Challenges with Telematics Adoption

We’ve previously discussed some issues with the telematics business case and while its clear to many that the market is there someone does have to make the numbers work before any feature can be broadly adopted.

On Telematics Update, Andrew Tolve highlights that CES this year marked the first time OEMs were perceived to be ready for change, but notes that the challenges of development cycles and safety still remain (in addition to the business model).

Development cycles have always been a challenge for electronics planners in OEMs.  With processing power driven by Moore’s Law (roughly double the power every 18 months) a 36-48 month refresh cycle just can’t keep up.  The introduction of advanced connectivity and software platforms is allowing companies like Ford and Continental to support the development and downloading of apps designed for smartphones and, eventually, for the vehicle specifically.

In web software development a cycle isn’t typically more than 2 weeks and by combining these technologies with a flexible hardware strategy OEMs and tier-1s will be able to significantly reduce the time to market for new features while still utilizing longer development cycles for the hardware.

On the hardware side, the primary things that need to be refreshed are processing power / memory and methods of connectivity.  Processors and memory are constantly increasing capacity, but connectivity doesn’t change very much.  For now 4G technologies are battling it out (and will probably be integrated in the next 2-4 years) and 802.11n will become the standard in WiFi technology in the next year or two.  Advancements in bluetooth and wireless USB may fall into those time ranges as well, but are not major considerations right now.  So, if you implement a strong platform utilizing the latest in connectivity it could last you quite a while.

Safety will remain at the forefront of conversation for a long time to come and Ray LaHood is only beginning to sniff around in-vehicle electronics so what will happen as far as safety standards and government regulation remains to be seen.

Via Telematics Update, Joel Hoffmann, strategic market development manager at Intel’s In-Vehicle Infotainment Group says,

“There’s a gap in the connected car environment,” he says. “There’s not yet a single leader that is willing to participate at both the infrastructure as well as on the device level and provide an easy way to connect, a safe way to connect, and a reasonable set of applications that you would be willing to pay to use while you’re traveling. We think that opportunity is out there, and once that end-to-end approach is taken, then the connected car can accelerate.”

It took a lot of time and effort (i.e. money) to develop OnStar, Ford Sync, Safety Connect, Tele Aid and the rest, but manufacturers will have to embrace the new technologies and start delivering the value customers expect at reasonable prices.  For the near future Sync has the lead in advanced connectivity (and cost), but doesn’t deliver the reliability of the other systems.  It will take some time for these issues to balance themselves out, but it will happen sooner rather than later.

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