Earlier today, the latest in a never ending string of announcements in the connected vehicle/ M2M space hit the wires. Chrysler Group and Sprint announced their strategic wireless partnership just weeks after Verizon’s acquisition of Hughes Telematics, shocked the industry. What’s news here isn’t that Chrysler will have a connected Viper, or that light-duty truck owners also desire connectivity. The real news is who is powering it and how.
The automotive and transportation segment is the largest and one of the fastest growing segments in all of machine to machine communication. With over 180 million vehicles on our nation’s roads, less than 4% are currently, “connected,” and consumers buy an estimated 13 million new vehicles each year. Hence the reason there is so much interest in this space. Just look at the upside!
What gets me excited about the Sprint and Chrysler partnership isn’t the fact that Chrysler vehicles will carry a cellular chip, it’s in the way that Sprint and Chrysler are approaching the problem. Chrysler understands vehicles and their component suppliers understand hardware and software. But Sprint understands how people utilize wireless services today.
What you can expect to see from Sprint and Chrysler is Sprint not acting in its traditional role as a wireless service provider, but instead acting as a solutions integrator, putting together an echo-system that includes best of breed hardware, components and applications, and the required connectivity to enable an all-encompassing solution for Chrysler owners. Up until now, connected vehicle solutions have truly been about connecting the vehicle and nothing more. Now, it is about putting the vehicle owner, and its occupants, front and center and enabling a new experience. This solution is about the creation of a platform, “Uconnect”, which includes the in-vehicle experience, but also allows Chrysler owners the ability to download innovative applications through an online portal that will serve them no matter how they drive, utilize infotainment or communicate from their vehicles. This is much along the same lines of the echo-system Apple enabled when launching the iPhone and iPad.
“Uconnect” is certain to change traditional business models for connected vehicles. In fact, we believe the echo-system/app store approach will turn the industry on its head, offering pay-per-use, subscription-based and pay-per-app business models rather than their traditional subscription based/exception-based safety and accident warning services such as OnStar. For example, with OnStar, you pay for the service and you hope you never use it. Rather Uconnect promises new usage models and services that can be defined by the end-user.
In speaking with Chrysler, one of the reasons they decided to put the service provider, Sprint in this case, front and central to lead the echo-system development, was Sprint’s ability in understanding how to collect, store and maintain the data from the service. Chrysler doesn’t understand Big Data, Sprint deals with it every day. Think about it, they know what time we make or receive our first phone calls in the evening and when we send that last text message at night. And through the magic of A-gps, Sprint even knows where we are. Chrysler thought there would be no one better to handle one of their key challenges- customer data management- than Sprint.
But there is more. Chrysler and Sprint both have a history of providing solutions that are safe and secure. Ensuring driver and passenger safety is another key challenge to the connected vehicle experience.
It is no secret that distracted driving is a problem in the United States today. Billboards dot the landscape with large, bold words shouting at us “Don’t Text and Drive.” Recent research shows that 89% of US adults think texting while driving is distracting, dangerous and should be outlawed. That is near the same level (90%) of those polled who consider drunk driving a threat. Yet the industry has been slow to respond. The forthcoming solutions from Chrysler and Sprint will put distracted driving in the spotlight and will help us interact and communicate without having to take our hands off the wheel or our eyes off of the road.
While this is an abbreviated commentary on the upcoming “Uconnect” solution, we believe that we will hear more on echo-system partners and some of the innovative applications they plan to launch between now and the end of the year, considering that Sprint’s Open Solutions Conference for developers is scheduled for the end of October in Silicon Valley.
So software geeks, start thinking about the kind of apps and services you want in your car and get those ideas to Sprint.
James Brehm is a Geek, Technology Evangelist, Analyst, Consultant, and Senior Strategist at Compass Intelligence. Brehm is a frequent contributor to CNBC’s Closing Bell and is regularly quoted by media outlets such as the Hearst Corporation, RCR Wireless, TMC, The eCommerce Times, and Wireless Week.
Brehm leads M2M, IoT, and connected device research and custom consulting projects, represents Compass Intelligence at industry events and is a frequent speaker at industry gatherings on such topics as: M2M communications and the internet of things (IoT), 4G, VoIP, next-generation mobile infrastructure, cloud computing, mobile applications, mobile commerce, the security and compliance of web applications, emerging wireless devices and vertical market deployment of Web-enabled services.
In his spare time, Brehm spends time studying corporate social responsibility and sustainability initiatives. Additionally, he actively volunteers with Liberia Now, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the mission to transform Liberian communities through projects in education, infrastructure, healthcare, economic development, and spiritual renewal.
You can contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org
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