Cell phones could play major telematics role

  • 29-Apr-2009 08:43 EDT
UIEvolution's MyCar uses a cell phone to provide real-time traffic data, even tying it to calendars for special alerts.

The cell phone appears headed toward playing a major role in telematics. UIEvolution, a software platform provider focused on mobile phones, is expanding its reach with MyCar, which brings in a range of content and also lets owners unlock or start their car using the pho­ne.

The MyCar platform uses the cell phone to communicate with the car, a concept many feel will see solid growth. Using cell phones eliminates the monthly cost of hardware that is built into the vehicle.

“We use people’s existing data plans so it’s not expensive to get data to the vehicle,” said Steve Fishburn, Director of Devices and Tools for UIEvolution.

Many analysts predict solid growth for this type of mobile-device telematics that’s already popularized by Ford Motor Co.'s Sync. By 2013, at least two-thirds of all new cars will offer some sort of connectivity using cell phones, said Egil Juliussen, Automotive Research Director for iSuppli.

“Today, companies use either embedded cellular modems or mobile phones,” Juliussen said. “In the future, you’ll see usage of both.”

One of the keys to success in telematics will be partnerships. UIEvolution has linked up with Hughes Telematics, which in turn has contracts with Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz. On the content side, the company’s partnerships include ESPN, Disney, MySpace, and Sony.

UIEvolution will compete with a range of suppliers who are bringing content to vehicles, offering applications that will prompt drivers to pay for services and information they want. MyCar will also offer a service that is one of competitor OnStar’s most popular offerings: unlocking doors.

“With MyCar, you don’t need to make a call and wait for a response,” Fishburn said. “You just use your handset and unlock the doors.”

Other services will include real-time traffic information. That can be combined with scheduling services to prompt an alert for critical engagements.

“If you’ve got an important reservation at 7, we know where you are, so we can send a text message saying that, given traffic conditions, you need to leave soon,” Fishburn said.

Bandwidth will be a key element for content aggregators. UIEvolution is using emerging technologies to provide a range of telematics services.

“This works at 3G speeds, so it’s two to three times the speed of a conventional data channel,” Fishburn said.

He noted that the decade-old company, which has about 50 employees, has adapted the phone to the vehicle. Services can be linked to any car with a Bluetooth connection. “We’ve done zero engineering to the car,” Fishburn said

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