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Connexion Media takes on the world

Huge deal: GM signed up to use an internet-based audio system developed in Melbourne.

High-tech Melbourne company taps massive global automotive data market


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30 May 2014

MELBOURNE-BASED Connexion Media, which has signed a global deal to provide its Internet-based radio service to General Motors, is now setting its sights on an automotive data analytics market that could be worth $24 billion by 2025.

The company will unveil new products when it attends the Telematics Detroit conference next week.

Connexion’s main product, the miRoamer internet-based FM and AM radio service, has already been selected as one of two such applications to be offered by General Motors in the US and Europe from 2015, and is currently undergoing rigorous certification and compliance testing.

One of the new Connexion products will capture data from the many sensors on a vehicle, allowing the company to analyse the collected data and sell different products to interested parties such as franchised dealers, insurance companies and road safety authorities.

The data can be transmitted to Connexion’s data storage centre whenever the vehicle is connected to the Internet. And, with miRoamer installed in the car, that is likely to be most of the time the car is in use.

“Data analytics is a big, blue-sky area because, as more vehicles are connected to the Internet, the developers of apps can gain access to a lot of in-vehicle data that we could not access before,” Connexion Media chief executive George Parthimos told GoAuto this week.

“We can capture up to 80 streams of data coming off the CAN bus (controller area network bus) in real time. That includes oil pressure, tyre pressures and all sorts of diagnostic information and things like whether a convertible is open or closed and what the ambient temperature is outside the car.

“That can all be fed into a central database that we can then use to provide very targeted advertising based on the vehicle and the environment.

“And we can also package it up and on-sell it to third parties who are interested in buying real-time data.”

Mr Parthimos is quick to add that this would all be subject to the approval of the vehicle owner, who would have to opt in to allow use of the data, which would be randomised and not specific to the driver.

“An insurance company would now be able to find out, in real time, how a Holden Astra owner drives in Melbourne, as opposed to Sydney. That information would give the insurer more data with which to set premiums for Holden Astras.”

Mr Parthimos said privacy laws would prevent Connexion giving the name of the driver and, therefore, an insurance company would not be able to adjust the premium to take account of a driver’s behavior.

Similarly, he said data about the performance of a particular vehicle, like whether it has a tendency to lose traction at the front or lock its back brakes or whether its door locks fail regularly, was unlikely to be collected as manufacturers are unlikely to approve.

“This data analytics is going to evolve over the next five years and we have a product (miRoamer) that can capture and provide reporting on that vehicle usage.”

Mr Parthimos said that, while existing GPS systems could also serve as a communications link for carrying data, the weakness is that drivers do not use GPS every time they drive whereas they use the radio almost every time they drive.

“If this (miRoamer) is running every day, we are generating real time, live data every day. So the accuracy of that data is going to be far, far better than a satellite navigation-based data collection system.”“What’s going to happen now in the connected car space is that vehicle diagnostics is going to become pro-active, where the vehicle will notify the dealership that there is a problem with the car. And potentially book a service.” He contrasted this with the current situation of a driver seeing a red light come on in the dashboard and, in some cases, just ignoring it and keeping on driving.

Mr Parthimos said there were three ways that a car could be connected to the Internet.

The first was with an embedded SIM card. This will be compulsory for all cars made or sold in Europe from 2015, when it will be mandatory for all new vehicles to be able to alert safety authorities when it is immobilised in a crash.

GM had decided to embed a SIM card in most of its 2015 range in the US and it will also meet the European requirements.

The other method is called “bring your own device”, where the driver carries a mobile phone or a tablet computer into the vehicle. This device then links up to the car with Bluetooth or a cable and communicates over the Internet through the device.

Several companies are doing this already, including GM’s MyLink and Ford’s Sync, while Toyota is using the RACV’s Connect service, which is suitable for iOS and Android phones.

Mr Parthimos said that estimates by the GSM Association, which represents global mobile telephone companies, indicate that the number of cars connected to the Internet will reach 140 million by 2018 and 600 million by 2025, after which time all new vehicles will be connected.

The value of the services component of this market has been pitched at $24.5 billion, he said.

At the Telematics Detroit conference, Connexion will also be touting its Transcoding Media Service, which improves the quality of service of streaming media in the car and reduces the cost of data usage.

“One of the biggest challenges that auto makers have today is that, when you are on the Internet, the switching between mobile phone towers means the quality of service sometimes becomes a bit dodgey.

“Our solution shrinks the data usage of Internet radio services. What that means is it works on crappy networks and it is cheaper to run.”

He says it’s not quite a compression service.

“It’s like a funnel. You have a pile of data coming in, but our software changes it so that a thin, steady stream of data comes out the other end.”“It minimizes signal drop-outs for live media streaming,” Mr Parthimos said.

And it has attracted the attention of some people in Detroit.

“We have a lot of interest from auto makers to explore it. All the major auto makers want to come and see us next week in Detroit.”

Importantly for backseat passengers, the Transcoding Media Service will be applicable to video streaming.

Mr Parthimos will not be going to Detroit because he has to stay in Australia to finalise plans to list Connexion Media on the Australian Stock Exchange. The company is awaiting final approval of its prospectus from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

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