CTIA SMW Features Large Connected Car Presence

September 18, 2014  - By
Image: GPS World

CTIA’s Super Mobility Week featured machine-to-machine technology, connected vehicle vendors, and a few location-based services companies. While combining its spring and fall conferences, which drew a big crowd, CTIA also tried to be everything to everyone in wireless. Meeting planners also placed the conference with conflicting dates — as the Institute of Navigation, Berlin IFA and ITS World Congress were held in the same week. One of my goals as a reporter was to make sense of a big trade show — and to limit the times an interviewee said “Internet of Things.”

LAS VEGAS — Outside of the announcement by GM and AT&T to expand OnStar to Europe, the CTIA Super Mobility Week here featured several connected car panels, but limited location news. The action seemed to be in company backroom meetings with existing clients — or trying to find additional niche opportunities for location products.

One company, Annapolis, Maryland-based TeleCommunication Systems, said it is proving its navigation product for the Atlanta-based AT&T Drive Studio. The company is involved in most location markets, now ranked No. 2 in terms of units deployed (second to Ericsson, according to one source), said Jay Whitehurst, TCS president, commercial software group.

TCS’ Location ToolKit, which will be used in the 5,000-square foot AT&T Drive Studio, offers navigation, with automatic map updates, traffic, real-time gas prices, weather, movies and showtimes.

Whitehurst said a market that is growing is e-health and mobile payments, which are both big topics at CTIA SMW and at the Barcelona Mobile World Congress. “We are developing a new product in conjunction with physicians to allow first responders to be able to reach patients who are not responsive. We are working the system into clinical workflows to provide diagnosis,” he said.

Standards, particularly for connected vehicles and handsets that control functions, will be important as new systems and vehicles offer this technology, said Alan Ewing, Car Connectivity Consortium president and executive director.

“Having a proprietary service is okay until someone says, ‘Hey, we don’t want to do this anymore,’ then there is a button in a car that does nothing,” he said. “We want to ensure that button is meaningful. While a lot of cars have MirrorLink built in, what happens when it disappears and consumers don’t know where to buy a compatible phone? [Consumers] don’t want three different phones for their vehicles.”

Ewing said that despite proponents’ arguments that autonomous vehicles are here to stay, he believes it is a generational issue. “I don’t want to give up control of a vehicle. But it is a surprise to hear younger people are not even getting driver’s licenses.”

Ford, which is not a MirrorLink member, had its inaugural developer’s conference at CTIA SMW. The developer’s conference was a big hit, with more than 200 application developers, said Douglas VanDagens, Ford global director, connected services solutions organization.


u-blox Rolls Out New Module, Outlines Marketing Strategy

Several companies at CTIA SMW are attempting to find niche opportunities in the crowded machine-to-machine market — and Switzerland-based u-blox is no exception. The company is focusing on the mobile, industrial and consumer-location markets, said Thomas Seiler, u-blox CEO.

While Seiler says there is no one dominant market for u-blox, the fleet market has been very good for the company. In addition, asset tracking has been a good market, he said.

“We are also seeing consumer markets such as e-bikes, golf carts, commercial helicopters and drones growing,” Seiler said.

While many location companies are fretting about government regulation, u-blox is taking the position that most agency requirements have actually helped build the market. “Regulatory requirements have been driving business for us. The [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] proposes that vehicles report location, speed and direction,” said Nikolaos Papadopoulos, u-blox America president. “The collision avoidance regulations have helped to create an ecosystem that drives business.”

The company recently rolled out its ODIN-W160 multi-radio module for automotive, industrial, medical and security applications.

Nick Papadopoulos, president of u-blox America, tells CTIA Super Mobility Week show-goers what they should see at the u-blox booth.

Numerex Exec Talks Omnilink Purchase

The recent $37.5 million purchase of offender-monitoring company Omnilink allowed Numerex to boost its presence in the tracking of prisoners, Alzheimer’s patients and children, said Kelly Gay, Numerex president, security solutions.

“Our strategic focus is on M2M solutions — the Omnilink purchase is a perfect fit. Both companies are based in Atlanta and we have a lot of products we are working on together,” she said. “It’s been a great four months [since the acquisition].”

Gay said Numerex is focusing on four markets, or “battlefields” for growth: solutions as a service; asset identification and tracking; supply chain delivery; and remote monitoring, which includes oil and gas, tank monitoring, water systems and tracking weather.

LBS Companies Few and Far at CTIA…

While there were only a handful of LBS companies at CTIA SMW, one company, Mexia Interactive, mapped the exhibit hall in the Sands Convention Center. The Winnipeg, Canada-based company is offering indoor location beacons — and has installations in four airports, with six more under contract.

“We set up 80 sensors in this area to capture data from mobile devices, every 10 seconds, to place the information on a heat map. With this heat map, retailers can see how many people are in a registration area, patterns of who is going to booths — and who is not,” said Glenn Tinley, Mexia president and CEO.

While Tinley says his company, which was founded in 2010, can work with both Apple and Android systems, he believes Apple is pushing Android out of the indoor market.

At airports, both security and airlines can see how long lines are with the technology to open up new lines and distribute personnel to meet the need, Tinley said. “We can instantly send a text alert to have a new check-in line established. Retailers can do the same thing at check out,” he said. “At retailers, [long lines] represent potentially billions in losses each year.”

Iridium Expanding M2M Market Demand

Iridium recently reduced the price of its short-burst data receivers by 50 percent to allow its OEMs and value-added resellers to offer a product that works worldwide in areas with no cellular coverage.

“The machine-to-machine market is one of our fastest growing [segments]. We see a combination of new services being developed,” said David Wigglesworth, Iridium vice president and general manager. “By the end of the year, we should have a push-to-talk service like the old Nextel phone.”

Big changes are coming to Iridium and its satellite constellation. The Iridium NEXT satellite network will consist of 66 in-orbit satellites and several in-orbit spares. The constellation is expected to begin launching in 2015 and will offer greater bandwidth and data speeds when fully operational in 2017.

“We are replacing the whole Iridium system. Space X is our launch partner — and they have been great,” Wigglesworth said. “The new constellation will allow new services. We see aviation as being a big market. The satellite industry has many niche markets.”

In other CTIA SMW news:

  • One of a handful of antenna companies exhibiting at SMW was Ireland-based Taoglas, which says there is growth in distributed antenna systems, said Dermot O’Shea, Taoglas president. “We are seeing a huge movement to LTE,” he said. One of Taoglas’ customers is Omnilink, which uses a custom GPS antenna in its offender-monitoring product.
  • Stockholm-based Birdstep is getting into the connected car market, based on its defense experience, with future data plans that turn off when a car is stationary. “Why should consumers pay for a data plan when a car is parked 90 percent of the time?” asked Lonnie Schilling, Birdstep CEO.
  • Spirent Communications launched its Elevate Test Framework for M2M devices and services. Because of the surge in smartphone and M2M devices, the new testing device allows evaluation and performance tests to enable faster development cycles, the company said.
  • Fleet Freedom rolled out a new mobile resource-management product that works with Android, iOS and Magellan’s RoadMate fleet units at SMW. “This unit is the fourth generation. It features dispatch integrated, while most of our competitors view this as a separate product,” said Andrew Singer, Fleet Freedom general manager.

About the Author: Kevin Dennehy

Kevin Dennehy is GPS World’s editor for location-based services, writing a monthly column for the LBS Insider newsletter. Dennehy has been writing about the location industry for more than 20 years. He covered GPS and location technology for Global Positioning & Navigation News for seven years. His articles on the wireless industry have been published in both consumer and trade magazines and newspapers.