CTIA: Automakers Developing Their Own Infotainment Apps

May 28, 2013  - By

OnStar_logo-TBy Janice Partyka

It’s a trifecta. The most interesting news at CES, Mobile World Congress, and now CTIA was the connected vehicle. Last week at CTIA, the biggest mobile conference in the U.S., GM and OnStar demonstrated ideas of what we can expect in vehicles once AT&T’s LTE network makes its way into vehicles. We heard about many of their concepts in February at Mobile World, but with the infotainment possibilities being shown at CTIA, it is clear the endeavor is evolving quickly. Providers of navigation, mapping, traffic, middleware, search, points of interest and mobile advertising have key roles. We’ll check in ahead with some of these companies.

GM and OnStar envision an in-vehicle curated app ecosystem with downloadable apps and remote vehicle management. Developers will have access to APIs that can access the vehicle’s speed, performance, GPS, fuel economy and other information, but are kept out of areas that could cause safety issues. GM, as well as other OEMs, is not ready to let the app marketplace take money out of its pocket. The automaker is pushing to get apps built specially for its vehicles. Mary Chan of GM said that the business model hasn’t been decided, but the apps may be free, bundled into a service that GM charges for, or paid out to the developers. Another possibility is an app subscription paid for on a smartphone could be applied to a separate app in the car. We have to wait until model year 2015 to see it come off the assembly line.

Snippets heard at CTIA:

“The biggest challenge of indoor location is having a good enough return on investment by the venue.” Derek Peterson, Boingo

“We hear many pitches from companies that want to supply us with indoor location technology, but so many of them are just unscalable.” David Hildebrandt, ATT

“Relevant, connected car data trumps free.” Mary Chan, General Motors

“The future killer mobile apps are banking, retail, medical (records, diagnosis) and government (voting, administrative).” Michael Saylor, MircoStrategy

“The ownership of data in connected cars will be a huge issue. And what happens to data in a vehicle when you transfer ownership?” Mary Chan, General Motors

Traffic Information Is Getting Better. Traffic information is getting more granular, hence more useful. INRIX and others are collecting traffic data in road segments about 250 meters long, a significant improvement from the past. Not too long ago, traffic data was provided solely by sensors, cameras and helicopters, which covered only highways and some arterial roads. The use of crowd-sourced traffic data now provides a leap in the amount of traffic data collected, enabling more current traffic conditions, as well more roads, to be monitored. “We can collect traffic data for these small road segments from all sources, crunch it and turn it around in under a minute,” says Bill Schwebel of INRIX.

How Fast? In a few years, Schwebel says we will see an expansion of navigation that goes beyond driving from point A to point B. This would include accurate estimates of the entire length of your trip, for instance, driving from your home to arriving at your airport gate. “We will be getting more feeds from parking lots with electronic counters, but we can also see the dwell time in a parking lot, or cars that exit without parking, all from crowdsourcing,” adds Schwebel. Waits at TSA lines or rental car counters can be devised using historical and near real-time data. When schedules of events in the area and school calendars are added, the predictions get better.

Navigation Changes Ahead. Turn-by-turn navigation will take a step forward to becoming more interactive when it becomes a two-way broadcast. Niall Berkery of Telenav, predicts that two-way connected navigation will appear in 2014-2016. “We are now focused on reducing the complexity of navigation and making it more personalized,” says Berkery. The entire industry, hindered by the perspective that navigation is free, is focusing on adding value. Telenav acquired ThinkNear to add hyperlocal marketing to its offering.

Embedded Navigation and the Delivery Man. Berkery estimates that 30% of navigation systems are embedded in the vehicle, which can makes updating or servicing the devices challenging. Some years ago an interesting solution was developed in China. When an embedded navigation system needed servicing, it was handled by a package delivery service, similar to FedEx. The delivery person manually removed the navigation hard drive from a consumer’s vehicle and sent it off to be fixed or replaced. When the drive came back from the factory, the package delivery person reinstalled it. That’s pretty special service.

If you missed last week’s CTIA show, held May 21-23 in Las Vegas, you will have to wait a year and a half for its next appearance. With CES and the Mobile World Congress positioned on the calendar prior to CTIA, the other shows drew the lion’s share of product announcements and crowds. CTIA will reposition itself in front of these competing shows. CTIA’s new “Super Mobility Week” will be more international and take the place of the current fall and spring CTIA shows. Super Mobility Week will be held Sept 9-11, 2014 in Las Vegas and will include MobileCON and other major partnerships to create a bigger show experience.