CES 2014 Telematics Industry Press Release Round Up

The CES 2014 Telematics Industry Press Release Round Up can be purchased here.

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Press Releases From:

Open Automotive Alliance
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Connected Car Expo and LA Autoshow


“Designed as a comprehensive “one-stop” resource to be held in conjunction with the Los Angeles Auto Show, the CCE combines the global industry stature and media power of the LA Auto Show Press Days with a unique thought leadership forum consisting of the top influencers in the connected car space.”
The Connected Car Expo was a welcome addition to this year’s LA AutoShow.  It’s always interesting to see so many of the major players of the telematics industry in one room, even if it doesn’t always result in groundbreaking developments.  It’s a natural fit for the auto show and I expect the event to come back next year.
Unfortunately I’d say that overall, I got the feeling that for 2013 showcasing the vehicle electronics had taken a step back from the hype of previous years.  The vendor exhibits were fairly limited and only occupied the South Hall lobby.  The only real Verizon or OnStar presence I saw at the show was in small booths in this area.
It is worth noting that contrary to my observation there is some buzz that connected cars will have a significant presence at the 2014 CES.
I would anecdotally attribute this pull back to the fact that the industry is a bit stagnate.  While all the automakers are now on board with the idea that telematics are an important part of the automotive package, the industry as a whole continues to argue about, and not make progress on, issues of safety, engagement, privacy and ???.  10 years ago the OEMs were unable to implement many cutting edge telematics technologies because of potential safety issues and today we’re facing the same problems while smartphones continue their rapid growth.
As far as smartphone controls for your car go, we’ve seen the bulk of the innovation for now.  These days everyone can unlock a new car with their phone or bluetooth their music into the sound system.  Most of the new features of smartphone apps seem to be more related to electric car management than to infotainment.  Those that are infotainment related are minor evolutions of existing features.
The expert panel discussions I was able to attend included a number of significant industry players and I found a few snippets interesting, but as is often the case, there was not a lot of discussion that hasn’t been heard before.
For example, someone made the point (and I apologize for not having the attribution) that we have the technology to support a fully autonomous mated vehicle ecosystem.  The roadblock is actually the legacy infrastructure.  That is, if we wiped the landscape clear of all the existing cars and roads, we have the technology to implement a fully functional autonomous infrastructure.  Looking back it seems like an almost obvious point (especially considering we have a car on Mars that can drive itself), but it’s very interesting to me.  We’re no longer waiting for technology to catch up.  We’re actually waiting for old technology to die!  The complexity of combining human and robotic drivers on the road is the real hurdle to autonomous vehicles.  Some states are already allowing various versions of self driving cars, but regulation and infrastructure will have to evolve quickly.
I think the most interesting conversation I encountered was the the panel discussion regarding the crossover between driver distraction and big data.  The industry is essentially on pause until we figure out how to overcome issues of driver distraction and the only way to really figure out what is and isn’t distracting is proper scientific study.
Bruce Mehler, Research Scientist, MIT AgeLab and the New England University Transportation Center, spoke about some of the research they are doing as it relates to driver distraction.  I think this type of research will be at the center of how and when we ‘crack the code’ around driver distraction.  In the future, expect more details on who is researching what and where that research will lead us.
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Blocking Smartphone Apps Doesn’t Solve the Distracted Driving Problem

I’ve come across a number of different applications that will limit the use of your smartphone while driving by blocking certain functionality based on the fact that you’re moving at a certain speed.

This is a fine and dandy band-aid approach to the problem of distracted driving, but trying to limit the user is not the solution that will work.  As long as people are not forced into restrictions they will choose to leave themselves to use their phone however they choose.

It is a rare person that will acknowledge that they cannot control themselves from using their phone while driving but will then also take action to limit their own freedom in favor of not texting while driving.  Most people that are willing to use apps like these in their personal lives are already perfectly safe drivers well aware of the dangers of distracted driving.

In corporate fleet situations the opportunity is there to force drivers to use these types of applications.  Many fleets already use a number telematics programs to route drivers, track safe driving, track fuel efficiency and much more so implementing an additional application may not be to difficult.  But outside of the corporate environment, where the administration of the application is separate from the end user, the person with the smartphone can always just turn the application off.

I’m convinced that this generation of applications designed to limit in vehicle functionality, as well as text ban laws (and the like) completely fail to address the fact that these technologies and services exist and add value to the people that use them.  The availability of products and services to be used while driving will only grow.  Long term, telematics applications will allow for full use of their functionality, but will be delivered in safer ways.  Will it be heads-up displays? Maybe… Steering wheel controls? Probably… Voice controls? Definitely… But these all have a long way to go and it would seem the only solution we have in the meanwhile is to just turn the services off.

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inTELEMATICStoday.com @ The LA Auto Show 2013 + Connected Car Expo

inTELEMATICStoday will be at the LA Auto Show and the Connected Car Expo this year!

I’m not really sure what to expect from the CCE, but between the panels and the exhibitors I’m sure I’ll keep busy.

Remember to follow @TechToLiveBy to keep up-to-date on the latest and greatest from the show.

See you there!

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Your Car Can Be Hacked And Its Going To Get Easier To Do

Connectivity is awesome.  Connections and communication between electronic systems, both wired and wireless, have allowed us to continue to advance technology to unimaginable heights. From TVs, to the internet, to satellite communication communication between technologies enables new and advanced functionalities for users.  Every telematics platform in existence is built upon this idea.

Until recently, cars have remained entirely unconnected.  Off-the-grid as far as talking to other devices. On-Star changed that by building a cell-phone into the car and ever since it’s been a mad dash to add functionality that will take advantage of the cars new ability to talk to the outside world.

But with great power comes great responsibility…

The more connectivity and integration is built into any device (a car for our purposes) the more ways there are to access that device.  This is a natural evolution of technology.  Unfortunately those ways to access device also mean more ways for those with less than positive intentions to gain access as well.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Washington are researching vulnerabilities in electronic vehicle controls, trying to warn automakers about potential security holes. Many new cars have Bluetooth wireless technology and built-in connections for cell phones and other devices, and those connections could be exploited. In one example, the researchers called the car’s cellular connection and uploaded malicious code using an audio file. In another test, they found out how to pair the car to a Bluetooth-enabled device, which they used to execute code.
Hacking vehicle systems started [...] Continue Reading…

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Texting Bans, Can They Work?

Distracted Driving is the biggest buzzword of the automotive world and rightfully so.  The influx of technology and information available to drivers offers an almost infinite number of reasons to take your eyes off the road and that is the opposite of what any of us want.  To that end many states have enacted a hands-free requirement for cell phone use with varying levels of of success. In addition to these hands-free laws there has been a huge push for all out bans of texting while driving.  From Ray La Hood to Oprah there are national campaigns to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving as well as encourage states to establish laws banning the use of text messaging while driving.

Now, I totally  understand the value of educating drivers, particularly young drivers, of the dangers of distracted driving, but what I don’t understand is the ban on texting.  I’m not saying people should text while they drive, but I am saying the laws banning texting don’t make any sense to me.  They seem to be totally unenforceable.  Smartphones, navigation systems, infotainment systems, etc are all potentially significant distractions and are all totally legal to use while driving.  Since an iPod, Blackberry and countless other mobile devices have merged to become our phone, our music and our GPS how can a police officer possibly tell a legitimate difference between someone using these features on the same device?  Nobody I’ve talked to has been able to give me a good [...] Continue Reading…

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Ford Sync Fact Sheet

Download the Ford Sync Fact Sheet PDF 1-Pager or read it all below.


Ford SYNC®, co-developed with Microsoft and using Nuance Communications voice recognition technology, allows customers to bring digital media players and Bluetooth®-enabled mobile phones into their vehicles and operate the devices via voice commands or with the steering wheel’s redundant audio controls. SYNC is an agnostic software platform that connects with the vast majority of makes and models of Bluetooth-enabled cell and smart phones from all network service providers, plus digital music players and USB memory sticks.


Launched in fall of 2007, first on the 2008 Focus, the most affordable Ford car at the time
SYNC has since been installed on more than 2.5 million cars, trucks and crossovers
SYNC will launch globally, in Europe and Asia-Pacific,  in 2011 with the introduction of the new 2012 Focus
SYNC voice recognition available in U.S. English, Canadian-French, and North American Spanish (expanding to 21 languages next year)
In general, SYNC is installed on 70 percent of all Ford vehicles sold. More specifically, among 2010 models, it was selected by 81 percent of F-150 buyers, 85 percent of Fusion buyers and nearly 90 percent of Edge buyers

Ford market research results:

Post SYNC demonstration, non-Ford owners show a 3-fold increase in willingness to consider Ford

Of SYNC owners:

32% see SYNC as having played an important or critical role in their purchase decision.
60% of owners use the voice commands
62% are completely satisfied with 80% of heavy users completely satisfied
77% would recommend – 92% of heavy users would recommend.


SYNC, where optional, costs $395, the same price as when it launched in 2007.

No subscription necessary

On most Ford products, SYNC is optional on mid-level trim series (SEL and [...] Continue Reading…

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Sprint Offers Android Based Distracted Driving App err… App to Reduce Distracted Driving

Today Sprint CEO Dan Hesse announced, at CTIA, Sprint® Drive FirstTM . The android based app created by Location Labs will cost $2/month and is designed to:

Lock the driver’s cell phone screen and redirect calls to voice mail.
Block text-message alerts and auto-respond to the message sender that the driver is currently unavailable.
Allow access to three key contacts and three mobile applications, such as GPS navigation.
Give parents and business administrators Web portal access to configure Drive First for their teens’ or employees’ mobile devices.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and along with Sprint Drive First, Sprint will introduce a new interactive distracted-driving pledge that Sprint customers will be able to access online.
This is all fine and dandy.  It’s great that the carriers are getting involved in dealing with distracted driving and not just sticking their head in the sand.

That being said, I have one complaint and one major issue.

The complaint is that the app has to be downloaded and enabled.  Most users will not opt-in to an application like this.  In fact, those users that would are probably the same users that don’t really need it.  The user pool we are left with is business users and teenagers (both specifically mentioned in the release) far from enough to bring an end to distracted driving.  This is a fault of all apps of this type, but maybe its still better than nothing.

The major issue is… Why the hell is Sprint charging for this?  If Mr Hesse was serious when he [...] Continue Reading…

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It’s Jeopardy! My Dear Watson

A quick hit for you while I work on my CES coverage…

IBM has created a super computer called Watson that it will pit against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a game of Jeopardy! in an attempt to demonstrate some of the most advanced artificial intelligence on the planet.  The three contestants will compete over three shows for a total of $1.5million in prize money.

The reason all this is important is because Watson will have to ‘hear’ the questions just like any other contestant, figure out what is actually being asked, and retrieve the information before his human challengers.  Considering most customer service IVRs can barely figure out when I ask for an operator this is an almost unbelievably daunting task.

I’ve joked previously that voice recognition technology wont be have met customer expectations until it functions like the computer on Star Trek (i.e. understands almost any request in any context) and Watson may be the first real world demonstration of the technology that would eventually get us to a place where no man has traveled before.

Competitor Ken Jennings hit the nail on the head, “… the retrieval process is trivial for a computer and difficult for a human, while the comprehension process is much easier for Ken than Watson.” Once Watson thinks it has figured out what is being asked it will have an answer within milliseconds… The tricky part will be whether or not Watson’s answer is to the right question.

This will be a really fascinating test (and [...] Continue Reading…

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Ford Sync Release AppLink to 2011 Fiesta; Apple iPhone Supported

At the recent Content and Apps for Automotive Conference (by Telematics Update), we talked a lot of about voice controls and the important role they will play in creating a safe and usable in-car infotainment experience.  A lot of the major products out there already feature voice controls of some sort, but today Ford announced the availability of Sync Applink which allows users to control certain Ford Sync compatible applications via voice on Android, Blackberry and, yes, Apple iPhones (Ford announced everything except the iPhone support back in April).
Recent studies indicate 46 percent of adult smartphone users have apps on their phones and 36 percent of those admit to using those apps while commuting. Moreover, the 2010 study “Staying Connected on the Go: A Look at In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Systems” conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association reports that 55 percent of smartphone owners prefer voice commands as their user interface for in-car smartphone integration, making the business case for SYNC and AppLink even more compelling.
Pandora internet radio, Stitcher news radio and OpenBeak are the first SYNC-enabled mobile apps (the same three reported quite some time ago..availability details below) so Ford has yet to open up the development API to a wider audience, but this is a good start.  The menu system should be fairly straightforward, but will face the same challenges as all voice recognition systems.  ‘Play Station Classic Rock’ might be simple enough, but many systems already struggle with artist names and obscure genres.  OpenBeak will read your twitter timeline [...] Continue Reading…

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Content and Apps for Automotive by Telematics Update Wrap-Up

Over the two days of Telematics Update’s Content and Apps for Automotive Conference there was a lot to be learned about the state of the industry and where people think it’s going.  We covered the industry from end to end and touched on all the leading technology frameworks and business models.  The event as a whole went great, turnout was very good and the panels / presentation we’re loaded with information. It’s an interesting albeit frustrating time to part of the industry.  As with any great advancement in technology there are huge opportunities and even more uncertainty.

It is agreed that the automotive industry needs to address the advanced features and functionality of smartphones in an automotive environment…but that’s about the only thing that’s been agreed upon.

Everything else, what services to deliver, how to deliver them, how to monetize the whole thing, and, most importantly, how to do it all safely remain undefined.  All the pieces are pertinent to the conversation, but without a doubt, the issues of driver distraction and safety overshadow all others.  It’s understandable of course, driver distraction is a real danger and between Oprah and Ray LaHood the issue has been given a lot of air time.  Unfortunately the fear of Ray LaHood, the DoT and rampant lawsuits seem to be the greatest barrier to delivering really cool consumer facing services.  Many companies are positioning themselves as simple service providers not liable for the end product.  The companies willing to take on the liability (logically) want to [...] Continue Reading…

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LaHood Still Looking at Cell Jamming Technology for Cars

Ray LaHood has once again shown a tendency to want to completely block technology in the car.

“There’s a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we’re looking at that,” Raymond LaHood, the Secretary of Transportation said during a discussion during MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

This will never happen. Ever.  There are to many legitimate reasons to use a phone in car (e.g. 911, passengers making calls, etc) and to few benefits to blocking it…not to mention the FCC wouldn’t approve it.  I don’t seen a need to spend a long time discussing this issue.  It’s just not going to happen.  Not even if there was a catastrophic distraction related accident to use as a rallying cry.

To be fair, LaHood went on to say, “That’s one way. But you have to have good laws, you have to have good enforcement, and you have to have people take personal responsibility. That’s the bottom line.”  Which is far more reasonable an approach.  The interview coincides with the Department of Transportations new, “Faces of Distraction” campaign which will no doubt seek to demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving (i.e. scare people).

I’m not sure what the impact of federal laws would be as the states seem to be doing a pretty good job of creating the restrictions themselves.  Handset use restrictions are becoming standard and seem to have a positive impact on the issue of distraction.  Texting bans are also being rolled out across the country, but the effectiveness is not the same. [...] Continue Reading…

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Content and Apps for Automotive 2010

It’s day one here in sunny San Diego and we’ve got over a hundred members of the automotive, telematics and smartphones industries in the room.

The agenda is jam packed with interesting and relevant discussions about the future of the automotive telematics industry.  In particular we’re focused on the boom in smartphone applications and what this means for OEMs, tier-1’s, developers and the rest of the ecosystem.  It’s still early, but Roger Lanctot started us off with a keynote that covered a large section of the market and the issues faced by the players.

The panels and presentations will be going for the next 2 days so make sure to come back for the latest and greatest from the event.

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App Spotlight: SafeCellApp – Get Paid to NOT Use Your Phone While Driving

SafeCellApp (not to be mistaken with the ‘radiation blocking’ SafeCell) has taken an interesting approach to smartphone app usage and distracted driving.  Instead of blocking features, the SafeCellApp will pay you $1 per 100 miles (it’s really 1 point per mile and 100 points per $1 aka $.01 / mile) you drive without violating texting or cell phone use bans.  By using your location to check the local laws the app can decide whether that call you just made was legal or not (for example by detecting whether or not you used a hands free device).  Users will be awarded points for positive behavior and will lose points for negative behavior (no word on if you’ll have to pay the SafeCell if / when you end up with negative points).

At $11.99 that’s 1,200 miles of distraction free driving just to make your money back.  Earnings can be redeemed via eCards and gift cards which is great and it seems like there are lots of Rewards Partners.  I drive about a 100 miles a day so I’d be curious to try this out, but I don’t have an iPhone or Android phone (WebOS RULEZ!).  If I drive 500 miles a week and somehow managed to not text for any of those  approximately 12 hours a week I’d earn $5 a week or $260 a year, which isn’t much, but more than I earn for not texting now (which is zero).  In theory, already ‘safe’ drivers should benefit by being paid [...] Continue Reading…

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Twitter Chats and Digital Cars

Social media, particularly Twitter, is about listening, learning, sharing, and connecting with others.  In many cases, people with like interests form around specific topics, themes or ideas. Using hashtags (#), some people group conversations around a relevant topic and focus the discussion.

Many groups form and take the discussions further by establishing regularly timed twitter chats focused on their interests.  For example, there are twitter chats any day of the week around topics ranging from bloggers and social media to farming (#agchat) to dogs  to astrology (#astrochat) to Justin Beiber (#JBchat) – yes, Justin Beiber chats!

In general, there are some chats focused on cars (#carchat), but the continued innovation and integration of technology, transportation, consumer electronics and telecommunications and more still fragments some markets.

The convergence, innovation and integration of related industries like mobile phones, traffic, infotainment or wifi and the related new tools, devices, services and companies is inspiring.  The always-on connected vehicle is here to stay and yet continues to evolve.

In order to recognize the convergence and integration of these industries, we are starting a weekly chat using #digicar as our focus.  Short for digitalcars, it also includes the integration of ITS systems, telematics and innovation such as mobile apps.  Join a growing group to discuss relevant topics about the always-on connected vehicle.

We will pick one or two relevant topics per week and hope to encourage the community to share thoughts in the discussion.

The first session will be held on Oct 15 at 1:00 EST.  We plan to build [...] Continue Reading…

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MyFord Touch Review From Mossberg

We’ve spent a lot of time covering Ford Sync and the upcoming MyFord Touch systems. Grandpa Mossberg had an opportunity to spend sometime with the new MyFord system and his thoughts can be summarized in two lines from the article.
The layout of most of the displays is clear and logical, and the voice-command system is still the best I’ve ever used in a car. But Ford’s new user interface has so many options and functions that I believe it presents a challenging learning curve.
Basically it sounds like there are interesting and useful features, but the usability leaves something to be desired.  As the number and variety of features offered increases the challenge to access them quickly and efficiently increases greatly. Ford uses multiple screens and voice controls to give users access, but that in itself adds a layer of complexity.  Screens need to be configured and preferences set so that everything functions the way that works best for the driver.

Mossberg seems to think its over complicated to the point that it’s probably best to do most of your learning in the driveway.  That’s probably not a bad idea, but it’s not a great sign for the not-so-tech-savvy crowd’s.  I don’t know what Ford’s plans for training new customers at dealerships is, but it seems like some required training during vehicle delivery might be very needed.

I’m hoping to get hands on with the system sometime soon, but for now click through for Mossberg’s complete article.  Don’t forget to [...] Continue Reading…

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QNX, chumby Bring Personalized Internet Experience to the Car

QNX has announced support of the Chumby application environment.  The QNX Car Application Platform will allow users to access apps in the same way Chumby users can.

If you don’t know what a Chumby is, it’s a standalone open source internet enabled widget device (i know, that doesn’t mean anything to anyone)…basically it’s a little piece of the internet wherever you put it.  The device connects to Wi-Fi and rotates through the list of widgets the user has chosen (through the website) to be displayed.  Personally I had my eyes on the Chumby about 18 months before it was even released years ago… I ended up buying it as a platform for demonstrating the power of widgets and specifically to demonstrate the potential for users to customize the content delivered to them.This is another example of Tier-1s crossing over into consumer electronics platforms to rapidly deliver broad feature sets to their users rather than having to develop them in-house (i.e. the recent Harman / Aha Mobile acquisition).  There are currently about 1500 widgets from all over the spectrum.

As a long time Chumby user I have a particular love for the device, but I have to admit it’s not nearly as useful as I might have hoped.  The functionality is fine, but unfortunately the development community hasn’t taken off.  I’ve only got about 10 widgets that I find even marginally useful and after that I don’t have a need for 100 different zoo webcams (exaggeration but you get my point). Safety will [...] Continue Reading…

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Aha Mobile Acquired by Harman

Aha Mobile, is a provider of “on-demand mobile and location-based Internet content services,” that we spotlighted here back in March and has now been acquired by Harman International in an effort to bolster their mobile offerings.
Aha Mobile launched its “Aha Radio” application for the Apple iPhone® earlier this year, which has since become popular among mobile users for sharing real-time, location-based traffic reports, entertainment and social network information.  In addition to planned integration with HARMAN systems, the Company will continue working with third parties to enable customized Web content on their products by leveraging the Aha platform.
I do expect more of this type of acquisition to take place in the future.  The automotive tier 1s are in an excellent position to acquire and integrate big chunks of technology and if that’s not what is supposed to happen to a web based startup then I don’t know what is.

Companies and apps that deliver content and location based services are at the forefront of mobile technology and they wont all be integrated into automotive as third parties, many will get bought up (some maybe even by OEMs themselves) and delivered to customers as an exclusive option for the vehicle.

Aha’s platform offers a lot of opportunities to leverage the latest technologies and content, I’m looking forward to seeing what Harman can do with it. Full text of the press release below.

UPDATE: Roger Lanctot has written a nice piece about this acquisition and On-Star’s Facebook feature. Enjoy!

via [Harman]

HARMAN Acquires Palo Alto-Based Web Content Pioneer to Transform [...] Continue Reading…

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Smart Traffic Lights Could Reduce Congestion

PopSci has an article highlighting some research out of Europe talking about how advanced stop light control systems could improve traffic flow over the timers and scheduled patterns that are currently used.
The solution is a decentralized approach that lets the traffic lights work together by figuring out how changes at each individual intersection would affect the entire system. Instead of being stymied by natural fluctuations in traffic, the system takes advantage of them, using random gaps to help improve traffic flow.
Click through to PopSci for the full article.

via [PopSci]

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