AT&T, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone are going wheel to wheel in early laps of the race to connect cars old and new. As Jeremy Cowan reports, a series of recent IoT partnerships, a major investment and a company acquisition are bringing telco giants and automotive ‘privateers’ together to show some market pace-setters.
Autonet Mobile is partnering with AT&T to use its 4G LTE wireless connectivity to power Autonet’s integrated connected car services to car makers. According to a report from eWeek, drivers use Autonet Mobile’s integrated telematics to control their connected cars remotely through an app on their smartphone.
The system allows users to, among other things, lock and unlock a vehicle remotely, manage teenage driving through parental controls, check car maintenance reports, and enjoy in-car WiFi. Autonet Mobile currently provides connected car services to Chrysler Fiat Automobiles, General Motors, Maserati, Subaru and other car manufacturers.
451 Research associate analyst Ryan Martin says, “Offering users the ability to control, manage and perform select vehicle functions is a fortuitous footnote to all of this, and one that will become more pronounced throughout the year. But the relevance of such a design methodology is here today – representing an important shift in focus from the driver to the experience of the driving journey.
“Airbiquity® is another company that recently partnered with AT&T that envelops this thinking. What Autonet is doing also fits a similar mold by way of intent, yet seems instead geared more toward boosting the AT&T family of connected car/Digital Life offerings – a win for both parties directly involved; the benefit to end users in this case will come with deeper partner integrations.”
In March Seattle, Washington-based Airbiquity® announced the establishment of a multi-year agreement with AT&T. Under the terms of the agreement AT&T will utilise Airbiquity’s Choreo™ cloud-based services delivery platform to enable selected aftermarket connected car program end user registration and device management. (See: Airbiquity to work with AT&T as enabler of operator’s connected car services.)
Airbiquity technology already enables car connectivity and service delivery for 30 million vehicles around the world from leading automotive brands. Its Choreo platform provides cloud-based vehicle connectivity technology, program deployment, and management capabilities in more than 50 countries and over 30 languages, and it supports over 5 million vehicles and hundreds of millions of transactions per month.
Cobra rebranded as Vodafone Automotive
Meanwhile, Cobra Automotive Technology has been renamed Vodafone Automotive, and is based in Varese, Italy. Vodafone acquired the Cobra Group in August 2014. (Also see: Fleet Management: New market entrants may herald a shake-up.)
The group combines Cobra’s 40-year experience in vehicle security and telematics, with Vodafone’s position as a Tier One telecoms brand and machine-to-machine (M2M) / Internet of Things (IoT) services provider. Vodafone Automotive provides automotive products and services – which include in-car telematics, stolen vehicle tracking and usage-based insurance solutions – for vehicle manufacturers, insurance companies and fleets.
Its pan-European original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers for stolen vehicle tracking and location-based services include Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, Ducati, Ferrari, Gruppo Piaggio, Infiniti, Lamborghini, Maserati, McLaren, Mercedes Benz Trucks, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Renault, Rolls-Royce, Tesla, and Volkswagen. In Europe, Service Operating Centres assist customers in 44 countries.
Vodafone Automotive partners with major European and Asian car, truck and motorcycle manufacturers, including Kia, Hyundai, Toyota, Honda , Renault, Nissan, Volvo, and Volkswagen Group for which it develops bespoke solutions. These are designed for both factory and aftermarket installation in anti-theft, parking assistance and telematics systems. Vodafone Automotive’s design and development activities are managed by a multisite engineering team based in Italy, Japan and South Korea, whilst assembly and manufacturing facilities are located in Italy and China.
Canadian connected car investment
Mojio, a young connected car platform company based in Vancouver, Canada, has secured US$8 million in a series A funding round. Founded in 2012, Mojio says it “delivers insights on what’s happening under the hood and behind the wheel. Apps powered by Mojio provide accurate, near real-time, contextual information to drivers and enterprises to keep them better informed on and off the road.”
Mojio reports that the funding round was led by Telekom Capital, the investment arm of Deutsche Telekom, one of Telekom Capital’s first investments from its recently launched €500 million global fund.
Mojio is an open platform that aims to make it easy for developers to create apps that solve problems for drivers and businesses alike. With a plug-and-play device for the car and mobile app for the smartphone, Mojio helps drivers to plan and record trips, share driving information with friends and family and better understand their car’s health. For the enterprise, Mojio is said to be a scalable, customisable and cost-effective option for resource management that can host multiple web and smartphone-based applications.
The company’s hardware plugs into a car’s diagnostic port to bring connected car features to any vehicle. It comes with built-in connectivity and a GPS module. Rival offerings typically rely on a Bluetooth connection with a smartphone for more advanced features. Mojio is going to have to contend with heavyweight competition for car makers’ attention from platforms such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Ryan Martin of 451 Research comments, “Mojio is yet another connected car start-up with a solution that’s defined by capabilities that will soon be standard issue. Players like Vinli and Automatic come to mind in this context, but what sets a company like Vinli apart from Mojio is more about how they’re going to market than the technical know-how baked into the device itself.
“Vinli is a company built ‘by developers, for developers’ and it’s already hosted numerous hackathons around the world to back this up. Mojio, while similarly interested in developer community engagement, appears to be banking more so on device sales than anything – exacerbated by the fact that Mojio’s dongle will run on 3G cell networks; Vinli’s will allow full-blown 4G LTE and all that comes with it (e.g., Wi-Fi hotspot). But pricing matters too,” says Martin. “Here, Mojio is relatively competitive (starting at $149), yet may be holding the short straw with more affordable (and arguably capable) offerings from Vinli and Automatic, among others.”
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