The future of connected vehicle innovation

The recent .connect Developer Conference 2015 brought together entrepreneurs, software developers, ISVs and system integrators from around the world to discuss the future of connected vehicle innovation.

It is an area that has already witnessed rapid change but one that is ripe with new development opportunities, creating a wide variety of revenue streams for forward-thinking software companies.

The use of connected vehicle technology by business has evolved from traditional fleet management systems, which saw company vehicles equipped with aftermarket devices that are used to track location and vehicle activity.

Through the years, this technology has become ever more sophisticated, to the point where the in-vehicle devices have become ‘connectivity hubs’, acting as the glue that brings the vehicle together with field hardware, back-office software and mobile devices.

We have only begun to scratch the surface and three main themes emerged from the .connect Developer Conference 2015 that will be key to future development.

The third platform is the next business frontier

Web pioneer Marc Andreessen’s famous statement that ‘software is eating the world’ couldn’t be more true. Most companies are already reliant on software, whether they are aware of it or not, so software is eating the world in the sense that most core business systems and processes are reliant on it.

But this will soon be extended further. During the .connect Developer Conference, Michael Suess, VP Engineering for Webfleet, referenced a prediction made by IDC that the third platform is set to ‘eat the world’. The third platform (the first is mainframe and the second is client server) refers to cloud, mobile, big data, social and the internet of things (IoT) and already accounts for one-third of IT spend and 100 per cent of all IT growth.[1]

Business deserves credit for adapting to the change but investing in the third platform is only the first step. Now, companies must give careful consideration to how different systems are used, how they work together and how value will be extracted from the data provided.

In order to make sense of big data, Femke van Zantvoort, Director of Strategic Innovation for Salesforce, believes companies should first look at the ‘small data’ they need – the different streams that are vital to everyday business decisions.

Different parts of the business can utilise the data that is most relevant to them but APIs can then be used to merge streams, enhancing the level of insight available to all parties.

Workflow planning and scheduling can benefit from real-time vehicle data in the same way as sales can benefit from marketing data – in the latter case, for example, the type of marketing content a customer responds to can mould the manner of the sales approach and the products offered. Already, a vanguard of businesses are ‘fully-connected’ in this manner, using tools such as Salesforce to automate processes that may previously have been too laborious and unlock new insight.

Integration will mould the future of the mobile workforce

The impact of third platform IT adoption is already being felt. Michael Suess points to the disruption brought to traditional businesses by the likes of Amazon in the retail sector and Uber in public transport.

The flexibility of the cloud and availability of out-of-the-box applications have made digitised workflow accessible to smaller companies as well as large. Mobile workforces will be at the heart of this brave new world – and the impact of this is already being felt.

In transport and logistics for example, connected applications such as Scangaroo and Print Panther –   a mobile scanner allowing invoice and freight administration documents to be scanned while goods are being loaded or unloaded and an app enabling documents to be printed in the field – are already influencing how operational processes are conducted.

For niche sectors such as car-sharing, booking software and electric car battery data has been integrated with telematics to help operators such as Be Smart to manage their vehicle fleets more efficiently.

Webfleet VP Product Marketing, Taco van der Leij, believes the open platform will spark a wealth of future innovations that offer new and exciting ways to access business information.

The connected vehicle

Although the majority of the population still tend to equate the connected car with consumer innovation – or more specifically cars equipped with the ability to connect to internet-enabled devices by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) – this still only accounts for a small proportion of cars that are manufactured.

The aftermarket, therefore, offers greater potential for immediate innovation, creating the possibility for any vehicle to become connected straight away. Consequently, we are seeing a convergence of the functionality typically delivered by OEMs with that offered by aftermarket technology. Such developments, offering mutual benefit to consumers and business, are reliant on a solid telematics platform to act as the glue that connects vehicle to the third platform and deliver a huge range of valuable vehicle-related data.

For example, aftermarket solutions have already been developed that allow vehicle dealerships to draw live diagnostics data from their customer’s vehicles, allowing them to spot potential issues before they become a problem and contact the customer to arrange for maintenance work to be conducted. Customer service standards are taken to a new level.

At the same time, the customers are given a mobile app, which offers access to the same data on the health of their vehicle but also provides lifestyle functionality, allowing them to map previous routes or monitor their own driving style, sharing the results with friends via social media.

This type of third platform, aftermarket innovation is only the start. The range of available apps is growing by the month and this trend will only accelerate as the brightest minds in development turn their attention to this still untapped market.

As such, we could soon see an ‘app store for telematics’, where business apps designed to meet a range of needs are instantly available for download – in much the same manner as smartphone apps.

Technology providers cannot meet all the needs of the market themselves, so it is essential they tap into the specialist expertise of third-party developers to offer a complete range of solutions. The open platform is key to this, allowing providers to be nimble and flexible in meeting the growing needs of the market.

Take a look at the conversation around the Webfleet .connect Developer Conference on Twitter here #TTDC15 or see what developers and experts had to say on YouTube.


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