AUTOMOTIVE MULTIMEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

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

October 22, 2010 15:10 rlanctot
The battle is on to capture the most and the most accurate traffic incident data on a global scale. Several strategies are being deployed to collect this information including traditional journalistic traffic reporting and a growing variety of technology-based solutions including GPS-based probe solutions or GPS Floating Vehicle Data (GFVD) from smartphone and connected PND makers and carriers to cellular network-based probes (CFVD), video cameras, mobile phone camera probes and crowdsourcing. GPS-based probe data networks are particularly popular with companies ranging from TomTom and Nokia to Inrix, Google and RIM. The significance of the emergence of probe data is the fact that any organization with connected devices, applications or vehicles on the road is a candidate for delivering probe data. The industry is facing a proliferation of probe data sources encompassing everyone from Waze, Skobbler and Navigon to OnStar, TeleNav and TeleCommunications Systems. The CFVD crowd includes TomTom, AirSage, iTIS Holdings, Cellint, Intellione, TrafficCast and a few others. The inaccuracy of probe data, GPS or otherwise, is stimulating interest in license plate scanners, tolling networks and Bluetooth roadside scanners from companies such as Bluetoad. In fact, TrafficCast has already deployed or received approval to deploy Bluetoad scanners in 20 states. The Bluetoad technology with its range of up to 200 feet picks up signals from passing Bluetooth devices which have become nearly ubiquitous in mobile devices. The beauty of Bluetooth scanners is that they can precisely identify both the roadway and speed, making them ideally suited to creating flow data. The downside, of course, as with all sensor-based sources, is the high cost of deployment – usually borne largely by local DOTs who gain access to the data – and the not infrequent failures to which they are prone. Of course, all of these solutions are only really able to act as proxies for identifying incidents as they can only identify the results and not the causes of backups. That is where cameras and observers and journalistic data from companies such as Clear Channel, Westwood One and Navteq’s Traffic.com come into the picture. Two years ago this analyst was a strong believer in the power that video could bring to the traffic data reporting and interpretation game. When I met the team at TrafficLand I came to believe that I had found the ultimate solution for the driving public: show people what the traffic disturbance is rather than tell them. TrafficLand had – and has – a near monopoly on DOT traffic camera installations, but its real value add is managing those images on the back end. TrafficLand not only captures most of the data but it also serves it up to handheld devices and Websites and, soon, to automotive head units. Alas, a lot can change in two years. Cameras do play an important role in traffic reporting and interpretation, but the cameras that are likely to make a difference are not the ones mounted along highways. Front-facing mobile phone cameras are the new frontier waiting for a clever entrepreneur. More than one industry executive has talked to me about the potential power of a network of camera probes transmitting real-time traffic camera information from the road. The user interface is a potential issue as is the required bandwidth, but what is a market changing proposition without a few challenges? There is more than one way to make such a network come to pass, these executives suggest, including everything from a dedicated dashboard camera to a smartphone-mounted device to a forward-facing camera on a PND or even the use of existing on-board cameras. Solutions already exist. Navigon has shown augmented reality navigation solutions using forward-facing cameras and Imaginyze has a lane-departure warning app based on a similar device. There is even a company, Apollo Video Technology, with an iPhone app to allow transit officials to view live video feeds from buses, trains, police cars and transit vehicles. Even the execs working on the Next Generation 911 solution for the U.S. are looking for ways to integrate video and text reporting of incident information from smartphones or other devices. It shouldn't be too long before a crowd-sourced traffic solution is introduced for smartphones that allows for the automatic uploading of photos and video stills from a dashboard perspective of traffic conditions under predetermined circumstances. To make such a crowd-sourced solution effective requires a sufficiently large and connected network of users and an automated application. In fact, it is almost shocking that neither TomTom nor Nokia have taken the leap into crowd-sourced traffic video feeds. Or is it? While I was a big fan of integrating traffic video feeds into navigation solutions two years ago, with today's emphasis on mitigating distracted driving the idea has lost significant traction. In fact, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is on a personal jihad to ban even voice calls while driving. Video is important and can be powerful, but the time is not right and the concepts currently in the oven - including Visteon's TrafficLand app - need more time to reach maturity. What is available today, however, is crowd-sourced traffic data from Inrix via its iPhone app (and soon on Android). The app-based Inrix system is the most complete solution, designed around one-touch incident reporting along with the ability to validate the entries of nearby drivers as well as to share the resulting data with local departments of transportation. Aha Mobile has been combining its own crowd sourced inputs with Inrix flow and Clear Channel incident data since late 2009. In fact, Inrix's approach stands as a model for future crowd-sourced traffic solutions with its tools for ranking participants and identifying "trusted sources" and the integration with local traffic authorities. Since June, 47 of 50 state DOTs in the U.S. have adopted Inrix's agency model for sharing this user-generated data, which the DOTs are able to view on the large screens in their traffic operations centers and then check by dispatching their own responders. Inrix says it is processing these crowd-sourced traffic feeds in real time thereby revolutionizing traffic reporting. In this way, Inrix is distancing itself from the existing competition through the integration of an entirely new source of data and a closed loop approach. The challenge for Inrix, though, is the limited size of its probe network, based on users of the downloadable iPhone app.  To have an impact Inrix, mainly seen as a white box supplier to the industry, will need a little help from its industry friends. Crowd-sourced traffic information has become the new standard and Inrix is setting the bar. Waze may claim to have the largest user population worldwide, but the company has chosen not to integrate other corroborating traffic information sources. Fusion of multiple types of data sources is a critical foundation for using crowd-sourced data, along with building  validation processes. Inrix has the largest North American population of users and has recently rolled out its apps in Europe. It is collaborating with ClearChannel in North America and other incident providers internationally for journalistic data. Crowd-sourcing of traffic data is nothing new. Crowd-sourcing by mobile phone users has been around for decades. It is only recently, though, that smartphone apps have enabled the automation of the process and, now, with Inrix's system, the integration of crowd-sourced data into local DOT traffic feeds - although Inrix traffic app users get the data right away, including inputs from nearby drivers. What is curious is that Inrix, while not the first to market with crowd-sourced traffic, is the first to take it to a level where it is integrated with official traffic feeds. While the crowd inputs are validated or rejected by other users on the network, the local DOT is also involved in the validation process. The open line of communication with local DOTs also means that real time street closings and openings can be transmitted along with incident validation. Inrix is not alone. TeleNav has a crowd-sourcing function for its app and TrafficTalk has been testing a crowd-sourced offering. Harman's Aha Mobile and competing mobile platforms will no doubt seek to bring their own offerings to market as well. Looking at the Inrix model, one has to wonder why TomTom, OnStar, ATX, Google, Nokia, RIM, TCS or TeleNav haven't moved in the same direction. OnStar has its good Samaritan function for reporting accidents, but there is no provision for instantly integrating an OnStar user-reported accident on the in-vehicle navigation/traffic display  - let alone sharing it with public authorities in real-time. The same is true for ATX. Conclusion: The automotive environment is ripe for crowd-sourced applications, which already include the reporting of speed traps (Trapster). The world of thumbs up/thumbs down, check-ins and trusted providers of reviews/data is rapidly proliferating on mobile devices and migrating into embedded automotive solutions. It is fitting that traffic information lead this migration since this form of data is of the highest relevance to drivers and rapidly changing. The power of crowd-sourcing of traffic data has the dual effect of creating a new source of incident data along with its own validation process. One of the greatest challenges to creating reliable traffic information systems is validating journalistic data inputs. The crowd is able to view live traffic data, create new data and validate that data. The next step is to open the taps to other data types from parking and gas pricing to weather and event information. Eventually, crowd-sourced video will work its way into the mix as well - and probably sooner than anyone expects. Additional insights: 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 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.

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

June 27, 2010 14:06 rlanctot
Presenters at Freescale’s Technology Forum sought to clear the air on some fundamental automotive development questions. Chief among the topics debated at the event were operating system trends generally and Android specifically, and the emergence of automotive application stores. Representatives from OnStar, Kia, Hyundai, and Visteon as well as system integrators such as IAEC all agreed that apps are coming to cars. It does not appear to matter whether they are built-in, brought in or beamed in. They are coming. To cope, auto makers will confront the challenge with a few key priorities in mind: Safety Liability In-vehicle HMI Branding Security OEMs say they need to ensure that the vehicle can be operated safely; that liability issues are pre-empted; that key elements of in-vehicle HMI are properly integrated; that branding messages are preserved and not superseded; and that the security of the on-board systems and the customer’s information are maintained. For these reasons, OEMs will be seeking assistance to establish validation processes and criteria for apps coming into the vehicle. Liability stood out among these issues as a point of disagreement. While OEM representatives say car makers will be blamed for any app failure, and dealers will be forced to cope with these complaints, non-auto industry executives thought consumers would simply blame the app maker, telecom carrier or handsets supplier. Unfortunately, car makers cannot afford to gamble that they won’t be blamed for failures. Because of the magnitude of this task, OEMs are already adding staff for software development while partnering with third party developers to create their own approved, branded solutions. While some applications are being developed in house, most development activity is taking place within the software developer community to OEM specifications. The long-term implications of these developments are monumental when the need for software updates is taken into account. It also means that OEMs are in many instances taking on the role of being their own tier ones – a function first defined by Ford with the launch of Sync. Ford has pioneered and, some say, mastered the strategy of acting as general contractor for its Ford Sync system with its growing community of software developers and service providers. Companies such as Kia Motors, Hyundai Motor America and Toyota Motor Sales all have followed suit with varying degrees of success. OnStar has made no secret of the fact that it is hiring technicians and expanding its supplier eco-system as it modifies its hardware and software model to make room for the app phenomenon. Hardware tier ones such as Delphi, Continental, Visteon and Johnson Controls are attempting to step into the general contractor role as well, offering to play the role of application certifiers. The acceptance of these appeals remains to be seen. Visteon and QNX demonstrated application store and content aggregation platforms at the Freescale Technology Forum. Visteon’s solution was built on Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux distribution. QNX’s offering was based on its own OS, although QNX is able to implement ann Android-based solution, if required, via its abstraction layer. Other automotive software suppliers on hand at the event included Canonical, Mentor Graphics, Wind River, Green Hills and Microsoft. Given the rapid growth in developer support for Android and its proliferation in the mobile market, it is logical that there be a connection to the app store debate. Suppliers to the automotive industry continue to debate the question of Android in the car. But several presenters at the Freescale Technology Forum suggested the question was moot, not only because Android was simply another version of Linux, which is already widely distributed in the car, but because the automotive platform is already being implemented. Lingering objections to Android appear to boil down to two issues, according to a Freescale executive at the Technology Forum: boot time and versions. Android can take as long as 40 seconds to boot, as anyone who owns an Android phone can attest. Android supporters say the millisecond boot times required by automotive specifications can be achieved with hardware and software workarounds. With regard to the multiplying versions of Android, it is true that the platform is still at least partially in the hands of Google and new versions arrive on a regular basis. Additionally, the priorities for the propagation of new versions are governed by the exigencies of the mobile, not the automotive, marketplace. Android supporters say it is hard to imagine that any operating system platform will not be subject to change and updating, hence this objection does not appear to hold water. Freescale has waded into the debate with developer support for Android applications for mobile devices. Freescale has an i.MX51 evaluation kit with Android OS board support package (BSP). Freescale says its BSP is ready to be adapted to select i.MX platforms. “The i.MX51 multimedia applications processor running Android is an excellent platform for building a high-performance, low-power and cost-effective mobile device that successfully passes the Android Compatibility Test Suite (CTS).” According to an executive from Intrepid Control Systems (ICS), which has created an Android application - Sensor Spy - for extracting sensor data from a vehicle for triggering mobile device functions, Google retains control over access to a few aspects of Android including the Android Market, access to specific Google APIs, and access to cloud features such as voice recognition and push technology. But the ICS executive pointed out that Android can be used for its APIs and tools and that a home screen can be used to hide Android from the end user (via Mentor Embedded Inflexion UI). The ICS executive proceeded to describe how the Android model works concluding that Google TV may be an ideal automotive application. In conclusion, he pointed to the Android-based SAIC InkaNet optional connectivity platform introduced for the Chinese market earlier this year as the first automotive Android implementation. Indications in the industry are that it is only the first of many to come. Conclusion: App stores are a reality in the automotive marketplace. But automotive app stores will differ from the Apple App Store or Android Market. Automotive applications will have to be properly vetted for liability, security, HMI, safety and branding. For this reason, it is unlikely that car makers will be able to implement off-the-shelf application solutions. Car makers will be forced to create new supplier relationships and a new eco-system to support the app store model. They will be forced to do this in the context of an ill-defined path to revenue generation (from selling apps? from selling app-related enhancements or content?) in the hope that app stores will stimulate vehicle sales or as a customer-driven defensive response to the proliferation of smart phones and smart phone connectivity platforms in the automotive industry. The message from the Freescale Technology Forum: Like it or not, automotive app stores and the Android OS have arrived. Additional insights: http://bit.ly/cYvFZH - InkaNet – Mobile-Based Infotainment Comes To Chinese Autos - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Service - Kevin Mak http://bit.ly/aBwXvE - Enabling Technologies Forecasts A to E - Wireless Device Strategies - Bonny Joy http://bit.ly/bUxwrT - Automotive Semiconductor Demand Forecast 2008 - 2017: Datafile - Automotive Electronics Service - Chris Webber http://bit.ly/b5W8ZS - Nokia and RIM Push Into Automotive as 'Apps' Competition Mounts - Automotive Multimedia and Communications  Service - Joanne Blight Intrepid Control Systems - Android OS for Infotainment: Advantages of an Open Architecture - http://bit.ly/cTfBFG

June 20, 2010 08:06 rlanctot
It’s difficult to comprehend the schizophrenia of the automotive industry unless you’ve been living with it for longer than you can remember. One minute OEMs are embracing suppliers, the next they are beating them into the earth, forcing down their margins. The latest manifestation of this schizophrenia (some may call it give and take) is the contest over infotainment operating system dominance. Which automotive OS is best? Which is gaining? Which is losing? Does anyone care? The questions are all serious ones and they reflect the struggles at tier one suppliers to determine which operating systems to support. The issue was highlighted, yet again, at the annual Fachkongress Elektronik in Ludwigsburg last week. At the event, Audi voiced its support for QNX, Microsoft restated its devotion to the automotive industry as part of its wider embedded software initiative, and BMW announced its first Genivi implementation for a MY2013 vehicle program. But might these commitments shrivel in time as so many others before them have? What’s new in the current debate is the increased assertiveness of OEMs. OEMs are no longer content to take whatever a tier one supplier may deliver. In addition, there is a perception that the operating system represents a potential point of cost reduction. OEMs are taking charge in a variety of ways including specifying the operating system in the RFQ, creating a coalition for sharing and re-using code as in the case of Genivi, or getting into the system integration business itself as in the case of Audi’s e.solutions venture with Elektrobit. This new assertiveness on the part of OEMs has placed tier one suppliers in a bind. For many of these organizations, software and, by extension, the operating system, has represented the special sauce that the tier one brings to the RFQ proposition. From a tier one supplier’s perspective, the OEMs are seeking to strain that special sauce, which translates roughly as added value or cost, draining it of its value and ultimately diminishing the justification for an expensive solution. OEMs are hiring software engineers and programmers the way they used to hire line workers and tier one suppliers are feeling the pressure. The usual schizophrenia enters the picture when tier one’s try to make sense of what OEMs say they want. OEMs say they want open source software – as in the case of the Genivi Alliance built around Linux – yet they say, generally, that Android (also based on Linux) is too open. They say they prefer closed software systems – as in the case of Microsoft or QNX – but not too closed. It is a clever supplier, indeed, that can make sense of these conflicting messages. But with five-year development cycles in mind, hard decisions must be made. The fundamental criteria for evaluating operating systems break down to: Developer support Cost Flexibility Security Stability Cross Platform Functionality Long-Term Viability Independence All of the available operating system platforms have their merits and are competitive on each of these criteria with some notable exceptions. But it is worth considering the relative merits of each of the most popular platforms. Android is considered by many OEMs and suppliers to be “too open” – by which is meant vulnerable to attack. Android is supported most notably by Continental and Parrot and, indirectly, by a rapidly growing developer community and a growing range of hot selling handsets, Android is an OS to be reckoned with regardless of the qualms regarding its openness. And the widening use of an abstraction layer of code in automotive systems has rendered moot most security concerns. Our sources at Strategy Analytics say RFQs requiring Android have already been awarded. There is a broader battle surrounding Android in that the technology is being extended to a wide range of consumer electronics categories including televisions, netbooks and tablet PCs. Google’s promotion of Android into other domains places the Linux-based OS in direct confrontation with Microsoft and Apple which also have designs on the consumer electronics OS market. The fact that Android is being leveraged to facilitate connectivity to the wider device eco-system makes it an attractive choice for auto makers. Even GM/OnStar is considering Android for its next generation platform. Nevertheless, industry resistance persists. When it comes to automotive operating systems, though, Strategy Analytics recommends a dispassionate consideration of the relevant criteria and all signals suggest Android is a legitimate contender for future automotive platforms. Genivi is a Linux-based, industry-coalition driven OS intended to reduce development costs for OEMs by re-using and sharing software code. Genivi inspires both respect and anger in the industry. But, again, Strategy Analytics recommends a dispassionate evaluation. Genivi inspires respect because it has been promulgated by Intel and BMW, which have attracted a broad coalition of OEMs, tier ones and second and third tier suppliers. It inspires anger because coalition members of lesser status feel their influence is diminished. Most industry participants feel they must “participate” in the Genivi coalition so as not to miss out on any business opportunities with the leaders of the coalition: Intel, BMW and GM. At the same time, skepticism abounds regarding the length of time required for Genivi to impact the industry, the motives of the founders, and the internal decision-making processes of the organization. The impact of Genivi can probably best be compared to the influence of Autosar or JasPar. These initiatives unfolded over many years with the true nature of their impact only recently becoming clear. A typical benchmark to put Genivi into perspective, is the 10 years it took for Nokia’s “terminal mode” technology to reach the market as a commercial standard. As for the motives of the Genivi founders, it is simply to share and re-use code with the intention of reducing the cost of development. Leading Genivi participants expend a great deal of energy emphasizing the limited amount of software code that will be impacted by this sharing, but second- and third-tier players in the organization remain suspicious. BMW’s announcement at the Ludwigsburg event of te first vehicle implementation of Genivi for model year 2013 was momentous for the organization and the industry. But industry sources say the entry nav version of the platform in question – BMW’s NBT, for Next Big Thing – is being built around an nVidia processor. NVidia is not a participant in Genivi. Even in its first implementation, Genivi is raising questions about the solidarity of its coalition. (The premium NBT package will be QNX-based on an Intel platform.) Linux, in all its forms, appears to be the most popular operating system in the industry. Linux benefits from not having the support of any large organization with an industry shaping agenda. As an open source platform it is perfectly malleable and well-suited to a rapidly changing marketplace and technology eco-system. Linux is open and yet not perceived as representing a security risk and it is showing up in a growing range of systems and devices both within and outside the automotive industry. As in the case of Android, developer support is strong, and some tier ones previously working in older platforms, have begun shifting to Linux, as the safe choice. Robert Bosch and Clarion/Hitachi are just two of many suppliers that have turned to Linux even as they weigh other options. Visteon has been showing Ubuntu implementations during and since the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Microsoft, meanwhile, has one of the hottest hands at the OS table. The company routinely points to its two-million unit success with Ford Sync and its one-million unit (and counting) achievement with Fiat’s Blue&Me, with similar expectations for the soon-to-be-launched Kia Uvo platform. But Microsoft still struggles with a legacy of suspicion in the automotive industry. Car makers and OEMs frequently express their concern that the automotive industry is an afterthought for Microsoft. Microsoft has fostered this thought process by shuffling executives into and out of the automotive group. At the Ludwigsburg event the newest head of the Embedded Software group, Kevin Dallas, had his debut making a forceful statement for the Microsoft platform. In spite of any concerns about Microsoft's devotion, suppliers Alpine and Mitsubishi in Japan and Continental and Magneti Marelli in Europe have profitably embraced the platform. Microsoft can rightfully claim perhaps the widest developer support in the software industry. The company’s Bing search initiative is making impressive gains and its developer tools are widely supported. Microsoft even has its own alternative to Flash, called Silverlight, which is expected to see automotive implementations in the near future. Where Microsoft is weak, at least at the moment, is in the mobile market. Where Android has been able to counter Apple’s growing influence in mobile phone operating systems, Microsoft is struggling. Microsoft’s influence on the automotive market would no doubt be greater at this time if the company could point to a stronger position in the handset market. For now, Microsoft will be content to support individual OEM customers. Building on its success at Ford and Fiat and anticipated gains at Kia, it is likely that Microsoft will have a new OEM partner to announce within the next year. Chrysler and Mercedes are the most obvious but not the only candidates for a future announcement. QNX is in the strongest position it has ever been in in the automotive OS market. Harman’s design wins over the past five years have created a monumental backlog of premium infotainment implementations that will keep the company busy for the foreseeable future. At the Ludwigsburg event, QNX gained the endorsement of Audi as a critical element in its strategic plans. The company can also lay claim to the support of Panasonic and Denso, reflecting strong relationships with Chrysler and Toyota. QNX is perceived by many in the industry as being vulnerable for its lack of developer support and its lack of influence beyond the automotive market. But these perceptions may be subject to revision following the company’s acquisition by RIM. RIM creates instant credibility for QNX in the mobile market and QNX for RIM in the automotive market. In its current form, QNX is challenged by the need to keep pace with new drivers for mobile devices arriving on the market on a weekly basis. Microsoft and Android have the luxury of actually providing the drivers to many of these devices. QNX will gain from its RIM relationship, but the challenge will be to expand the capabilities of its operating system without increasing its system requirements. It is clear, though, that QNX has already gained a significant boost from its separation from Harman, making it easier for competing tier ones to adopt the platform. Conclusion The ongoing automotive operating system debate is complex and not easily resolved. Even aging platforms such as Micro-Itron or VxWorks (Nissan, PSA, Volkswagen) continue to persist and most vehicle infotainment systems and devices use multiple operating systems. In fact, the typical car might have a dozen or more operating systems processing information. The automotive business is not a zero sum game. Even at the Ludwigsburg event last week, new OS players Mentor Graphics and OpenSynergy were on hand taking in the latest industry developments even as they are laying the groundwork to make their own impact. Strategy Analytics can only recommend that industry executives make their OS decisions dispassionately and avoid prejudice and suspicion. There is plenty of business to go around and a win by one OS is not a defeat for another. Additional insight: Global OE Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems Forecast 2009-2017 - Joanne Blight - http://tinyurl.com/24n9nz5 Global Automotive OE Audio/Visual (A/V) Systems Forecast 2009-2017 - Joanne Blight - http://tinyurl.com/2g897ax

June 16, 2010 08:06 rlanctot
While major media and cable companies talk about four screen strategies the telematics industry is abuzz over the emergence of a three screen world. This was never more clear than at last week’s Telematics Update event in Novi, Mich. From OEMs to tier ones, software and service providers, the focus is on leveraging handsets, head units and the Internet to create closer and more profitable customer relationships. Companies on hand preaching the three-screen gospel included Nokia, Continental, Airbiquity, WirelessCar, RealVNC, QNX, Google, ATX, Tweddle Group Technologies and Parrot. The solutions demonstrated and debated point the way to a more connected experience in the car where the customer can access vehicle related information from outside the vehicle or on a phone or online when away from the vehicle. Even meta data provider Rovi and HMI supplier TAT offered their contributions to the three-screen vision. Nokia described and defended its terminal mode technology, a European-oriented campaign built around what some term a “screen scrape” transfer of a smartphone’s display along with a shift of device control to the vehicle HMI. Nokia intends to equip all of its smartphones with terminal mode technology by early 2011 and is working through the CE4A coalition to coordinate tier one head unit implementation of the technology throughout Europe, where Nokia’s market share is strongest. Using similar technology, RealVNC showed development tools for extending terminal mode technology into a wider range of devices and markets. While Nokia claimed to have two competing handset makers interested in the terminal mode solution, RealVNC’s more agnostic approach offers a suitable alternative. Airbiquity promoted its in-band modem technology by extending the platform to include a customized user interface, tied to the user’s mobile phone, along with app store functionality and location and user-relevant advertising messages. Airbiquity is increasingly taking on the role of a content aggregator, tying together content and applications in a single user interface. Airbiquity's Bluetooth-based approach was presented as a powerful and low-cost data-over-voice/packet alternative to packet-only solutions which require a payment for dial-up networking or SPP monthly service fees. Airbiquity estimates that OEMs deploying packet-only solutions will limit themselves to 20% of the penetratable market of which only 3-5% will have extra carrier service plan for BT DUN/SPP packet connectivity. On top of the data-over-voice solution, Airbiquity is layering its Choreo cloud service for both consumer and commercial markets. Airbiquity says Choreo allows OEMs to convert the car to an IT platform, creating a global infrastructure for content and service delivery. WirelessCar has also stepped into the content aggregator role, showing a clever vehicle-to-smartphone integration providing some basic vehicle control functionality and information access. The WirelessCar solution suggested the long-anticipated realization of a vehicle portal also accessible via smartphone for sharing vital vehicle data with the owner. OnStar has found this approach, with key vehicle status information, to be a valuable tool for driving customer traffic and service revenue via the dealer channel. To drive home its message, WirelessCar led a panel discussion with Ericsson and Cybercom, representing the wireless carrier and software integration perspectives on the implementation of a three-screen world.  Actually, WirelessCar has been pushing and demonstrating this concept for at least three years. Tweddle Group Technologies – the combination of Tweddle Group with UIEvolution’s former automotive division – is also looking to fill the content aggregator role. The company brings to the table its long history in the owner’s manual business – which itself is transitioning to electronic delivery – along with a relationship with Pandora. The Tweddle solution, which allows for the delivery of text and video content - via head unit or handset - related to vehicle systems has intriguing possibilities if integrated with CAN inputs such as alerts or other status messages. Tweddle has yet to marry these two sources of data, but the concept is certainly a powerful one. QNX has also envisioned sharing vehicle status information with the driver via on-board displays. The QNX LTE Car demo includes a “Virtual Mechanic” for providing the driver with images of vehicle systems and their status. Given Toyota’s recent disastrous recalls, the opportunity for these types of systems to catch on is strong. For its part ATX was demonstrating its new application for integration with Mercedes Benz’s TeleAid telematics service. The app provides for some basic vehicle control along with the ability to remotely send a destination to the vehicle’s navigation system. Continental’s AutolinQ concept may be a little ahead of its time in promising an on-board app store experience in an Android operating system environment. While car makers and suppliers have broadly embraced a variety of Linux distributions, Android is still running up against some industry prejudice over the issue of vulnerability to hacking and other perceived weaknesses. Industry buzz suggests that Android is being accepted and even specified in some RFQs, which is certainly a promising development for Continental. The growing Android momentum in the automotive, mobile and even consumer electronics markets suggests that Continental is on the right track. In support of its campaign, Continental announced an eco-system of solution providers contributing to the platform including Ygomi, Inrix, Navteq, Navigon and Deutsche Telekom. Continental will no doubt be flexible regarding these relationships if it means sacrificing a partner to obtain a new contract. But at least now the Continental vision has been clarified as a fully evolved proposition. Delphi executives attended the event, but did not demonstrate their own connectivity platform: D-Connect. Delphi has been vocal in its support of connectivity to Android devices, but resistance to building Android into the head unit. Since D-Connect has not been publicly announced it is hard to predict how Delphi’s final implementation will arrive in the market. Tier two Parrot showed chipsets optimized for mobile device connectivity including the latest Bluetooth protocols and Wi-Fi. Android also figures prominently in Parrot’s plans including some active programs, according to the company. Google announced additional “Send to” partners at the event – OnStar and Ford. For Google, the message for the industry is that it is a cloud-based world. Applications are no longer launched for desktop computers, they are launched on and for the Internet. Google’s recommendation is clearly that car makers facilitate cloud connections either on board or via mobile devices. OnStar, with the most powerful brand in the telematics industry, faces perhaps the greatest challenge in developing a cloud-oriented strategy. Not only must the company integrate its infotainment and telematics teams – long at odds over key applications such as Bluetooth connectivity and navigation – it must also reposition a brand identified almost entirely in relation to safety and security, not entertainment. The path is far from clear, but the promise of additional revenue from dealer service work to content consumption and, overall, a tighter relationship with the customer has car makers and their suppliers working overtime. All agree, at last, that the future lies in three screens. Leading the way are OnStar and Ford, each of which has defined its own three-screen strategy. BMW and Daimler are the next logical candidates to implement the handset-head unit-Internet approach. All of which points to common elements in future telematics solutions including: app stores (accessible via all three screens), vehicle control (across and between platforms), access to vehicle status information (all screens), content aggregation partner and back-end system provider, cloud-based content and services, and provision for multiple-handset compatibility. The emergence of these common threads are helping to clarify the future deployment of telematics systems speeding the delivery of in-vehicle connectivity. *Editor's note: Airbiquity executives suggested amending the strategy to FOUR screens. This week, Microsoft's embedded software division touted a FIVE screen strategy at the Fachkongress Elektronik in Ludwigsburg. Further insight: http://bit.ly/cMw4f1 - Solid Q4 for PNDs, but ‘Free’ Navigation is Shaking Up Monetisation - John Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communication Service http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities http://bit.ly/8Yo4U6 - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities http://bit.ly/6FC6W7 - Smartphone Market Developments Shaking Up Automotive Strategies - Lanctot - Automotive Multimedia and Communications

June 15, 2010 09:06 rlanctot

Stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) suppliers are integrating smartphone and Internet access with remote vehicle control and tracking applications rapidly changing the value proposition for dealers and consumers. The resulting solutions are finding increasing traction as both dealer and port installs and raising the interest of OEMs in offering own-branded SVR solutions.

 

Leading the way in this ongoing integration effort is Guidepoint Systems which has been putting pressure on market leader LoJack. Guidepoint now offers a smartphone integration with remote vehicle control functionality and an Internet portal for determining vehicle location and status – functions which are also supported by the company’s call center.

 

Any confusion as to whether Guidepoint has LoJack in its cross hairs should be removed by the pricing and positioning of Guidepoint’s dealer offer. While LoJack is normally offered at $695 for the basic theft prevention package with a $395 bump for its early warning solution and another $295 for its $5K warranty proposition; Guidepoint has a $795 basic stolen vehicle recovery package with a $395 early theft alert and an additional $5K theft protection plan for $99.

 

Guidepoint’s focus is the automobile dealer channel, but the company has begun closing some direct relationships with OEMs. Competitor Cimble, which showed its products at the Telematics Update event last week, is also pursuing OEM relationships for dealer and port installs.

 

Cimble claims to have port and dealer install programs in the works with Honda, BMW, Subaru and Toyota (for two regions). Mopar is thought to have a similar product offering in the works from an unnamed supplier, due later this year. And Ford offers SmartAlert from Skyway Systems (acquired several years ago by Innelec) as an official licensed Ford product.

 

The importance of these developments is that it shows OEMs seeking to take more control of a valuable piece of dealer aftermarket business. Stolen vehicle recovery has long been the captive realm of LoJack and its RF solution – to the consternation of OEM accessory managers.

 

The arrival of telematics systems with their own stolen vehicle recovery capabilities at OnStar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and, most recently, Toyota Motor Sales in the U.S., have had only a modest impact on LoJack’s dealer business. OnStar probably had the greatest influence with its vehicle slowdown enhancement. But the new branded accessory solutions, integrating both GPS and cellular technology, may be beginning to get LoJack’s attention.

 

LoJack still has the advantage of being built around stealthy RF technology, which is better able to penetrate a wider range of barriers, and is supported by the installation of tracking equipment by cooperative police forces in 28 states – most recently joined by Utah. But LoJack has been reporting consecutive quarters with losses, including $5.6M in its first quarter reported last month.

 

LoJack’s weaknesses include its inability to offer universal geographic coverage and the lack of a relationship with OEMs. Since OEMs have not been given a “cut” of LoJack’s business, the company has long been seen as an interloper.

 

Perhaps a greater shortcoming of LoJack is its business model. LoJack is a set it and forget it solution. After the initial upfront payment and installation there is no further interaction with the customer. This lack of interaction means there is a limited upsell opportunity.

 

Worse even than this business model, though, is the fact that most LoJack systems are sold as a basic package which requires the customer to report the stolen vehicle to LoJack. (LoJack does offer a step-up keyfob-based service which provides an early warning to the customer if the vehicle is moved without the keyfob.)

 

In contrast, GPS-based products not only provide vehicle locator functionality they also allow, in the case of Guidepoint, for a pro-active call to the customer if the vehicle is moved, violates a geo-fence or if the wireless connection to the vehicle is lost. Guidepoint can then notify the police and the vehicle can be located by Guidepoint.

 

The added functionality afforded by GPS technology means the new OEM-branded offerings allow more flexible pricing and marketing models. Guidepoint is perhaps the most unusual market player in maintaining its own call centers and offering services ranging from roadside assistance and concierge support to the ability to disable a vehicle if it is stolen.

 

Interestingly, Guidepoint also offers a member rewards program and has a relationship with Liberty Mutual and is also active in the buy-here pay-here market for customers with compromised credit. Guidepoint also has a cooperation in aftermarket navigation systems with Rosen Entertainment integrating Guidepoint SVR and concierge functionality via an on-screen button.

 

 Guidepoint privately refers to its offering as “OnStar on steroids,” but the company does not offer automatic crash notification functionality because of liability concerns. The key to the Guidepoint business model is the initial call the customer makes to Guidepoint upon activating the service. Guidepoint call center responders are trained to introduce new customers to the complete range of available service enhancements.

 

The power of the integration of smartphone and Internet interfaces has not been lost on companies in the 12V aftermarket channel, such as CompuStar and Auto Page. Later this year, CompuStar (by Firstech) will introduce an iPhone app which works with the company’s DroneMobile iPhone app/module for remote starting, tracking and security.

 

According to a report in CEOutlook (http://ceoutlook.com) the CompuStar solution works with remote starters from multiple companies and allows users to lock and unlock the car, release the trunk, remote start the vehicle, control sliding doors and heated seats, track the car and control the security system from their phone.

Users can also view the car’s battery voltage, temperature and alarm status and can set geo-fenced areas. CEOutlook says the DroneMobile DR-1000 will be available in two packages: $549.99 suggested list including basic installation or a $349 package available without the remote starter. Users get one year of basic service. GPS tracking requires a premium service plan. Auto Page is another company that has taken the iPhone plunge.

 

As for LoJack, the company reported in Q1 that “penetration rates are consistent with those of the fourth quarter of 2009, demonstrating that our business has not been negatively impacted by any competing technology.” LoJack says its U.S. unit volumes increased each month of the first quarter with March delivering a double-digit increase. .

 

In the words of one LoJack executive on the company’s earnings call: “As the U.S. auto market recovers, we expect that our installations will increase in a manner that is consistent with the broader domestic auto market trends. We are cautiously optimistic about the broader U.S. auto market based on recent projections that indicate new vehicle sales may exceed prior expectations of 11 to 11.5 million units.”

 

LoJack clearly anticipates healthy business as usual, but even in an environment where theft rates are on the rise, the company may be challenged by the growing influx of GPS/cellular-based solutions - especially as car makers seek to take back the SVR business. The added enhancement of smartphone integration and remote functionality may ultimately force the company to reconsider its RF-only proposition.

Further Insight: http://bit.ly/aIm4vK - Global Automotive OE Telematics Market 2008-2016 - Joanne Blight

May 22, 2010 15:05 rlanctot
A grand experiment is unfolding in the traffic reporting industry around the simultaneous confrontation between and combination of GPS probe and handset signaling data for traffic flow analysis. Both technologies offer the promise of transforming traffic data from an annoying and often disappointing proposition to a more precise and satisfactory experience. But push is about to come to shove in North America – with three pending OEM RFQs in play. The results of these OEM evaluations will likely have a global impact on the traffic data processing industry. To recap, current traffic data consists of: 1. GPS-based fleet data – derived mainly but not exclusively from commercial vehicles 2. Public data – loop sensors and other traffic tracking systems installed and managed mainly by public authorities 3. “Journalistic” data – incident inputs from emergency responders and private sources GPS probe and cellular hand-off data is, in essence, a fourth layer that is of increasing importance to traffic reporting and interpreting systems. The other key element, of course, is the secret sauce added by the aggregators and processors of this data. The aggregators and processors are of several types including those that aggregate a single type of data, such as AirSage or IntelliOne that process cellular handoff data, or that combine several different types of data, such as Inrix or ITIS Holdings, or that provide a system or a tool for processing or for publishing multiple data feeds, such as MILE (MobileInfo.Life Europe) Traffic and Travel, Gewi or PTV. Inrix is a fourth type of provider in offering a platform for both service and content aggregation – including traffic. Inrix has also been a pioneer, along with Navteq’s Traffic.com, in combining multiple real-time and historical traffic data into a predictive traffic model. This strategy has been adopted by others, most notably TomTom. MILE Traffic and Travel is unique for its model of licensing its data processing technology. TomTom is also best known for its pioneering work in integrating both cellular hand-off data (from Vodafone) and GPS probe data (from its Live Service subscribers). TomTom’s success in turning cellular hand-off data into a compelling solution in mobile devices has been an inspiration for both the emerging GPS probe market players (TCS, RIM, Google, Nokia Navteq, etc.) and the cellular hand-off companies. (ITIS claims to be the first to achieve this integration in a commercial solution.) The impending integration of both GPS probe data and cellular handoff data is a test for the industry to see if it can finally get the traffic data solution right. At stake are the hearts, minds and wallets of hundreds of millions of drivers using mobile devices and embedded navigation systems to seek out the most efficient means of getting from point A to point B. GPS probe data is renowned for its accuracy and increasing pervasiveness, as public authorities in multiple geographies have begun requiring GPS technology on handsets for emergency response purposes. The problem with GPS, though, is its impact of device power consumption. Because of this, many users choose to turn their GPS signals off when not in use. In contrast, cellular hand-off data is truly pervasive. While more difficult to interpret and notorious for the incidence of false positives, cellular hand-off data is unmatched for the sheer volume of data generated. For this reason, companies playing the cellular hand-off game, such as TomTom, MILE Traffic and Travel and AirSage, have an edge in the next wave of traffic data solutions. The only implemented solutions thus far have been TomTom’s industry-leading HD Traffic offering in Europe and Westwood One’s more limited use of AirSage data as an enhancement to its own traffic reporting products. AirSage is unique in its recent successful efforts to bring together data from multiple carriers. The company recently added Verizon to its existing Sprint relationship and is poised to deliver the first multi-carrier solution for North America. AirSage and other North American players have long been delayed in their efforts to deliver a cellular hand-off solution in North America due to the more heterogeneous carrier networks. The good news for these companies, though, is there is a significant business in logistics to be derived from the location data (for shipping, traffic management, store and cell tower locatin selection) and location-based advertising solutions are also beginning to emerge. The turning point for the industry likely lies in pending North American RFQs at BMW, Toyota and OnStar. From luxury vehicles to mass market movers, drivers have let car makers know that the current crop of traffic solutions are not cutting it. The information on the display does not correspond with the events unfolding in front of the windshield. The outcome of these OEM evaluations will likely determine the direction of traffic data processing for years to come. Additional Insights: http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 – Nitesh Patel - Navigation and Location Opportunities http://bit.ly/aoQdpd - North America Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 – Nitesh Patel – Wireless Media Strategies http://bit.ly/aHhWeV - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel - Wireless Media Strategies http://bit.ly/cc6O9K - PND Owners Unlikely to Discontinue Using Their Device - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/c5f65I - Automotive and Portable Navigation Market Forecast 2008-2016 - Joanne Blight - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems http://bit.ly/b5W8ZS - Nokia and RIM Push Into Automotive as ‘Apps’ Competition Mounts - Joanne Blight - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems http://bit.ly/9NoM13 - From Probes to Crowd to Community to Ads – Traffic Data Evolving Rapidly - Roger Lanctot - blog - Global Automotive Practice