opinion


Telematics: a stalwart of the past and a proving ground for the future

The Telematics market is the longest-standing and most mature segment of the Machine-to-machine (M2M) industry. It has acted as a test bed environment for the design of more robust, reliable and longer-lasting telecommunications components that are now finding their way into many other products, not just vehicles.

It has also been a pioneering sector for the development of Quality-of-Service (QoS) and Service Level Agreement (SLA)-based business-critical applications. Telematics service providers have crafted specialist value added services from the fundamental utility that connectivity confers, with the same core skills that they first exposed now being used to create application-specific M2M services for other vertical markets as well.

As sensor technology becomes cheaper and more widespread – and as the centralised collection and collation of information logged by distributed networks of remote sensors finds ever more use cases – the M2M market is expanding: from a purely B-B (business-to-business) environment to a combination of B-B and B-B-C (business-to-business –to-consumer) services.

It is inevitable that, as the number of viable use cases grow and as M2M technology becomes embedded into more devices, the technology will get ‘closer’ to the consumer and will involve increasingly direct forms of end user interaction. For some this is not strictly M2M, it is something else. But it is still based on the same principals as M2M and is facilitated by the same technologies and service delivery platforms.

Telematics is at the heart of this segmentation of the M2M market too, into ‘pure’ automated machine-to-machine communications and connected devices that cross over into the consumer domain. The separation between emergency crash notification, theft alert and fleet tracking systems from the wider vision of the ‘connected car’ – where the vehicle is a hub of connectivity for myriad end user requirements – embodies this development.

While not going as far as having a GUI, the OnStar FMV aftermarket mirror (launched in Q3 2011) is a mass market product that has plenty of manually-initiated connected services and exemplifies this evolution of the Telematics market from emergency crash notification to something more. The next step in the development of such products will surely be from voice-only services to the inclusion of visual, data-centric services too.

The Telematics market may therefore act as an exciting proving ground for the viability of the embedding of connectivity into consumer products for the direct provision of value added services in an on-demand fashion. And the best ways to successfully monetise the connectivity in these products will be keenly observed by device manufacturers and service providers in other consumer-centric verticals.

For the question of how to pay for the potentially unlimited use of cellular networks to deliver a service – and not just (thankfully) when rare incidents like an accident occurs – is a critical obstacle for the B-B-C M2M market. The Telematics market is therefore an excellent place for the Machine-to-machine and the embedded connectivity industries at large to learn from; and seems certain to have more to offer as time goes by.

November 9th and 10th 2011 sees the running of 9th Telematics Munich conference and trade show by Telematics Update magazine. M2M has experienced an explosion of renewed interest in recent years and the event has enjoyed a growing year-on-year attendance that is expected to top 600 delegates in 2011. Senior Analysts Jamie Moss and Sheridan Nye from Informa Telecoms & Media will be at Telematics Munich, to meet with representatives from – and to hear the latest developments announced by – the automotive OEMs, in-vehicle service providers, electronics manufacturers and connectivity specialists that will be presenting there.


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