AUTOMOTIVE MULTIMEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

Detailed system and semiconductor demand analysis for in-vehicle infotainment, telematics and vehicle-device connectivity features.

October 10, 2010 09:10 rlanctot
Europe is one of the most competitive markets for traffic data and TomTom claims pan-European market leadership by virtue of its HD Traffic solution. The power of HD Traffic lies in its use of cell signaling data to identify traffic jams and notify drivers who may need to be rerouted or who may want to change their driving plans completely. This analyst is a big fan of HD Traffic, having used it in recent European travels, but the company makes a claim in its latest press announcements that raise questions about HD Traffic even as they call attention to the power of the solution. Taken along with TomTom’s Traffic Manifesto (http://bit.ly/9IHHDj) one wonders if the company is more interested in bravado than actually advancing the art and science of properly interpreting traffic data. It is no small feat for TomTom to be such a standout player in the European market. There are multiple market players in Europe with GPS probe-based solutions, cell signaling solutions and all manner of offerings based on public, private, historic and real-time data “algorithmed” into elegant predictive models. And new predictive models and routing schemes seem to emerge on a regular basis. But TomTom was first on the continent with a multi-country cell signaling solution – HD Traffic – and the company has had it in devices and in use for more than two years with admirable results. Competitors, most notably iTIS Holdings in the cell signaling space, and Nokia Navteq and Inrix with probe-based solutions, are threatening, but the TomTom HD Traffic solution, thus far, remains dominant. All three competitors also integrate other real-time and historical traffic data. At the Paris Auto Show two weeks ago, TomTom announced the release of its next generation traffic data system across Europe. Called HD Traffic 4.0, TomTom says it is the first pan-European solution to use historic, real-time and predictive traffic data to deliver the most accurate traffic navigation available. While there are other traffic providers in Europe that use cell signaling data and similar data sources and types as TomTom, the company remains the only one with its scope of market coverage and with a commercially available retail product. The company says HD Traffic 4.0 covers more of the road network and reports traffic jams with more accuracy, giving drivers the most precise traffic information in Europe. The company says existing HD Traffic customers “will experience the benefits immediately, without the need for any software upgrade.” But at this point in the TomTom press release, the company introduces a bit of murk that both shines a light on its technology and raises questions. TomTom says its real-time and predictive traffic technology “now detects traffic jams that other services are unable to:”“HD Traffic 4.0 reports traffic jams with higher accuracy, reporting up to 200% more traffic jams during rush hours than previously, in particular on urban roads.” –TomTom press release. This claim raises a host of questions about the relative merits of cell signaling data and the very definition of a traffic jam or the quality and accuracy of congestion detection. The critical determining evaluative criterion both academically (see BMW’s Qkz traffic quality standard methodology) and intuitively is: Does this traffic solution detect what I am or what I, as a driver, may experience/perceive/consider to be “congestion?” Cell signaling data, based on triangulation of handset signal strength, is some of the most powerful available traffic data for reasons related to the ubiquity of handsets and the universality of cell signaling. Anyone with a mobile handset that is within range of a cell tower is automatically transmitting location data, which can be interpolated from the cell signals. While advocates of probe data are quick to point out the low level of accuracy of this signal interpolation – perhaps as poor as 100-200 meters – suppliers continue to refine their models and algorithms. The proof is in the pudding. AirSage in the U.S., TrafficCast in China, IntelliOne in Toronto, Cellint in Israel and TomTom and iTIS Holdings in Europe have all produced usable and commercially available traffic flow solutions based on cell signaling. (In fact, the data is not just used in traffic solutions for drivers it is also used in urban planning and in the selection of locations for billboards, stores and cell towers, among numerous other applications.) In contrast, handset GPS probe data not only requires the presence of a GPS module in the handset, but also requires the user to turn the GPS receiver on. The rapid battery consumption of GPS modules guarantees that GPS based solutions, though more accurate, will necessarily be based on a smaller data set.In this context the TomTom claim breaks down two ways. Either TomTom is claiming that it is capable of detecting 3X more (+200%) traffic/congestion incidents than competing solutions on THE SAME roads, or it is claiming to detect 3X more traffic/congestion incidents because its roadway coverage is broader. Further, it appears that the claim is associated with HD Traffic 4.0, which is most likely an enhancement of the existing data interpretation algorithm. Since TomTom appears to be mainly concerned with detecting jams on major roadways, the claim is clearly associated with detecting 3X as many jams on those roads as the competition. The fundamental problem with this claim is that it exposes the single weakest aspect of cell signaling data: FALSE POSITIVES. Because of the combination of the huge volume and low accuracy of cell signaling data, the technology has always been prone to generating false positives. False positives are indications of traffic jams that, in fact, do not exist and are actually misinterpretations of the cell signaling – ie. parked cars mistaken for a jam. In this analysts’ experience, TomTom devices identify multiple jams on the roadway ahead (something not all technologies or devices are able to do) which, more often than not, disappear before the driver arrives at the identified location. In other words, it is not clear whether the multiple congestion points being reported ever really existed. Other detection technologies are equally vulnerable to false positives, but it is the volume of data and the number of false positives that uniquely distinguishes cell signaling-based solutions. To look at the TomTom claim with an even more cynical eye, it is possible to suggest that TomTom simply changed its definition of an accident in order to claim a threefold increase in reported jams. BMW’s Qkz traffic quality standard uses 50Km/h as a measure of congestion detection accuracy. If the standard were raised to 60Km/h, the number of detected points of congestion would increase in a corresponding fashion. TomTom wants to get drivers to their destinations faster by helping them avoid jams. The company claims a 15% improvement in travel time based on its technology. It is time for TomTom to close the gap in logic and explain more precisely and honestly how it is achieving travel time improvements, if it is in fact doing so. By now, most drivers know from painful experience that traffic, like a balloon, is a zero sum game – squeeze it on one side and it simply bulges out the other. It would be good to know whether TomTom’s claims are something more than hot air. Additional insights:http://tinyurl.com/2bz9zq6 - Google, Nokia and New Entrant Positioning in Automotive Infotainment - Lanctot – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service http://bit.ly/dniNxa - Navigation Heuristic Evaluation: Telmap5 – Schreiner – Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/95NCoW - Automotive DMB Digital Radio: Marketing Strategies an Increasing Priority – Blight – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service http://bit.ly/dtRE5C - Automotive Telematics Services: Shifts in Pricing and Monetization Expected – Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service http://bit.ly/bwdwcW - Connected Vehicle and Vehicle Device Connectivity System Database by Feature, Region, and Price 2010 – Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service http://bit.ly/d0aLhq - Connected Vehicle Telematics: Car Maker Profiles – Canali – Aumotive Multimedia and Communications Service http://bit.ly/deumcd -# Traffic Data Quality Will Determine #Telematics Winners - Lanctot - blog - Strategy Analytics

October 6, 2010 16:10 rlanctot
TomTom’s marketing machine was in overdrive last week with announcements of a new OEM relationship (Mazda) and advances with existing partners (Toyota, Renault), enhancements to its (European) market-leading traffic solution (HD Traffic) and a traffic manifesto. But undoing all that positive spin was the note that the company still wants to charge about $50/year for its Live Services. It looks like TomTom didn’t get the latest email about automotive value propositions. As connectivity comes to more vehicles, drivers (and passengers) will get more of their content and services from the “cloud.” What this means is that car makers will increasingly have in place systems for sending, receiving, processing and managing all types of vehicle data – the “back end.” (This is not unlike what is happening at your average NASCAR or Formula One event every weekend – without the parking space availability and Internet radio.) The value of this data is manifest to the car makers for better understanding the performance of their vehicles on the road as well as better understanding how consumers use and abuse their cars. The implications for cost avoidance, warranty and recall management are in the millions of dollars of savings. There is no immediate or obvious benefit to the driver. For this reason, this kind of vehicle connectivity ought to be free. (On the other hand, OnStar and others have demonstrated that people will pay for safety and security.) As more drivers shift to smartphones (with mandatory data plans) with access to a wide range of content and services, they will be less likely to pay for any service from the car (or PND) maker that is available for free (or for which they are already paying) via their mobile phone. So how is the industry (and TomTom) going to monetize all this connectivity? Enter the back end value proposition. Auto makers and Tier Ones have gotten the message and recognize that driver and passenger eyeballs and “click-throughs” have value. A driver asking for directions to a restaurant or movie has economic value. A system that knows the location of the driver has value. Beyond this, a system that is able to provide a broader “cloud” perspective of all location-related activity – including everything from prosaic traffic information to “heat” maps of gatherings of people, weather, etc. – has other value-add implications for drivers, passengers and roadway systems and public transportation overall. But in the short-term, vehicle related information for diagnostics, safety and entertainment take priority. Continental, Harman, Visteon, Delphi and Pioneer clearly understand this. All of these companies have introduced systems or platforms that seek to leverage vehicle location information for commercial opportunities. Even Best Buy’s connected PND delivered sponsored links in its Google Search. Unfortunately, Tier Ones face an uphill struggle in trying to get a piece of this action. The telematics eco-system consists mainly of a telematics service provider (ie. ATX), a carrier (ie. Sprint or Verizon) and a system integrator (ie. TCS). Each of these operators is interested in the other’s business – with the possible exception of the call center. (No one wants the call center hot potato – too much cost.) While the call center tends to be shunned, the data back end tends to be either misunderstood or underestimated. But the back end system is rapidly becoming the backbone of the system altering the competitive landscape. The power and influence of back end systems is visible to the consumer in the growing variety of free content and services via smartphones. Google probably has the largest back end system currently influencing developments in the automotive market. With its free navigation, traffic and search and an open source operating system, Google has rattled the industry mightily over the past two years. Carriers, meanwhile, are trying to fight there way in – not content to be simply white label suppliers of bandwidth. Among the carriers sniffing around the telematics back end opportunity are Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Telenor, Orange, AT&T Mobility, Vodafone and Ericsson. All of these companies recognize that their servers are as valuable as their networks. Some of these companies fancy themselves Tier One players. At least three handset makers have the potential to rise to the Google challenge: Nokia, Apple and RIM. Like Google, Nokia is offering free navigation while also seeding the market with open source development tools (Qt), operating system softare (MeeGo) and smartphone connectivity technology (Terminal Mode). But Nokia remains ambivalent about the automotive opportunity. MeeGo is not ready for market and Ovi has not been designed for automotive opportunities. RIM brings a unique value proposition combining its smartphone system experience with its newly acquired QNX automotive expertise. RIM represents the most immediate threat to Google’s potential dominance in the automotive market because of its potential to deploy navigation and traffic applications (based on handset probe data) and its ability to monitor, manage and mine its network data traffic. Apple’s strength lies in its secure systems for managing commerce for downloading applications and enabling the purchase of content. For these reasons, Apple and RIM both have the scope and scale to add value to automotive opportunities. The massive giveaway of content and services by both Google and Nokia is a setup for capturing click-through traffic and back end processing opportunities for creating metrics and analytic output. Google already has the analytic tools in place, unlike Nokia. The current landscape for back end services is highly fragmented and includes companies such as TeleNav, Airbiquity, Hitachi, TeleCommunications Systems, Hughes Telematics, WirelessCar, Oracle and IBM, along with the previously mentioned wireless carriers, RIM and Apple. (Strangely, Microsoft seems to have disqualified itself – having disbanded its automotive business unit. The original vision defined by Microsoft at multiple industry events included integrating more and more Microsoft solutions such as Bing, Tellme, and Silverlight into automotive platforms, but the complete vision – including back end services – never materialized. The one exception to this no-show for Microsoft are the company's ongoing efforts to capitalize on the Bing search engine.) The value proposition of back end service providers revolves around secure management and processing of vehicle and driver data for applications ranging from vehicle performance and safety to content and infotainment and, ultimately, commerce opportunities. Neither OEMs nor Tier Ones are equipped to manage this opportunity and traditional telematics providers lack the scale. The lack of scale is one reason Airbiquity has partnered with Hitachi to service Nissan’s connectivity needs around the world. It is likely that companies such as Hughes and TeleNav will seek partnerships with larger integrators such as IBM or Oracle for the same reason. Nokia, like RIM, already has the scope and scale and like Apple already has the commerce platform (Ovi) but, unlike Apple, has done little beyond the introduction of terminal mode to optimize its offerings for automotive. TomTom is another player in need of a partner to provide the scope and scale necessary to compete in the connected space. The larger organizations that are able to monetize the connectivity proposition will force out smaller players dependent on subscription revenue. If TomTom can enhance its navigation and infotainment platform to include safety and security telematics, it will greatly improve its value proposition and the likelihood of building a devoted subscriber base. Conclusion Google and RIM are best positioned to leverage the back end data processing opportunity presented by the automotive industry. Google faces trepidation among potential OEM customers who are suspicious of the company’s motives and objectives. Google’s failure to validate its Android OS for automotive applications is another stumbling block. Nokia has discrete elements of a solution in place but so far lacks the commitment and execution to challenge either Google or RIM. Apple is a wild card player in a market that remains fragmented with the door open to new entrants. Microsoft's Bing search engine is another contender gaining traction, but, in the end, Microsoft is more of an arms supplier to the contesting parties. Winners in the battle for the back end will be those companies able to bring security and state-of-the-art analytics and commerce management to the automotive industry. Google knows analytics. RIM knows security and network management. It remains to be seen whether Nokia or some dark horse will step forward to challenge these two dominant players, but the race is on. Additional Insight: http://bit.ly/c0OLhT - Consumer Implications for Smartphone-Vehicle Connectivity  - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/c1nvTq - Consumer Interest High for Connected Safety and Security Services - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/aGJHDj - Smartphone Market Evolution and the Automotive Opportunity Implications -Fitzgerald - Automotive Multimedia & Communications

September 22, 2010 22:09 rlanctot
IntelliDrive, the USDOT program intended to create intelligent highways, stands at the crossroads of major funding and deployment decisions but may be overlooking a solution capable of realizing the smart roadways dream in the twinkling of an eye – relative to current timelines. To do so, though, may mean setting aside, for now 5.9GHz DSRC technology in favor of a technology most recently associated with bad driving behavior. Smartphones and the cellular network hold the key to the deployment of wireless systems and services capable of revolutionizing automotive safety and achieving the dream of safe connected highway systems. This goal can be achieved through opt-in solutions that provide for the sharing of device data and could serve as a transitional technology between existing systems and the DSRC technologies not likely to be deployed for another 5-10 years. Alternatively, the government could step in with its regulatory and legislative powers and mandate the provisioning of cellular data transmissions for connected vehicle communications. (Such a scheme was described to me by an ITS America member at the recent Distracted Driving event in Washington, DC. The executive asked to remain anonymous because his proposal may actually be at odds with the short-term interests of his employer.) So cellular technology, which is already part of the IntelliDrive vision along with DSRC and Wi-Fi, can be used as a transitional alternative to DSRC on a voluntary or involuntary basis. (DSRC is universally preferred for safety applications because of its low lacency.) On the involuntary side, concept is to require smartphones to share their location data and to be used for the reception of targeted emergency or road sign messages. The proposition involves a monthly charge to the subscriber of approximately 10 cents – not unlike the current eight-cent charge for mandated 911 calling on mobile phones – to cover the cost of the first 500Kb of monthly data use on the phone for ITS purposes. (It is worth noting as an aside that Wi-Fi technology has already been pioneered – notably by Dash Navigation – as a V2V technology for communicating highway and traffic conditions. With Wi-Fi technology proliferating on smartphones it will not be long before this same capability emerges in the handset space.) Confronted with this opportunity opponents are quick to note the privacy and liability concerns associated with cellular (and Wi-Fi) technology and the need for, at the very least, an opt in mechanism. The bottom line is that these concerns are not insurmountable and a mandated system is feasible. Opening up a data channel on all phones for location data and automatic crash notifications (transmit) and in-vehicle messaging (receive) will open the door to wide adoption of telematics technology and achieve the goal of connecting vehicles to the infrastructure, in-vehicle messaging and to emergency services. The business models to support the service rationale are not unlike those for RDS-TMC, 911 and 511 services, which means this solution is designed to be low cost but still requires some third party support from private companies. The barriers to be overcome are numerous and include – inter-carrier cooperation, the creation of a data clearinghouse for processing and filtering data, and the creation of a broadcast mechanism most likely via multiple private entities. Achieving comprehensive deployment on mobile phones will also require federal legislative and regulatory action. Because the mobile phone-based system will pay for itself while also taking advantage of ubiquitous handset technology and the cellular network it has massive advantages over the proposed DSRC-based system. The 5.9GHz DSRC technology will require BOTH auto maker support for an added module and antenna AND a huge deployment of transmitters and receivers along roadsides and the corresponding data processing infrastructure. DSRC is inevitable, but why must the driving public wait for a solution that will save lives. If the mandated approach is too onerous, then it is more or less left to private enterprise to implement their own prove networks along the lines of Waze and the CloudMade communities which are multiplying around the world. These emerging networks have the capability to bring these services to market almost immediately. More importantly the proliferation of OBDII connections (admittedly using wireless communication protocols claimed by Hughes Telematics) means smartphones are also capable of communicating vehicle sensor and camera data, further enhancing the value of the proposed systems. The proliferation of low-cost sensor and camera systems means there is a wealth of available inputs such a system can put to work to enhance safety, reduce congestion and hazardous driving conditions, and improve the overall driving experience. In fact, the proliferation of smartphones and inexpensive cameras and sensors are rapidly combining to mitigate the demand for the IntelliDrive DSRC vision. Consumers and industry representatives may discover after the implementation of a smartphone based network sharing vehicle and sensor data and communicating traffic conditions, the incremental enhancement of DSRC deployment is unnecessary. The concept also suggests that those car makers with embedded systems should be able to gain an advantage from having more direct and complete control of the user experience. And those car makers with existing probe networks will gain the first-mover advantage of having a larger volume of inputs to process for the benefit of their subscribers. Facilitating the implementation of this vision will be the rapid development and deployment of handset connectivity technology. From terminal mode to Delphi’s D-Connect and Apple’s iPod out, the technology is rapidly falling into place – alongside OBDII communications and sensor proliferation to facilitate the communication of traffic and other urgent messages to primary and secondary displays in the car. In fact, the mobile phone industry is facing the prospect of a handset FM receiver mandate that will create yet another pathway for communicating information into the vehicle either via the on-board radio or via the mobile phone. The handset FM mandate is intended mainly for the transmission of emergency alerts, but will also enable regular FM transmissions. Conclusion: The concept of using mobile phones and cellular technology to supplant or serve as a transitional solution to the proposed DSRC network for V2X communications is radical and lacks an advocate as a mandate but is already emerging as a voluntary solution in the form of discreet smartphone applications and related user communities. The mandate path is likely to die since the very companies that most recognize its value – those with currently deployed embedded telematics systems  - have the most to lose from its implementation. Other market participants such as content and applications providers and even telecommunications carriers may also be opposed to a mandated proposition as it threatens existing business models and relationships. But all parties are beginning to recognize the mobile phone as the key to solving multiple safety challenges in the vehicle. Whether anticipating hazardous intersections (Global Mobile Alert) or sharing probe data (Waze, TrafficTalk) the smartphone has established its credentials as a safety device. The phone also benefits from the support of a rich developer community rapidly moving smartphone technology into realms not previously foreseen. Additional Insights: http://bit.ly/aWhNuC - Automotive Sensor Demand Forecast 2008 to 2017: Global Economic Rebound Sparks Growth - Mark Fitzgerald - Automotive Electronics Service http://bit.ly/9QCIVw - Automotive Sensor Demand Forecast 2008 to 2017: Global Economic Rebound Sparks Growth - Datatables - Mark Fitzgerald - Automotive Electronics Service http://bit.ly/c0OLhT - Consumer Implications for Smartphone-Vehicle Connectivity  - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/c1nvTq - Consumer Interest High for Connected Safety and Security Services - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights

September 17, 2010 10:09 rlanctot
Mid-week thunderstorms in Detroit appeared to be Mother Nature’s comment on momentous industry events, but it was Harman International that stole OnStar’s thunder with its announced acquisition of Aha Mobile. While OnStar celebrated its 15th anniversary by announcing plans to offer voice-enabled access to text messages and Facebook, Harman’s Aha Mobile acquisition introduces the prospect of the first cloud-based telematics solution. The timing of the two announcements was extraordinary in juxtaposing two very different visions of the future of telematics. It showed OnStar still struggling to create a solution capable of stimulating organic consumer demand, while Harman is showing the way toward a platform capable of responding to and moving with changing consumer requirements. The Harman announcement also defined a third path – different than both the dominant OnStar embedded and Ford Sync connected solutions. It is a path likely to rapidly attract adherents and converts – especially given Harman’s command of the high-end infotainment market. The greatest challenge facing the telematics industry is the inability to get consumers to pay for additional subscription services. This shortcoming is manifest in the free months and years of service that are offered to prospective telematics subscribers and the corresponding retention rates of, at most, 50%. The free service is a lie, of course, since the system cost is already baked into the price of the vehicle. But the proposition is described to the customer as a giveaway, which has multiple negative connotations. As a giveaway, the telematics service is immediately perceived as either not having any value OR as something the customer will not normally request and be willing to pay for. This is a very shaky foundation for any industry. In fact, giving away anything is usually the first step toward that product or service being discontinued – with the possible exception of navigation. A good example of this phenomenon is satellite radio vs. Internet radio. Satellite radio continues to be subsidized by the service provider with a free subscription period for the consumer. The high cost of the service and hardware is masked by the supplier’s subsidies, but the cost remains and it is because of this cost that satellite radio is increasingly a consumer-selectable option or is no longer offered on a growing proportion of cars. In contrast, the millions of users of Internet radio services have demonstrated that they will go out of their way and pay handsomely for the privilege of accessing this service. Car makers and carriers could not kill consumer demand for Internet radio even if they wanted to. The fact that satellite radio is subsidized and offered “free” to the consumer is a long-term predictor of failure. The automotive telematics industry faces this same prospect every day. Rare is the Mercedes, BMW, GM or Toyota customer that crosses the dealer threshold requesting telematics services. In fact, dealers are hesitant to mention these services because of the occasional customer that might want the system removed from the car! (Don’t believe everything you read about OnStar’s claimed influence over GM vehicle purchases. Those messages are coming from OnStar, not GM.) It is in this context that OnStar announced the prospective capability for drivers using the Gen 9 system to receive audio Facebook updates and to receive and send text messages. The group also announced what it described as a platform offering the “potential for open development.” The focus on Facebook showed OnStar reaching out for an application that will offer users daily relevance – something missing from run of the mill safety and security applications. But this laser focus on a single application misses the greater goal of enabling GM customers to safely access any application they may desire. OnStar scores big points for identifying the most popular application within its target demographic, but what it misses is the ethos of that customer base which is freedom and personalization. This is where Harman scores with its Aha Mobile acquisition. While OnStar is testing and recruiting university students to cook up creative application concepts, Aha Mobile has already created a cloud-based location aware platform purpose-built for automotive environments, that is voice-enabled, traffic-data enhanced and ready for integration into automotive solutions. More important, the Aha Mobile strategy is to rapidly deploy application programming interfaces to enable the latest applications regardless of what they may be. In other words, it isn’t all about Facebook. Aha Mobile’s success is built on a portfolio of content and applications delivered in a manner suitable and responsive to the user. There are other Aha Mobile-like platforms, such as Aloqa, representing the latest wave of cloud-based aggregation solutions. But Harman’s acquisition, coming on the heels of 18 months worth of divestitures of divisions, facilities and personnel, reflects its importance in the context of a telematics market seeking that elusive objective: organic consumer demand. It will be interesting to see which Harman client is able to push to the front of the line to deploy the Aha Mobile solution: BMW, Mercedes, Chrysler, Toyota, PSA, Volkswagen, Audi or Hyundai. Might OnStar be interested in deploying Aha Mobile? What about Ford? With the acquisition of this tiny start-up Harman may breathe life into a telematics industry in desperate need of a marketing lift. Additional insights: http://bit.ly/bUoJKc - Consumer Implications for Smartphone-Vehicle Connectivity - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/c0OLhT - Consumer Interest High for Connected Safety and Security Services - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/aLtrF7 - Google, Nokia and New Entrant Positioning in Automotive Infotainment - Lanctot - Automotive Multimedia & Communications http://bit.ly/d0aLhq - Connected Vehicle Telematics: Car Maker Profiles - John Canali - Automotive Multimedia & Communications Service

September 10, 2010 14:09 rlanctot
In these times of economic travail it’s hard to believe that car makers are leaving money on the table, but they are and they have for many years. With car makers and carriers wailing about how to get consumers to pay for content and services a very obvious multi-million dollar (Euro?, Yen?) opportunity for add-on business for dealers and for the OEMs themselves has been left undisturbed – and Roadside Telematics has the answer. The amazing thing is that Roadside Telematics has been around beating a drum for its RoadMedic solution for more than 10 years – adding endorsements and winning awards – but failing to achieve much OEM recognition beyond Ford and Kia. The interesting thing is that this telematics solution requires no box, no call center, no fancy wireless connection, but it does require a smidgen of customer consent and a communications link to the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS) – the same communications network leveraged by LoJack and OnStar for their stolen vehicle solutions. The beautiful thing about RoadMedic is that it solves an age old problem for dealer and car maker alike: how to capture the crash parts and vehicle replacement business opportunity from new and existing customers that have gotten into accidents. A damaged or totaled car can mean a lot of things to a dealer, the vehicle owner or the car maker. A damaged or totaled car can mean a chance to sell a new car or repair an existing car (still under a lease or other financing) with genuine, authorized parts. It can also mean the opportunity to provide roadside assistance and/or a loaner vehicle both of which services are already provided for in existing warranties or OEM sponsored roadside assistance plans, though the customer may not realize it. In others words, it is a customer service opportunity. The primary purpose of the RoadMedic solution, as made clear by its name, is to deliver emergency contact information to police officers responding to accident scenes. The problem is that due to a wide range of circumstances the amount of time that elapses, on average in the U.S., before family members can be notified is six hours. Roadside Telematics has secured the support and assistance of the American Association of State Highway and Traffic Officials along with a variety of other health and safety affiliated organizations including: HIMSS, IEEE, AHIMA, IHE, CCHIT, HITSP and GHSA to encourage the OEMs to collaborate and cooperate on the development and deployment of a nationwide emergency contact locator system, like RoadMedic. RoadMedic allows dealers to reach out to customers, with their consent and at their request, in the event of accidents to provide necessary services thereby strengthening the brand message. It’s a patented business proposition that Roadside Telematics calls “reverse retailing.”  The Roadside business model is dependent upon customers providing their emergency contact information at the dealership point of sale. The business model calls for OEMs to pay Roadside Telematics on a per-vehicle basis which is included in the wholesale delivered price to the dealership, similar to the existing business model for OEM sponsored roadside assistance.It is hard to believe, but in an age of proliferating vehicle connectivity, cars can automatically notify public authorities of an emergency situation, but there remains no provision for expediting a connection to family members or other designated emergency contacts. OnStar rolled out a system nearly 10 years ago with a partner called Global Med-Net. But the Med-Net solution – customer endorsements of which are still visible on the company’s Website – was fax based and overreached somewhat by trying to integrate medical information. The Roadside Telematics solution is officially characterized as handling health information in the form of emergency contacts. The Med-Net solution, in contrast, sought to include important medical history. This complicated the point-of-sale paperwork and when combined with the fax-based portion of the notification process proved fatal to the program. It was terminated in 2002. The Roadside solution will allow police officers using NLETS to tap into both the RoadMedic emergency contact database and DMV databases to locate appropriate emergency contacts – providing a critical customer service. In fact, it is an even more reliable service than existing embedded telematics systems or even mobile phones because the notification is based on the police look-up of the VIN# and not on an unpredictable carrier connection.But it is the accident aftercare opportunity that is most intriguing for dealers. A customer will be able to call the dealer for accident aftercare services such as towing or to obtain a replacement car. Today, most customers are provided a wallet-sized Roadside Assistance card which is often misplaced. Worse, the average customer does not even think of adding the roadside assistance card to their wallet or purse. At point of sale the customer can opt in for this accident aftercare and, in the event of an accident, the dealer will get an accident vehicle sales lead – which is where the patented reverse retailing model comes into play. The dealer then has the option to contact the customer to offer to repair the vehicle, with authorized parts, or replace it and/or to provide a loaner vehicle. Roadside Telematics estimates net average OEM results from RoadMedic implementation as rising from $5.5M to $23.4M over the first three years with corresponding revenue gains for dealers. Best of all, the philosophical objectives of the service fit well with the safety and security objectives of existing telematics sytems. Of course, there are also insurance implications to the Roadside Telematics proposition. There is no doubt that insurance companies will always want the earliest possible notification of an accident. The good news for insurance companies is that they are usually the first ones to get the call from a conscious driver, but in the event of a more severe accident they may not be contacted right away. Some car companies, most notably Kia Motors, have embraced the Roadside model, though none have implemented it. Ford conducted a test of concept in Texas in 2004 and Volvo has committed to a test in Los Angeles. Roadside’s goal is to see the system put in place globally and allows that a typical OEM might even seek to reach out to existing vehicle owners to implement the system retroactively, while dealers may want to apply the system to certified pre-owned cars. Conclusion: As someone who has bought four cars in the past 7-8 years and who continues to receive service notifications for cars I no longer own or that no longer exist (due to accident) this analyst sees a powerful business proposition for dealers, OEMs and insurance companies. As a dealer, I want to know when my customer needs a loaner or replacement car or maybe even a repair. As a vehicle insurer, I want to know when that vehicle, that may not yet be paid for, is damaged or destroyed and/or when and if the driver is injured. In fact, if the vehicle is going to be repaired, I will want it repaired with genuine parts. As an OEM, I don't want to lose a customer who may have lost their vehicle entirely. Clearly, car makers, insurers and  dealers can all agree on the RoadMedic value proposition - the public authorities already have.

September 1, 2010 17:09 rlanctot
When IBM had the personal computer industry in a headlock, the company was able to freeze customers’ plans to purchase competing PCs by releasing fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) in the marketplace. It achieved this goal by announcing its own plans for new products 6-12 months in advance. Sirius XM used its earnings call earlier this month for the same purpose, announcing plans for Satellite Radio 2.0 for Q4 2011. The difference, of course, is that Sirius XM does not control the market for broadcast radio content. In fact, the company is facing competitive pressures from both terrestrial and Internet-based sources. Further diminishing the Satellite Radio 2.0 gambit, is the declining portion of Sirius XM’s revenue and unit volume coming from retail, aftermarket devices. (According to estimates from the Consumer Electronics Association, satellite radio sales to dealers fell to $64M in 2009, with declines forecasted through 2013.) Sirius XM executives stated in the Q2 earnings call plans for the launch of the XM 5 satellite in October and the launch of Sirius 6 in Q4 2011. Also due to arrive in Q4 2011 is the newly touted Satellite Radio 2.0. Sirius XM execs said that SR 2.0 will offer consumers greater capacity and more functionality – both enhancements are intended to stimulate average revenue per user (ARPU). These same execs noted that no additional satellite launches will occur for several years, setting the stage for improved cashflow and profitability. In addition to the satellite and service launches late next year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) limitations on Sirius XM subscriptions will end in August 2011. All of these indicators are positive for Sirius XM except for the fact that competition has intensified. With the FCC limitations removed, Sirius XM will have a much broader scope of subscription options given the 150+ range of stations to choose from. SR 2.0 promises even more ARPU upside with added channel content and, as Sirius XM execs clearly indicated in their earnings call, a wider use of data for telematics and other applications. It is interesting to hear Sirius XM getting excited about telematics as a potential ARPU contributor, and it is an indication that the company is moving in the right direction and recognizes the shortcomings of the existing service. It is also, no doubt, a response to competitive pressures from HD Radio and Internet radio. The question is whether or not this awakening at Sirius XM is coming too late to matter. HD Radio technology is proliferating as more OEMs adopt the technology and more radio stations join the burgeoning ranks of participating broadcasters. HD Radio is appealing since it operates over the same FM frequencies, though requiring some additional hardware, and it is free. At the same time, more and more OEMs are lining up music service solutions such as Pandora along with Internet radio - via smartphone connectivity in the short-term and embedded solutions in the long run. The success of Pandora is a testament to that company’s ability to deliver a solution that is able to integrate seamlessly with automotive systems. Competitor Slacker’s content-caching music service is not less compelling, but OEMs have not found integration to be nearly as simple. Still, the tide that is lifting Pandora's boat will likely benefit other music services and Internet radio providers, such as ClearChannel's IHeartRadio. The timing and manner of Sirius XM's announcement of Satellite Radio 2.0 suggests that Sirius XM is attempting to prevent OEM defections to HD Radio, music service solutions or Internet radio. OEMs are in the process of making decisions today that will impact vehicle platforms four and five years hence. Sirius XM executives refused to explain exactly what SR 2.0 will be. But given the short launch window, it will no doubt arrive in the retail aftermarket first. The company is currently briefing OEMs regarding its confidential plans. Sirius XM has already lost momentum in the automotive market. Car makers (and aftermarket system makers) have shifted toward offering satellite radio as an option rather than as a standard feature. And both Sirius XM and its OEM customers are using subscription conversion data to determine which cars should and should not be offered with the service. This means that even though Sirius XM has been able to show subscriber gains in its past two quarters, rapid growth is a thing of the past and pales by comparison to the subscriber numbers of a Pandora or Slacker. On the earnings call Sirius XM execs said that availability of satellite radio technology in cars was at approximately 60% of car models with a paid subscription conversion rate of 47%. The company currently claims more than 19.5M subscribers and anticipates somewhat more than 20M by the end of the year. OEMs say that if it weren’t for their multi-year agreements with Sirius XM they might have walked away from the relationship a long time ago. (Several OEMs are also shareholders in Sirius XM.) This sour sentiment does not bode well for Sirius XM moving away from the subsidy model it maintains in the automotive market. This subsidy model also means that the cost of acquiring new subscribers – given the decline of retail satellite radio sales – will continue to rise as the balance between retail and OEM sales continues to shift toward subsidized OEM subs. Further clouding the otherwise rosy long-term outlook for Sirius XM is the mandated switchover to XM. OEMs currently offering Sirius satellite radio service have been told they will have to switch to XM by 2016. The honeymoon for Sirius XM is clearly over. The question now is whether SR 2.0 can save the store. Satellite Radio 2.0 There are three areas where SR 2.0 could help Sirius XM hold onto its existing subscribers while attracting new subscribers. Here are Strategy Analytics’ thoughts on what SR 2.0 will look like: Audio – Sirius XM faces its biggest audio challenge from Internet radio and music services generally and Pandora in particular. All of these services are paid and Internet radio has suffered a blow from the onset of tiered data plans limiting the use of such services. Nevertheless, OEMs have embraced Internet radio because of the powerful consumer demand and awareness – several times the user base of satellite radio and widely and easily accessed on multiple platforms without any additional hardware. The only solution Sirius XM can offer is more or better-targeted audio channels. Ironically, the more channels Sirius XM adds the more difficult it is to use. Expect Sirius XM to update its content search and save capabilities to better replicate an Internet radio experience. Sirius XM can also be expected to enhance its iPhone and iPod integration with song-tagging not unlike HD Radio’s capabilities. Expect Sirius XM to add additional capabilities, along the lines of what iBiquity Digital has been showing in HD Radio demos for the past 2-3 years. Enhancements are likely to include more artist, track, album information; album art; song duration; maybe even reviews or other metadata from suppliers such as Gracenote or Rovi. Traffic – For some reason Sirius’ traffic data services are not comparable to offerings from direct competitors such as ClearChannel’s RDS-TMC. Side-by-side comparisons conducted by this analyst of both XM NavTraffic and the Sirius traffic service have found them to be lacking in comparison to both PND and embedded solutions. The only good news for Sirius is that RDS-TMC is only offered standard by half a dozen car makers. Still, with the proliferation of HD Radio technology, Sirius will soon be up against TPEG traffic data content, putting it further behind the eight ball. Sirius must bring its traffic data services up to a competitive grade. Strangely, the company does not even use the same flow and incident sourcing between its data (Traffic.com) and broadcast traffic services (Westwood One). Expect Sirius XM to do something about the shortcomings in its traffic reporting. OEMs are definitely making comparisons between HD Radio and satellite radio traffic services and making critical long-term decisions. Expect major traffic data improvements in SR 2.0 including the implementation of a standard traffic database system – such as Gewi’s TIC 3 – and/or TPEG traffic information services. Only time will tell if the changes will be enough or will occur soon enough to preserve strong OEM relationships. Even more ominous for Sirius XM is the fact that more and more OEMs are building the cost of traffic into the cost of their vehicles. The $3.99/month traffic subscription for Sirius XM traffic data will not survive this process of commoditization - especially if the data quality is not competitive. Data – Sirius XM’s Travel Link service, offered by Ford, is an impressive voice-driven offering of content such as gas pricing, ski conditions, news, weather, and sports. Expect Sirius XM to bring this offering up to speed with a greater variety of content delivered with improved graphics. The competition here comes mainly in the form of smartphone solutions, so the challenge to compete is steep. Can Sirius XM breathe life into its retail aftermarket position with SR 2.0? Can the company preserve its standing with OEMs, which are more concerned with reducing costs and complexity? For now, Sirius XM is on a path to continue to build its subscriber base, enhance its service and reduce its operating expenses. But the future of the company hinges on whether car makers will continue to tune in beyond 2016. Further insight: http://tinyurl.com/2bz9zq6 - Google, Nokia and New Entrant Positioning in Automotive Infotainment - Lanctot – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service http://bit.ly/dniNxa - Navigation Heuristic Evaluation: Telmap5 – Schreiner – Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/95NCoW - Automotive DMB Digital Radio: Marketing Strategies an Increasing Priority – Blight – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service http://bit.ly/dtRE5C - Automotive Telematics Services: Shifts in Pricing and Monetization Expected – Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service http://bit.ly/bwdwcW - Connected Vehicle and Vehicle Device Connectivity System Database by Feature, Region, and Price 2010 – Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service http://bit.ly/d0aLhq - Connected Vehicle Telematics: Car Maker Profiles – Canali – Aumotive Multimedia and Communications Service

August 23, 2010 13:08 rlanctot
The gold standard for telematics success is daily relevance. One of the greatest challenges for companies introducing telematics systems and solutions is to bring daily relevance to their offerings. Human beings are creatures of habit, which means that driving directions are normally not required daily, gas pricing and parking choices are predetermined, and weather and news are available for free over the radio. Movie times, skiing conditions and restaurant reviews are nice to haves. But they are available from other sources – most notably mobile phones – and are an occasional not a daily information requirement. And we all hope we never have to use either automatic crash notification or roadside assistance. Traffic data, on the other hand, is something that is relevant five days a week to a substantial portion of the working public. Companies that get traffic data right have a huge competitive advantage not only in providing traffic data, but also for providing a wide range of data feeds and services. In fact, the very infrastructure required for delivering traffic data – storage and processing facilities and servers and, in some cases, broadcasting capability - is a suitable platform for providing other telematics services. For this reason, traffic data providers Inrix, ITIS Holdings, TomTom and Navteq also serve as content and service aggregators. (It is also one of the reasons for TeleCommunications Systems’ acquisition of Networks in Motion and why TeleNav has a content and services platform.) The opportunity to provide additional telematics services is the brass ring for which traffic data providers are reaching. It is for this reason these companies are seeking to bundle traffic data offerings with traffic-influenced routing, developing mobile apps for smartphones and connected navigation systems, and other initiatives focused on moving up the value chain – ultimately leading to sponsored content, reviews and location-aware advertising and promotion. The daily relevance of traffic data is a powerful elixir for delivering additional location-aware added-value services, including advertising. This is why Google, TeleNav, TCS, Nokia Navteq, RIM and TomTom are moving quickly to introduce or enhance their probe-based (handset GPS) traffic flow solutions to develop their telematics business. The winner(s) to emerge from this marketing scrum will be the company or companies with the highest quality traffic data. Traffic data quality, in turn, is determined by a handful of critical factors including data sources, integration, and delivery. (The quality and nature of the user interface is important as well, but is the responsibility of the device or service designer/manufacturer.) The determining factors within each of these areas are essential to understand: Sources: There are a handful of key sources of traffic data and they include commercial fleet (ie. taxi cabs, trucks, etc. and other types of probes such as GPS handsets, PNDs, etc.), regional departments of transport, embedded and roadside sensors, and incident or journalistic data. A handful of companies – principally TomTom, ITIS Holdings and AirSage - are translating cell tower signaling data for flow data analysis. This technology is currently deployed by both TomTom and ITIS in parts of Europe. ITIS licenses its technology to partners in Australia, Ireland, Russia, South Africa and Singapore. A North American solution has yet to be delivered. TomTom delivers its cellular flow data in HD Traffic for its connected devices in Europe, which still stands as one of the best, if not THE best, live traffic solution in the world. (It is worth noting that HD Traffic received low scores in BMW's QKZ evaluation.) Traffic flow data from these sources is valuable for many use cases and applications including showing traffic on a map and traffic-influenced routing. Journalistic data complements the flow data by providing context about the cause, location and scope of the traffic problem. This is particularly useful to receive as a traffic incident alert before leaving on a journey or to provide context when actually stuck in a traffic jam, as the driver generally can’t safely read a description about an incident while driving.Incident data come from public sources such as emergency responders, department of transportation traffic cameras, or public or private spotters that may be on the ground or observing traffic conditions from some form of aircraft. Much of incident data is public information – some of it freely available to the public - and most is freely available to commercial traffic information providers. There are some private sources, however, including radio and TV stations with their own spotters, cameras or sensors and these include companies such as ITIS Holdings, SmartRoute, Traffic.com and ClearChannel. ClearChannel and ITIS Holdings have emerged as the dominant suppliers of incident data in the U.S. and U.K., respectively. The two companies have the widest market coverage and the broadest roster of clients. Of course, operating a traffic incident collection and reporter network on a national basis (much less internationally) can be extremely expensive and unprofitable, and companies such as Westwood One and Traffic.com operate under the pressure of that expense. Not surprisingly, ClearChannel and ITIS are also distinguished in applying the so-called QKZ traffic quality assessment standards to their solutions. QKZ, which is the name of the index used to evaluate traffic data, is the standard applied by BMW in evaluating different traffic solutions. BMW recently selected MILE Traffic and Travel (ITIS, Infoblu, Mediamobil consortium) to provide a pan-European traffic solution. BMW is already partnered with ClearChannel in the U.S. for their RDS-TMC solution. It is important to note those elements of the traffic data picture that are global in nature vs. local and to make a distinction between flow data and incident data. There are thousands of local sources of incident data and there are local aggregators of that data, but incident data is fundamentally a regional phenomenon. Flow data, in contrast, is ruled by systems that can be applied globally. There are five providers of flow data currently operating across borders and these are ITIS, Inrix, Nokia Navteq, TomTom and TrafficCast. ITIS is unique in using a licensing model. TomTom has yet to find a customer in the automotive or mobile device market for its flow data. TrafficCast has a handful of customers. And Inrix and Navteq currently compete for contracts in North America and Europe. Car makers are most interested in identifying global solutions, while navigation device makers and mobile application developers are content with regional solutions.  Companies such as Waze, Aha Mobile and TrafficTalk are attempting to open up a new channel of user-reported incident data. But the industry is still seeking to determine how to evaluate the quality of these ad hoc sources and integrate their inputs. Integration: The process of data integration produces a picture of traffic flow including not only real-time traffic flow or speeds but also a predictive model based on both historical and real-time data sources. This information is critical for determining accurate travel and arrival times as well as routing or re-routing.The five leading flow data companies distinguish themselves by their processes for integrating and manipulating traffic data, vetting sources and interpreting the different inputs. A virtual duopoly exists between Inrix and Navteq in the U.S. The European market is rapidly evolving from regional traffic providers to pan-European aggregators. TomTom has developed its proprietary HD traffic in a handful of countries, but is only deployed with its own smartphone and connected PND solutions. Navteq has a solution in place with Garmin, but has limited European coverage. Inrix and MILE Traffic and Travel appear to be emerging as powerful challengers in Europe. Delivery: The last link in the chain is delivery and this is the area experiencing the greatest degree of technological change. The most widespread platform for communicating traffic information is radio, but there are multiple radio-based platforms for traffic information delivery. Analog radio is the most dominant and familiar source of traffic data reports and the most widely available traffic data broadcast network in this medium is RDS-TMC. RDS-TMC is widely criticized for the limited amount of information it is capable of broadcasting in a metropolitan area and perceived delays (latency) in delivering the latest information to the embedded or portable navigation system in the car. Emerging digital radio technology enables a richer stream of traffic-related content and maintains the critical local elements. Digital radio is also a superior platform for delivering other forms of content. RDS-TMC is being replaced by TPEG technology. TPEG allows for a wider range of content, a larger volume of information and can be distributed over HD, DAB or cellular networks as it is XML-based. TPEG also encompasses arterial road coverage. Handset-based solutions are promising, though hampered by the smaller screens and challenging in-vehicle user experience associated with mobile phones. While technologies such as Nokia’s Terminal Mode offer the prospect of delivering handset traffic images to in-vehicle displays these solutions will take a few years to reach the market. Many OEMs, however, are in product development now with solutions that use handsets (or are fully integrating embedded GSM/GPRS modules in the vehicle) for sending traffic data and other telematics information to/from the vehicle. Product development is moving briskly in the handset/smartphone space and innovative solutions such as TrafficTalk and Visteon's TrafficCamJam are in the offing. But the companies creating these applications will likely require expensive voice interfaces. Public authorities will likely not accept handset-based applications in cars that require a touch screen interface while the vehicle is in motion. Part of the power of these smartphone-based applications, though, lies in the fact that they are location-aware and sharing location data even as they are reporting traffic conditions. As a result, these devices remain a wildcard in the evolution of traffic data. Sirius XM’s traffic data service in North America, based as it is on a single national stream of broadcast data to a vehicle’s navigation system, is fatally flawed. Based on this correspondent’s own experience with the Sirius feed in Mercedes and the ClearChannel feed in BMW, the lag introduced by the sequential transmission of multiple-market’s worth of traffic information down a single pipeline is the source of Sirius’ downfall. It is no coincidence that BMW offers Sirius' audio content but eschews its traffic offering. And some industry observers believe OEMs are dropping Sirius/XM traffic data services from their roadmaps for MY13 and beyond in favor of connected services over GPRS/GSM. In Sirius XM’s most recent earnings call two weeks ago the company touted its planned introduction in Q4 2011 of Satellite Radio 2.0. Presumably the company will have a fix for the timely delivery of traffic data. Conclusion: The biggest pipeline to the car of all is the embedded telecommunications module. With new embedded solutions set to launch from multiple car makers in multiple geographies over the next 2-3 years, drivers can expect to see vast improvements in traffic information quality. This is at least one reason for optimism regarding the future uptake of telematics services overall. With the emergence of both digital radio technologies worldwide and the proliferation of embedded telematics systems, the expectation is that the companies that will dominate traffic will be those with the highest quality data. What distinguishes these companies today are their processes for validating data quality. If the data is sound the daily relevance will follow as will subscribers. Further insight: http://tinyurl.com/2bz9zq6 - Google, Nokia and New Entrant Positioning in Automotive Infotainment - Lanctot – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Servicehttp://bit.ly/dniNxa - Navigation Heuristic Evaluation: Telmap5 – Schreiner – Automotive Consumer Insightshttp://bit.ly/95NCoW - Automotive DMB Digital Radio: Marketing Strategies an Increasing Priority – Blight – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Servicehttp://bit.ly/dtRE5C - Automotive Telematics Services: Shifts in Pricing and Monetization Expected – Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Servicehttp://bit.ly/bwdwcW - Connected Vehicle and Vehicle Device Connectivity System Database by Feature, Region, and Price 2010 – Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Servicehttp://bit.ly/d0aLhq - Connected Vehicle Telematics: Car Maker Profiles – Canali – Aumotive Multimedia and Communications Service

August 15, 2010 16:08 rlanctot
Driving has never been safer, with vehicle crash-related fatalities at an all time low in most areas of the developed world. But public authorities are pushing for zero fatalities and these efforts are helping to bring enhanced safety technologies to the market through a combination of embedded and off-board solutions. Still, not everyone agrees on how to make cars safer. The latest high-profile debate revolves around distracted driving and mobile phone use. Some argue that hands-free interfaces help drivers by allowing them to keep their hands on the steering wheel and their eyes on the road while interacting with their mobile phone. Others believe that no mobile devices should be in the car at all since they represent a driver distraction. Acknowledging the role of distraction (a suddenly loaded noun with many potent and potential meanings) in accidents, a purist might argue for an in-vehicle experience bereft of distracting displays. In this context, a shift to head-up display technology might make more sense than in-dash displays, MMI/i-Drive-type interfaces and touch screens. Even voice interfaces might take a backseat in this scenario. Companies such as General Motors and Microvision are among those leading the way down the head-up path. In an environment where regulators want drivers’ eyes on the road it is the only logical way to go. But the industry and consumers may not be ready for this leap. And with so much industry focus on in-car mobile phone use as part of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Distracted Driving Initiative, the head-up display conversation is likely to be deferred, ignored, or simply drowned out. (It is important to note that head-up displays are no longer available from Buick or Cadillac, as recent dealer visits have confirmed. BMW is now the leader in head-up display technology in North America. The technology remains expensive and, generally, a special order item.) The USDOT’s Distracted Driving Initiative will see its second summit conference this year in Washington, DC, September 21st. The goal of the event is to raise awareness of distracted driving resulting from in-car mobile phone use generally and texting in particular and to seek solutions to the problem in a public forum. Ford Motor Company stands in the eye of this storm with its high profile Sync hands-free system and the MyFord Touch upgrade arriving later this year. Ford is carrying the flag for hands-on-the-wheel/eyes-on-the-road driving in a struggle with Dept. of Transportation director Ray LaHood, the National Safety Council, the American Automobile Association and Oprah Winfrey, all of whom oppose the use of mobile devices in cars under any circumstances. (Ophrah may have changed her tune recently to allow for hands-free interfaces.) The debate raises fundamental questions regarding safety systems and automotive interfaces. Distracted Driving campaigners implicate the two-second glance to an iPod, iPhone or other mobile device as the culprit in more than a million roadway accidents (http://bit.ly/6uP3wu). All parties agree that there is a problem, but disagree on its nature and magnitude. There is also definite disagreement on the solution. And if a two-second glance is the culprit, what about all of those OTHER two-second glances in the car? Ford’s eyes-on-road-hands-on-wheel message could not be clearer and the company has backed up its position with its own research along with the results of both independent and industry-sponsored studies. Ford’s Sync and the unfortunately named MyFord Touch (which is intended mainly for voice, not touch, interfacing – in spite of the touch screen) represent the solution to a long-standing problem. Driver Distraction has been an issue confronting automobile designers from the very earliest days of the industry. The emergence of car radios in the 1930’s, for example, led to the introduction of push button channel selection to ease the distraction of locating stations with a dial. Multiple international standards-setting bodies and industry associations have long ago specified the appropriate viewing angle (30 degrees) of dashboard displays to minimize eyes-off-the-road time.  Designers regularly do battle over the question of touch screen or no touch screen, debating the finer points of changing focal lengths and distraction. Audi delved deeply into this issue before launching its touchpad interface. Yet all of the i-Drive and MMI-type interfaces still require a glance at a display in the car. Strangely, no one in the industry seems to be taking this distraction debate to its logical conclusion. If a two-second glance to an in-vehicle display is a source of potentially fatal crashes, the industry needs to be taking an entirely different direction. If displays of all kinds are the problem, then let’s do away with on-board displays completely. At the very least the industry should commence an initiative to explore a shift to head-up displays. But, wait, before we undo more than a century of HMI refinement let’s go back to the beginning. Highway fatalities are at an all-time low throughout the developed world and are especially low when indexed against the extraordinary increase in miles driven. During this time of declining road fatalities smartphone penetration has grown at an equally extraordinary pace. Smartphones, therefore, are not an obvious source of highway fatalities, but anecdotal evidence suggests these devices are not blameless. Ford is an interesting organization to find at the nexus of the debate. Not only has the company led the way in bringing voice interfaces into the car for safe operation of mobile devices, it has also pioneered the safe implementation of those interfaces. Examples of safe voice implementation by Ford: #1 Software development kit (SDK) enforces Sync constraints such as no keyboard entry or video while moving and list length limitations. This “policy management” layer is also being implemented within Apple’s iPod out, Delphi’s D-Connect, and Nokia’s Terminal Mode (http://bit.ly/b22buN), among other solutions. #2 When a vehicle is in motion, Ford locks out features and functions such as pairing a Bluetooth phone, editing or adding contact info, POI reviews, detailed sports scores or movie times, manual destination entry, all demo modes, keying in or editing messages, Internet access, external keyboard, editing settings, setting up short-cut buttons. #3 Ford limits list lengths (contacts/recent calls/POIs), the number of canned text responses and Sirius Travel Link information when the vehicle is moving. Ford’s recommendations for mitigating distracted driving include: #1 Passage of Jay Rockefellers’ anti-texting Senate Bill (http://bit.ly/aLMKL4) providing incentives for states to pass anti-texting legislation; #2 Primary enforcement of existing mobile phone bans; #3 Limiting mobile phone use for holders of graduated driver’s licenses – ie. teens; Ford also offers its MyKey technology for parents to limit vehicle speed, stereo volume etc. for teen drivers. #4 Education/public awareness campaigns – ie. Ford’s Driving Skills for Life (http://bit.ly/8TcMpn); #5 Elevate Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers’ “Driver Focused Telematics Guidelines” to regulatory status (http://bit.ly/ddCpRd); #6 Increase funding for research – handheld vs. voice; relative risks of distractions including cognitive; and review real-world driver compensation behaviors. The embedded, policy management side of Ford’s smartphone-based effort has been Volvo’s IDIS workload management solution. Not surprisingly, Ford is working on similar on-board solutions that take into account driving conditions and vehicle status based on messages on the vehicle CAN network including stability control and windshield wiper engagement, speed, and traffic. There is a small irony in Ford’s sale of Volvo given Volvo’s leadership in vehicle safety. The timing was rendered especially poignant given the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s shift in the middle of last year toward a focus on preventing rather than simply surviving accidents (http://bit.ly/9L6MFi). Volvo has been a leader in bringing technologies to market that anticipate and attempt to avoid accidents. IDIS (for Intelligent Driver Information System) is intended to shut down distracting in-vehicle functions – such as mobile phone access or even warning lights - in the presence of hazardous driving conditions – intersections, overtaking etc. IDIS takes into account such driving circumstances as acceleration, speed reduction, turn signal indicators, steering wheel angle, reverse gear engagement and infotainment controls. Its primary output is to delay/manage incoming calls and vehicle alerts. The next step for IDIS will be the integration of map data along the lines of map-based advanced driver assist system designs from Navteq (with partners Magneti Marelli and STMicroelectronics) and Intermap (Visteon). The integration of map data with vehicle safety systems will allow for curve over-speed warnings or pro-active braking when approaching sharp turns. One can expect more solutions to block mobile phone access – as in the case of Global Mobile Alert – in the proximity of hazardous intersections, school zones or rail crossings. Strategy Analytics research shows that consumers want safer cars. Recent Strategy Analytics surveys reveal high consumer interest in night vision, pre-crash safety, adaptive front lights, blindspot detection, adaptive cruise control, driver attention monitors, lane departure warning, parking assistance, V2V communication and automatic speed limiters. The challenge of course, is getting consumers to pay for these technologies. This reluctance to pay creates the conditions for Federal mandates. And Federal mandates are likely to change the public’s perception of safety from an exploding airbag to a pre-emptive braking experience. Auto makers are already responding to this shift. Infiniti, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Opel and Volvo are all actively touting active vehicle safety systems with the best and most advanced of these taking driving context into account. These systems are also increasingly taking distraction, inattention and even driver fatigue into account. Conclusion: In an ideal world, there would be no distracting displays inside the car to divert the driver’s attention from the eyes forward concentration on the driving task. In this ideal world, head-up displays would be widely deployed and traffic fatalities would be continuing their downward trajectory. We do not live in an ideal world. Therefore, everything else in the world of automotive HMI is a compromise. In the context of that compromise, vehicle systems that take into account driving circumstances and device connectivity are preferred to those that do not. This means that systems and devices – Apple’s iPod out, Nokia’s Terminal Mode, Delphi’s D-Connect – that provide a contextual policy management layer will be in demand. More importantly, with NHTSA shifting its focus to crash avoidance, perhaps the entire automotive industry will begin to rethink what safety is and what safety means. And when it comes to distracted driving, there will hopefully be a federal and industry embrace rather than a rejection of technological solutions such as hands-free interfaces. Additional Insights:http://bit.ly/94Mn1V - Delphi Emerges at SAE with Answer to Nokia Terminal Mode - Lanctot - blog - Strategy Analyticshttp://bit.ly/b5W8ZS - Nokia and RIM Push Into Automotive as ‘Apps’ Competition Mounts - Joanne Blight – AMCS http://bit.ly/b5XEJM - Advanced Driver Assistance Systems: Supply And Fitment Database - Kevin Mak - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service http://bit.ly/cVcENg- Consumers Interested in Advanced Safety Features, but not at Current Price - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/b9oVAt - CTIA 2010: Distraction Mitigating Apps on Display - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service http://bit.ly/9BYNeR - Smartphones Bringing Safety Systems to Cars - Roger Lanctot - blog - Autmotive Multimedia and Communications Service

August 3, 2010 05:08 rlanctot
The latest salvo from the Genivi Alliance – a SWOT analysis of competing automotive operating systems – appears to cloud rather than clarify the existing automotive OS market environment. The future prospects for current and emerging players are described with little supporting evidence or insight. The report also concludes – from OEM and supplier interviews – that the Alliance’s assumptions regarding cost savings are valid without providing a detailed financial analysis of where cost savings may be achieved – ie. head count, lines of code, etc. Not surprisingly, the self-serving report concludes that Genivi will rule the market in the long term with deployments beginning in the 2013-2015 timeframe (http://tinyurl.com/29aly2t). The report initially sets out to provide a thumbnail view of current OS market leaders Microsoft, QNX, MicroItron, Linux and Android. Going without mention are Mentor Graphics, Ubuntu, OpenSynergy, Meego or even VxWorks (currently used by Peugeot-Citroen, Nissan and Volkswagen). Also missing entirely are Genivi members MontaVista and Wind River. Ostensibly, the goal of the report is to benchmark and/or handicap these various infotainment software architectures and their influence on in-vehicle infotainment systems; and to validate the cost savings claimed for Genivi’s code-sharing/recycling model. Missing is a detailed description of the actual software architectures themselves – ie. what makes one “better” than another. What is available in the report summary seems misleading such as a reference to Microsoft Auto booting slowly, which is also a shortcoming of Android, but which is also easily overcome. Also missing is a discussion of current market forces, strategic supplier relationships, recent mergers and acquisitions or potential mergers or acquisitions. The absence of these latter aspects means that Intel’s acquisition of Wind River goes without mention as does the merger of Intel’s Moblin platform with Nokia’s Maemo OS to create Meego – rumored to have been selected by Genivi as its infotainment platform of choice. (Press and Nokia reports have quoted senior Genivi representatives stating that Meego has been chosen for this purpose - http://tinyurl.com/2d46xls. No affirmation of this selection has come from any Genivi member other than BMW.) MontaVista’s acquisition by Cavium Networks and QNX’s purchase by RIM gets no attention in the report. Neither does TomTom’s decision to adopt the Webkit OS, a platform found in other segments of the mobile market such as Palm’s Web OS. (The report fails to note Bosch’s adoption of Linux or Visteon’s embrace of Genivi, Microsoft, QNX AND Ubuntu – hedging its bets.) These oversights are more significant than they seem as they suggest a lack of awareness of the symbiosis between mobile device operating systems and automotive hardware and software architectures. Additionally, the report repeatedly refers to “risk-averse” Japanese OEMs and tier one’s being hesitant to adopt open, Linux-based platforms – including anything from Genivi to Android.  This assertion is patently absurd given Clarion’s longstanding support of Linux. The report also paints a grim picture of QNX’s market outlook, suggesting the company’s app support is “difficult to configure” and that the company can be expected to withdraw from the IVI market entirely within a short period of time. This will no doubt be news to executives at QNX’s Ottawa headquarters where headcount committed to automotive projects is on the rise as are design wins. And the acquisition of QNX by RIM opens doors to automotive-related IP (ie. traffic apps) while adding access to a massive and growing installed base (ie. probes). Unlike all of the alternatives currently in the market, QNX currently offers a range of flexible, scalable solutions future proofed to support Adobe Flash, HTML5, Flash Air and Flash 10.1 and all mobile OS's. QNX is customer friendly with support unmatched by Linux-based competitors or Microsoft. By way of contrast, OEMs implementing Microsoft are finding they must enlist the aid of third-party developers (bSquare, Elektrobit, etc.) to customize Microsoft Auto to their requirements. Microsoft has left application development entirely to its customers and their partners. It is worth noting as well that QNX’s flexibility is an advantage vis-à-vis Microsoft. Where QNX supports nearly every potential application or implementation known to automotive engineers without favor, Microsoft is likely to push its Bing search engine, Silverlight graphics and other in-house offerings. The report notes that the next generation Microsoft IVI platform, Motegi (Windows Automotive Embedded 7), will launch with Japanese OEMs, though it provides no time frame. Microsoft indeed has at least two partners in Japan – Alpine and Mitsubishi – which suggests that either Honda or Mercedes may be implementing Motegi. The report neglects to mention QNX’s recent gains in Japan, including Panasonic and Denso, showing a deeper penetration of QNX into Toyota. In fact, QNX has benefitted handsomely and rapidly from its separation from Harman – immediately attracting attention from potential Japanese and Chinese customers. Where QNX is weakest is in developer support. This is precisely where Android shines. The report summary correctly identifies existing developers working on automotive Linux implementations – ie. Parrot, Continental and Roewe – and identifies the inclination of many designers in the industry to connect with Android but to keep it out of the central stack. The report also notes Google’s disinclination to support or endorse Android for automotive implementations, but leaves the door open to an embedded future for Android. (GM is thought to be considering an open platform such as Meego or Android for a future OnStar or infotainment launch.) But this points up a fundamental gap in the report, which is the wider context of the OS debate. Android and Genivi do not line up directly with QNX, Microsoft or Linux (pick your distribution). Genivi has always been positioned as a code sharing platform for infotainment systems - as such it has never been presented as a replacement for Microsoft or QNX. Android, similarly, is being pursued as an alternative for ultra-low-cost (entry level) platforms - typically those emanating from India and China - as well as a means for implementing revenue sharing models based on mobile applications in the car. The new Genivi report marks the first time the Alliance's platform is proposed as a replacement for QNX or Microsoft or any other OS, indicating a change in strategy for the group. This is where the group may be overreaching. Presenting Genivi as a one-for-one substitute for existing real-time operating system solutions is a different proposition from offering a code-sharing/recycling platform intended to reduce development costs. Obtaining industry buy-in to this vision will take 5-10 years, by which time the market may well have moved on to the next big thing. And as an industry coalition-driven solution, Genivi arrives untested in the marketplace. The report further attempts to validate Genivi’s vision for cost-reduced platform development, saying interviewees estimated IVI deployment cost savings of up to 50%. At the same time, though, the report acknowledges that initial implementations may cost even more than incumbent solutions. Justifying or validating proposed Genivi cost savings will continue to be a tall order for the Alliance. Conclusions: The Genivi Alliance’s IVI software architecture report provides valuable insights but is rife with glaring omissions, unsupported conclusions and errant assumptions. The report oversimplifies the automotive OS ecosystem and competitive environment and underestimates the influence of some incumbent players, such as QNX, and the emerging role of content and service aggregators including TeleNav, Inrix, Airbiquity, WirelessCar, TCS, ITIS Holdings, Navteq and Hughes Telematics. A few of these content and service providers were interviewed for the report. But not a single telecommunications carrier or handset maker – outside of Nokia - was interviewed. Even more obvious than these omissions, however, was the exclusion of both Audi and the e.solutions joint venture with Elektrobit - the single most prominent, influential and competing IVI platform in the industry. The oversight is obvious and unfortunate. The forces that are determining the future of the automotive IVI experience are almost entirely developing outside of the car, so a wider base of interviewees should have been considered. The single greatest weakness of the Genivi Alliance is its inward focus on the automotive industry as opposed to an outreach to the wider world of mobile devices and consumer electronics. It is possible for Genivi to “win” in the long run and “challenge” (in the report’s own words) Microsoft, but the Microsoft embedded solution will always have the advantage of developer support from across a broader range of industries and the design priorities that those other user communities will contribute. Genivi’s narrower focus is at once its greatest strength but, in the end, its Achilles heel. <!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]--> <!--[endif]--> Further insight: Smartphone Market Evolution and the Automotive Opportunity Implications – Mark Fitzgerald – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service - http://tinyurl.com/34hldb5 Automotive Connectivity: Beyond Bluetooth Solutions – Mark Fitzgerald – Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service - http://tinyurl.com/2gx88eo

July 27, 2010 20:07 rlanctot
Attendees at Ford’s recent launch of the 2011 Explorer at the Newseum in Washington, DC asked company executives if they were worried about the potentially distracting aspects of the MyFord Touch voice-based interface available on the new SUV. The answer from Ford was that MyFord Touch specifically enables hands-free use of vehicle systems allowing the driver to keep hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. This is the message that not all industry participants are grasping. The smartphone is rapidly becoming a platform for delivering safety systems into vehicles and yet leading governmental and non-governmental bodies continue to declare their opposition to the use of mobile devices in cars. The National Safety Council, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation (Ray LaHood) and the American Automobile Association have all declared their opposition to mobile phone use in cars. Public authorities should speed, not impede, the path of technological progress. If smartphones can deliver safety to drivers faster than embedded systems or DSRC-based systems requiring billions of dollars in infrastructure investment, so be it. And new applications from companies such as ImaginYze and Global Mobile Alert, among many others, are making advanced safety technology available via smartphone apps. Fortunately, none of this opposition to mobile phone use in cars has produced national or even local legislation banning mobile phone use altogether. Most laws only go so far as to either ban texting and driving or to require hands-free devices. In some states, teen drivers are forbidden to use mobile phones while driving. Nevertheless, the campaigns continue, including Oprah Winfrey’s NoPhoneZone. Germany probably has the best solution in allowing mobile phone use in a car but forbidding the touching of the phone while driving. This seems like an effective and appropriate solution especially since it allows the driver to continue to benefit from the growing range of applications that provide for enhanced safety. Throughout the world the race is on to bring advanced safety systems to cars. The European Union most recently detailed their plans to mandate safety technologies. One can only hope the EU will not proceed to define which technology is used, as in the case of eCall. If there is anything that has slowed down the advance of connected safety systems in European cars it has been the pursuit of a mandated technology on top of the application mandate. Meddling governments – operating with the best of intentions – have repeatedly intruded on new technology development and instead of stimulating innovation and competition have quashed both. In the case of eCall, the in-band modem technology selected by the EU arrives as an already outdated solution that continues to be resisted at the Federal, OEM and public service access point levels. (In contrast, the U.S. is already well on the way to defining and deploying far more flexible digital solutions as part of its Next Generation 911 initiative - http://bit.ly/9jg576.) European research initiatives ranging from SISTER (http://bit.ly/cTiRxx) – which looks at satellite-based safety solutions – to AKTIV (http://bit.ly/b4og1K) – which looks at the efficacy of embedded cellular technology for safety apps – to TeleFOT (http://bit.ly/c9AeT8) – which is assessing nomadic device-based safety systems all reveal the range of available solutions capable of fulfilling the newly-minted EU program of safety system mandates (http://bit.ly/aNDSh1).  Even Ertico’s ADASIS, the Advanced Driver Assist Systems Interface Specification Forum (http://bit.ly/9Lkngj) has been considering smartphone-based solutions. At the most recent ADASIS meeting a solution was presented as part of a separate presentation showing a solution from ImaginYze (http://bit.ly/cUGFpM) offering an augmented reality lane departure warning solution based on a forward facing smartphone camera – a solution long in development - for portable navigation devices - from companies such as Navigon and Elektrobit. (Since its most recent meeting - July 5th - ADASIS has released a specification for map-based ADAS applications - http://bit.ly/axuJrc.) But it doesn’t stop there. About a dozen applications (http://bit.ly/d3FQbQ) have been launched around the concept of limiting mobile phone use in a moving vehicle, most notably Zoomsafer. Interestingly and maybe not surprisingly some of these companies have turned to commercial opportunities to enable safe use of mobile phones for fleet drivers.  Global Mobile Alert offers yet another application suited to both passenger vehicles and commercial applications. A $24.99 (per year) download for Android phones, which just launched two weeks ago, Global Mobile Alert is an application that uses a digital map as a sensor to warn drivers of approaching traffic lights, and school zones or railroad crossings, among other hazardous conditions (http://bit.ly/dhzigZ).  The Global Mobile Alert (GMA) crash avoidance application is the first of its kind and can be deployed in a smartphone or licensed for navigation systems or in-vehicle telematics systems. GMA provides audible alerts when a moving vehicle approaches an intersection at a dangerous predetermined speed. The objective of the application is to overcome driver distraction. (GMA licenses Navteq data for its application, although even Navteq's database does not include every single traffic light, but Navteq was the only available source of this data.) Of course, systems have been tested and are in development to allow a smartphone to actually be aware of the status of upcoming traffic lights. This is not something the GMA app is capable of, but is likely to be available commercially in the near future. Interestingly, an almost identical solution to GMA is in development within the IntelliDrive community using DSRC technology – instead of a map – to alert drivers to oncoming vehicles at dangerous interections. Of course, the DSRC technology, which is years from being deployed, has a wider range of implied applications in that it enables vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. In conclusion, government authorities will do well to do their best to avoid unintended consequences in their legistlative activities. The EU no doubt intended to speed the arrival of eCall by getting involved in the standards-setting process. All parties would agree today that the reverse has occurred. Similarly, in the drive to save drivers from distraction and the resulting fatalities, injuries and property damage, elected officials should be mindful of the distraction mitigating capabilities of smartphones. The source of the problem is the source of the solution.