How Tier 1 and OEMs Can Learn From The Smartphone Ecosystem

November 24, 2015  |  By John Jasper  |       

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The auto industry has been working through the growing pains of implementing connected car technology. There are many concerns and unanswered questions regarding vehicle monitoring, including the best way to connect cars, who pays for data transmission, what data should be sent, and who actually owns the rights to the data. Having the technology for connected cars is one thing, but determining the best way to utilize that technology raises new questions that need to be answered.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, it makes more sense for OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers to follow the example of the industry that has paved the way in delivering connectivity and monitoring technology – smartphones. Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, and the myriad of software developers creating apps for mobile platforms have developed their own approach for data dissemination and monitoring. Automakers would benefit from their example, especially since most of the mid-market connected cars are going to be connected via smartphone.

Learning from the Smartphone Model

Connected cars generate a lot of data. Typically, there are more than 70 different ECUs running at any given time in today’s automobile. Connected cars generate 25 GB of data every hour, measuring engine performance, fluid levels, tire wear, brake wear, exhaust emissions, crash detection, and hundreds of other operating points. With connected car technology, the amount of data will increase with internal monitors to assess driving habits for insurance, speed, location, entertainment systems. Then self-driving car technology will increase data output geometrically for safe navigation.

The challenge for OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers is how much of that data do they gather and what should be monitored? Basic safety information needs to be monitored, but what about telematics? Does the OEM own the telematics data, or should Tier 1 vendors have direct access to that data to measure the performance of their components?

Of course, there is too much data to gather and sift through all that data effectively, so you have to choose what’s important, how often to gather that data, and what to do with it once you capture it. This raises additional concerns about privacy and other considerations no one has thought of yet.
The mobile telecommunications market has already dealt with many of these questions. Apple, for example, doesn’t monitor performance or gather data from third-party iPhone apps. They merely maintain the smartphone operating system and software problems that affect app vendors delivering content to smartphones via iTunes. And the app developers don’t concern themselves with data other than what is related to their specific software.

Since smartphones are evolving as the preferred link for many connected cars, it makes sense for OEMs and Tier 1 vendors to consider the same model – monitor what’s essential and let third parties take responsibility for the data that affects their apps.

Consumers Want Choice

Not surprisingly, consumers are already looking to buy their connected car technology the same way they buy their smartphone technology – one app at a time. According to research from PwC’s Strategy&, luxury carmakers like Mercedes Benz consider offering full-featured connected car features as essential to their brand. Mercedes spends €7,000 in additional connectivity options in 2015 E-class car, although the price of the car is only €1,654 more than it sold for in 2010. Similarly, BMW spends €6,000 on average in connected car technology. For luxury cars selling for $60,000 and more, it’s expected and has little impact on delivery price.

However, the mid-range market is delivering connectivity a la carte. Strategy& predicts that by 2021, digital content will be 2.6 percent of the sales price of mid-range vehicles, where it’s about 0.5 percent today. To maintain profit margins, OEMs are going to have to offer proprietary digital packages as value-added accessories, or more likely, rely on third parties to deliver aftermarket smartphone apps. Consumers won’t want to pay for the extra digital package if they can buy car apps just as they buy their smartphone apps.

Adopting the smartphone model for car connectivity simplifies everything. Telematics and specific performance data can be sent to the OEM or dealer, as needed, to address major repair concerns or monitoring for routine service. Tier 1 suppliers can use their own apps to monitor specific components to assess performance and ways to improve design. Specific app vendors will do what they have always done, take responsibility for their own connected car apps and issue updates as needed, as they do now for smartphone users.

Rather than trying to break new ground, it makes much more sense to follow the lead of the smartphone providers who have already figured most of it out. Limiting connected car data access to telematics and specific components that OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers care about eliminates conflicts and questions about what data to collect and who owns that data. And relying on third-party developers to drive connected car apps via smartphones eliminates the need for OEMs to develop and manage more software while giving consumers a connected car retail model they know and understand.

How else can Tier 1 and OEMs learn from the smartphone ecosystem?

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Topics: Automotive UI/UX

John Jasper

John is the President and COO of Abalta Technologies. Abalta Technologies, Inc. is an emerging leader in the connected car landscape. Abalta has developed an innovative platform to enable car companies, automotive electronic firms and tier 1 suppliers to bridge the gap between the smartphone and the car’s infotainment system.

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