Kristian Barnes
Aug 14, 2014

Home James, oh and tell the fridge to defrost the steak

Way back in the last century, 1982 to be precise, a great TV show was launched—Knight Rider. It became famous (or infamous) for two things: one, launching The Hoff as a household name and heartthrob, and ultimately the root cause of BayWatch; and two, the first embodiment of a connected car - KITT (the Knight Industries Two Thousand).

Barnes: the connected car will make it easier to reach a notoriously challenging consumer segment
Barnes: the connected car will make it easier to reach a notoriously challenging consumer segment

KITT was a fully functioning AI, capable of helping Michael Knight (The Hoff) right injustice, in a chatty and personable way, wherever he found it. KITT was connected to various databases (some top secret), could drive himself and had an extensive in-dash entertainment system with music, games and movies that The Hoff could amuse himself with when KITT was in control. KITT was very cool.

Fast forward to today and some of KITT's lower functions are available in cars now: navigation, voice commands, Bluetooth connectivity for phones and music, and you can even watch movies. However, what is exciting is the rapid evolution of two of KITT's higher functions: autonomous, self-driving cars and true connectivity.

It would appear truly connected cars are only round the corner. Some manufacturers have announced that 2015 models will come equipped with 3G or 4G LTE (wireless) connectivity. You will not need your smartphone to connect to the world, the car itself has Wi-Fi and you will connect via voice, gesture and touch, with an in dash interface. How you pay for it is another question for another time.

Many technology companies such as Google, Apple and Cisco are now vying to build the communication architecture of the future connected car. Google created the Open Auto Alliance (OOA) to bring its Android system into cars, which a number of manufacturers have joined. Apple has adopted a similar approach with IOS.

Why the investment and interest? Well, the rise of telematics—the use of wireless and digital technologies that receive and send information within a vehicle—is predicted as a significant new business frontier. It is projected to be worth US$20BN by 2018 (Jupiter Research). Ernst & Young also estimate that 88 per cent of all new cars by 2025 will have telematics embedded.

Also, this expectation of connectivity is in response to consumer demand. A recent report on connected cars by Telefonica stated “80 per cent of consumers expected the connected car of the future to provide the same connected experience they are used to at home, at work and on the move via their mobile phone”. iGR expects the annual mobile data usage by connected cars to grow almost 188 per cent in the next five years.

This has a lot of people thinking about the connected car from a marketing perspective. Car commuters are a notoriously difficult segment to reach, only traditionally by radio ads and out-of-home activity. A connected car can change that with contextual marketing through location based ads and incentives, formed on your daily driving behaviour or segment based profiling on the make of car and locations visited and so on. All seamlessly delivered through that smart, interactive dash.

Despite the opportunity and focus by many companies, there is fragmentation in connected car strategies by manufacturers, in the operating systems and the openness of the app platforms. It is hard to know how consumers will react to their connected car becoming another advertising channel, no doubt some will embrace it and others will be horrified.

However this has not stopped a number of companies trying to leverage the benefits of a connected car opportunity right now. Kiip, a mobile advertising company, has partnered with connected car firm Mojio to create a 4G telematic device that plugs into the diagnostic port of any car made after 1995. It sends and receives data from the users smartphone in real time. Users of the device receive targeted discounts and freebies based on behaviour. Pandora streaming service is planning to add native advertising to connected cars. Aha Radio provides opt in audio location based offers to in-dash systems, and there are many others who are trying to connect the cars ahead of the manufacturers.

With the internet of things there is a push for interconnectivity and to be surrounded by smart adaptive environments, and the connected car will just become a part of that. Why wouldn’t our car connect with our diary to let people know if we are late, or why wouldn’t our car tell us that our favourite shop has a 50 per cent discount and redeemable parking if we go now?

Kristian Barnes is CEO, Vizeum Asia-Pacific

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