One of the earliest versions of vehicle telematics systems was OnStar, introduced by General Motors in the mid-1990s. It was connected to various vehicle sensors and had a wireless data modem, replete with a backup battery, and of course GPS. In the event of a crash or accident, as determined by one of the vehicle’s sensors, the vehicle telematics system would transmit the information to an OnStar contact centre, at which point a call centre specialist would contact the driver/occupants through the telematics system to find out more about the accident (and also reassure them that help was on the way). Simultaneously, an emergency services call (similar to 911 in the USA) would be made by the call center, relaying the location of the vehicle.
This changed the face of the passenger car industry completely. Technology has evolved a lot since OnStar was officially launched in 1996 at the Chicago Auto Show, and the Internet has become more accessible as cellular services have proliferated. With cellphones gaining widespread acceptance and mobile apps becoming popular, so much that they’ve become preferred travel companions naturally telematics systems manufacturers have begun integrating with them. Land Rover for example offers InControl, which lets you control several of the car’s functions from your iPhone. Today, connected cars are very much a part of the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, Formula 1 racecar telemetry is made available live to viewers worldwide, who can access it on their mobile device, PC or laptop.
Gartner estimates that one in every five cars will be part of the Internet of Things by 2020 – and this means roughly 250 million cars worldwide. The European Union has made it mandatory from 2018 onwards for all cars to have an on-board chip that dials emergency services and relays the location in the unfortunate event of a collision. A Telefonica survey found that 70% of 5,000 respondents already use connectivity services and 50% of those surveyed considered them vital in their next car purchase. 13% emphatically said they would not buy a car without connectivity.
One out of every ten new cars currently features built-in connectivity. By 2020, this figure will rise to nine out of every ten new cars.
The global market for connectivity components/devices/services is now worth $31.36 billion. McKinsey expects it to grow five-fold to $177 billion by the end of the decade. The Australia-APAC market is still a bit fragmented. As of the end of 2015, according to a study by Opera Mediaworks and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), found iOS dominates in Australia with 68.5% of the market share whereas Android led the pack in APAC with 67.1% market penetration (see study). For car and connectivity device manufacturers, the challenge will be to integrate seamlessly with either operating system.
One thing is certain, we now live in the age of connected things. Many of the consumer goods we use everyday have the ability to connect over wireless, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth sending a steady stream of data feedback to our smartphones. The automobile is now a major part of our connected eco-system. How it will evolve is the stuff of many office debates and discussions.