Koslowsi said the biggest competition the auto industry has is the smartphone or other consumer mobile device. “We will see growth in vehicle application on the Android platform, while Apple will be leveling off. [Research in Motion] will have a lower share.”

The risk for auto manufacturers is getting too many gadgets and applications into a car. “There is a lot of risk, and hype, when manufacturers try to get too much into a vehicle. Consumers will expect certain connectivity features in the future,” Koslowski said. “Many of these innovations will occur, for the premium brands, in 2013 — that’s just around the corner in automotive years.”

Overall, Koslowski says telematics vendors and automakers should balance their priorities and opportunities. “They should seek new partnership models and strive for controlled openness [of systems], which means not complete control. The automobile will emerge as the ultimate mobile device,” he said. “There are several challenges about the connected vehicle. It is too expensive — not a must-have for consumers. Manufacturers have an unrealistic expectation.”

One of the companies wanting to get its services into a vehicle, Verizon Wireless, showcased its “Rule the Road” initiative at the conference. Rule the Road, which leverages the 4G and LTE networks, features a suite of services such as Wi-Fi hotspots, vehicle diagnostics, navigation, and traffic and safety/security.

“What you can and can’t do [in a vehicle] are important. Most navigation systems have long wait times to reroute; in the LTE world, traffic date and rerouting are immediate,” said Janet Schijns, Verizon Wireless vice president, business solutions group, who previously worked at Intel and Motorola’s enterprise group. “The car is the most powerful mobile device.”

Schijns says the car will be a great mobile communications device because owners are more loyal to it than another consumer product. “The average person used to own a computer for five years — that time continues to be reduced. They are less loyal to their mobile devices,” she said. “But people are loyal to their cars. They are the longest-life mobile device.”

Manufacturers continue to innovate and roll out products tailored to the automotive telematics market. CSR made several announcements, and exhibited, at Telematics Detroit.

One of its products, the SiRFstarIV GPS engine (GSD4e 9500), features active jammer removal technology that precludes in-band interference in cars.

“It’s the same receiver adopted by Samsung on their Galaxy mobile phones,” said Lars Boeryd, CSR director of automotive marketing.

CSR also said that Renesas Electronics Corp. adopted its location and connectivity hardware for its automotive infotainment platform. The company also is tailoring its CSR6000 Wi-Linx to automotive manufacturers to turn cars into rolling Wi-Fi hotspots, which seemed to be a big deal during sessions here.

M2M Constitutes Large Location Market

One bright spot in the whole location market is the burgeoning machine-to-machine segment. Some of the numbers are big: 4.4 million MRM units deployed by 250,000 companies, said Clem Driscoll, CJ Driscoll & Associates founder, in his annual presentation at Telematics Detroit.

Driscoll still believes that the Contran 245 Brazil law that requires every new vehicle in that country to have a GPS-enabled system will be huge for the industry. However, he concedes that the South American country has been slow to implement this law.

Trucking fleet markets, which have been in the doldrums since a 2008-2009 slump, may be heading back toward profitability because of new government regulations that require electronic onboard monitoring recorders, or EOBRs, Driscoll said. “These simple EOBRs will be in the $300-$500 range,” he said.

Kore Wireless Group, which exhibited at Telematics Detroit, said they bought Melbourne-based Mach Communications Pty Ltd., a wireless M2M network provider. “The growth in the Asia-Pacific market is going to triple. We wanted to have a solid presence in that area,” said Pete West, Kore Telematics business development manager.

Kore, which partners with Vodaphone and Iridium, is looking at such future M2M markets as insurance and health-care diagnostic monitoring, West said.

Another M2M company, Telenor Connexion, announced that it had partnered with Italy-based Octo Telematics, which specializes in telematics services and systems for the insurance and automotive market. “The company has seen aggressive growth, particularly in emerging countries in Eastern Europe. In Europe, the market is pay-as-you-drive. It’s a progressive way for building new customer segments that did not want restrictions in Europe,” said Per Lindberg, Telenor Connexion global business development executive.

Telenor Connexion, which has a long-established relationship with Volvo Trucks and many other companies, now builds its own M2M platforms.

In other conference news:

  • Overused conference word alert! The word “experience,” as in “driving experience,” or “consumer experience,” is way overused. Just like the 1990s’ “value-added” and ”best-of-breed” or “solution” (instead of product). A prominent wireless exec used the word “experience” more than a dozen times in her 40-minute presentation.
  • Telematics Detroit 2011 had a big crowd, which was not bad in a so-so economy in a remote location.

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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