Issue: Dec 2013


Connecting cars in developing markets



Connecting cars in developing markets

by Claudio Francisco


Cool your car down before getting into it – a handy feature for emerging markets


Diagnosing and monitoring connected cars while they are on the road.
Introducing connected car services into the developing markets of Brazil, China, India and Russia takes more than ensuring the technical network is in place. Swedish company WirelessCar is working with, or is ready for launch with more than 10 customers in these four markets.

“As the spider in the web, we need to forge partnerships along the entire value chain,” says WirelessCar managing director Martin Rosell. “This starts in the vehicle with hardware suppliers, telematics and/ or head units. Of course, the communication service providers are important and moving up the chain we must create partnerships with content, service and application providers globally and locally, as well as work with or provide to a whole range of call center providers. To add to this picture, we also see players like finance, insurance, authorities etc. becoming more involved and important in the ecosystem of telematics,” he says.

WirelessCar was officially certified in Brazil on June 2, 2010 to meet the upcoming needs of the CONTRAN & DENATRAN Resolution 245 Anti-theft Legal Demand and provides services delivered with Mobile Apps. On September 1, 2008 WirelessCar began providing telematics services to the Russian market. While market demand is lagging in the Indian market, is beginning to pick up. In China, WirelessCar started with a first pilot project in 2008, when, in conjunction with local partners, it demonstrated a breakdown-call from a test vehicle in Beijing. In 2011 the company set up its own subsidiaries in Beijing and Tianjin – there are now 21 experts in China in the fields of development, testing and service operation.

The services available to these markets through WirelessCar includes the likes of BMW ConnectedDrive, which connects the driver to the vehicle and to their world in an intelligent manner. BMW Assist provides customers with a suite of safety, security and convenience services. Basic services include an automatic and manual emergency call; breakdown or roadside assistance call; a traffic information function; an operator-supported information or concierge service which offers the driver a wide range of local information and data; a feature for sending geo-coded information (e.g. a Point-Of-Interest, POI) to the car and remote services.

WirelessCar has been developing and operating BMW Assist on behalf of BMW since 2004. The solution is now delivered through the Next Generation Telematics Pattern which WirelessCar co-developed with BMW. Present coverage of the service is in Europe, North America, and the Middle East. WirelessCar is working with several third party providers as Content and Call Center partners to deliver services. Another service is Volvo On Call, a telematics system that connects Volvo owners to 24-hour personal emergency and roadside assistance. Volvo On Call services are designed to help extend safety, security and convenience to the Volvo Car owner. The press of a button puts users in contact with an operator, who can see the exact location and quickly dispatch the help users need.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Rosell to what the company attributes WirelessCar’s success in emerging markets.

Rosell: It’s about two things. First, you have to realize that you work in a global industry and proactively build your capability to act on that. Secondly, you need the global customers that are at the forefront and push you. But it needs to come in this order or you will have trouble. While there is no doubt that the automotive industry is global, it’s interesting to see that of the hundreds of actors in the telematics space less than a handful have any global capabilities.

AI: How has the economic slowdown in China and India impacted your company? If so, how?

Rosell: Not at all. Today less than 4% of the vehicle population is connected, so this space will grow despite any market dip or even macro-economic factors. Auto sales on these markets are so hot, so even during slowdowns you will see growths far beyond what we are used to in the developed markets.

AI: To what do you attribute your success?

Rosell: I joined WirelessCar 2008, nine years after it was established. Technology-driven trends normally take 10 years from Power Point to reality, so timing was important. But, the most important was the people and attitude of WirelessCar. It is easy to be recognized in my position when you have the world’s best people around you!

AI: Tell us a little about the technologies WirelessCar plans to roll out in the next 12 months.

Rosell: As usual, the services get most attention, but in order to create great customer experiences we must improve the way we deliver and manage the entire eco-system. Much of the focus is now on subscriber management and service management from when a service is ordered through to fulfillment and payments. This is what Apple did great and what all of us working with services will have to master. It is also important to better integrate traditional telematics services with infotainment services, which today are treated as more or less separate areas much because of the fact that they are delivered through different channels (embedded vs phones) - which doesn’t really matter from a back-end service management perspective.

AI: What are the challenges to extending your company’s range of products and services across the globe?

Rosell: Culture, language, time zones and finding the best people! It’s one thing to be international, but something completely different to be global and that is built primarily on soft values. If you go to China and try to act as a Swedish or US, company you will not do much business!

AI: How do you see WirelessCar’s influence growing globally over the next few years?

Rosell: We are clearly on the right track and by continuing to work with a high degree of humbleness. There is a good future for us. We have a huge market potential not only in the emerging markets, the penetration as of today and the growth figures is the real interesting base for this industry.

AI: How effective has your NGTP been in providing a standardized technical infrastructure to vehicles?

Rosell: Extremely! Most of our new clients are actually spelling it out in the RFQ’s today. However, it’s not ours, it’s an open sourced based software design pattern, and we do believe in openness to create even bigger demand from the market. This has been proven in the IT industry over and over again.

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