Volvo and Ericsson have teamed up to qualify for the connected car race to market. But can a managed platform approach beat off the Internet team? I.D. Scales reports.
Connected car M2M has been bubbling along for a few years now with a whole range of ambitious projects and demonstrator products, most notably from Ford and Alcatel-Lucent.
One of the car companies you'd most expect to get itself enthusiastic about connectedness is Volvo. First of all because it's a car manufacturer hailing from the Nordic region - that most mobile and cellular part of the world where wireless communications was a hit well before anywhere else. And second, just because it's Volvo - purveyor of advanced and, above all safe, motoring technology. What could be more 'Volvo' than a highly connected car offering all sorts of communications, navigation, economy and safety features?
Thirdly it shares a country with the world's leading telecoms infrastructure vendor, Ericsson.
So maybe it's no surprise that the two companies have just announced that they're coming to market with the 'Connected Vehicle Cloud' designed to provide infotainment, apps and communication services in Volvo's new cars.
This is a managed platform play rather than an Internet access offer, hence the 'cloud' keeps getting mentioned all the time in the promo: there will be cloud-enabled services and applications, which implies that this will be a predominantly closed platform with perhaps a facility to enable users to access email, calendar and perhaps entertainment on the Internet.
We will find out more soon.
Here are the bare bones from what's been announced so far: the managed services, consulting and systems Integration is to be provided by Ericsson.
Volvo Car Group will use Ericsson's Connected Vehicle Cloud in order to allow drivers, passengers and the car to connect to services available there: there will be applications for information, navigation, and entertainment from a screen in the car. At the same time, Volvo Cars will be able to open parts of the platform to other players in the 'automotive industry ecosystem'.
Content providers will have agreements with Volvo and the other members of the ecosystem, like internet radio providers, road authorities, cities' governments, toll-road operators and others.
According to Lex Kerssemakers, Senior Vice President Product Strategy and Vehicle Line Management at Volvo Cars: "We clearly see that cars in the near future will integrate the same level of digital services that consumers today are used to having in their homes or at work. This is a strategically important part of Volvo's investments for the future where we intend to take a leading position."
Not the 'same' services you'll note, the same 'level' of services.
So the stakes are high: the car vendors and in this case Volvo in particular, are apparently determined to build a semi-closed 'monetised' platform and set of offerings for the car. The key to the success of this approach, it appears to me, will be how well the 'managed platform' will enable them to offer services that are significantly differentiated from the car traveling apps and services available from generic devices (tablets and smartphones) via the likes of Apple, Google, Microsoft and others.
The other wildcard is surely about how insistent users will be about getting access to the information and services in the car (search, music services, multi-user games, navigation and so on ad infinitum) that they already use at home, office and on the move. Time may soon tell.
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