Lonnie Schilling, CEO of Birdstep Technology, has called for the industry to go beyond thinking only about how cars will be physically connected to achieve a wider goal of managing the user experience of in-car services as a full part of users’ mobile lifestyles.
Schilling said that if mobile operators cannot incorporate, and manage quality of experience across, the full range of available network access into their Connected Car platforms they face the prospect of delivering a sub-optimal experience to users and therefore missing out on crucial revenues.
Speaking at a live event hosted by The Mobile Network, Schilling said that Connected Car strategies must take note of the fact that cars are “nomadic” in nature, meaning they are parked up for long periods and often in range of home, enterprise and public WiFi networks. That, allied to the increased introduction of HetNet architectures that encompass small and macro cells, across 3G and 4G, means that the Connected Car must not only be best connected, but offer users a continuity of experience across those access technologies.
Birdstep Technology calls this concept Experience Continuity, referring to the ability to offer not just to an always best-connected experience but a consistency of user experience for services delivered across platforms – smartphone, tablet and in-car systems.
Schilling would appear to have industry backing for his views. A new whitepaper*, commissioned by Birdstep Technology and written by Caroline Gabriel, Research Director, Maravedis-Rethink and by Steven Hawley, Principal Analyst, Advanced Media Strategies, reports that delivering a consistent experience across different devices and networks is viewed by operators and car manufacturers as the second most important item (after pricing) to enable success in the Connected Car market.
Uninterrupted service was also reported, by mobile operators, to be the second-most important feature for users, after security. Additionally, a huge majority of auto makers and consumers rated continuity of experience as either important, very important, or essential.
The risk is that achieving this Experience Continuity may be easier said than done, given the competing interests targeting the market. Outlining the underlying issue, Gabriel writes in the whitepaper:
The proliferation of different technologies, the varying business models of the main players, and the immaturity of the market create a significant risk that the Connected Car space will splinter between many different, and incompatible platforms. That would limit revenue potential and user experience, and the ability for the smart automobile to become part of the broader ‘internet of things’.
To counter this, the whitepaper argues, the industry must settle on solutions that enable hand-off, in a seamless manner, between areas of connectivity: public access WiFi-to-cellular, say, or between the macro cellular network and in-home hotspot.
“It’s not just about actual connectivity but about quality of experience from end to end so you don’t realise what connection or screen you are on and the car becomes a part of your personal network,” Gabriel added.
Schilling said that the industry must find an open model that allows, for example, any mobile phone to interact with a car’s dashboard head-end, or an operator’s cloud-based service to be managed from within any kind of in-car device – whether embedded or tethered.
“It’s going to be an issue of understanding the vehicle as a nomadic entity and as an extension of my mobile lifestyle – and that’s really about the level of service. If we cannot provide a service that is perceived to be of value to the consumer then consumers are likely not going to use it let alone pay for it. Everyone in this ecosystem needs to start thinking more about continuity of experience as it forms a part of my mobile lifestyle. The focus needs to be on that as opposed to simply ‘how do I connect the car?’ which is where we are now.”
The “good news”, Schilling said, is that that there are tools available to ensure Experience Continuity. Schilling drew an analogy to the way the cellular industry has ensured quality of experience as smartphone users consume a wide variety of services as they move across and through different areas of coverage.
“If you think about the vehicle in that sense – on one side there’s a lot of data consumption; telematics, security features, infotainment, navigation. One the other side there’s Het Net Connectivity, with different WiFi and cellular networks, and the same necessity for managing and controlling that customer experience. As you move out of the garage and onto the road and then into the parking lot at work – what is ensuring your services are being maintained in a consistent way across those environments?
“So the issues we have in the cellular world translate very well into the Connected Car market in terms of managing Het Net connectivity, security and privacy and big data analytics. These are the propositions and solutions we have been bringing to market for several years and that we are now bringing to market for the Connected Car.”
FREE WHITEPAPER DOWNLOAD
* Download the whitepaper “Experience Continuity: The key enabler for the Connected Car?” for free. It contains operator, auto maker and consumer survey results into the challenges and opportunities of the market, forecasts and further insight, as well as a full exploration of the current Connected Car market, operator strategies and use cases.