BMW on board
BMW telematics executive Francis Dance says the modems will give next-generation BMW Assist subscribers more flexibility in sending data-heavy calls to telematics operators.
Dance would not specify the vehicles on which the modem would be used, saying only that it would be in a "reasonable time horizon," before 2011.
The modem will be installed in electronics provided by Continental Automotive Systems, which supplies the telematics hardware used by BMW.
Airbiquity also is negotiating with up to four more automakers to include the modem as a standard component in telematics-equipped vehicles in North America.
Modems are devices that transform data for sending within telephone voice bandwidth. Airbiquity sells software that creates a modem function within existing in-car hardware. Such a modem is licensed at a cost of $3 to $5 per vehicle, according to Jumpa, who would not be more specific.
Other nonemergency data may also take the voice channel to help carmakers mine data for customer relationship management, dealership service scheduling and fleet diagnostics, Jumpa said.
Typically, such information has flowed over a separate nonvoice data channel like a telephone text message. Because voice calls and the other data messages arrive separately, call centers must synchronize the data by matching the phone ID, which can take time and leave the caller on hold.
Airbiquity's modem is faster and more efficient than the older systems, Dance says.
"We're putting another trick in our bag," he says.
Jumpa says the ability to send data directly over the voice channel gives the telematics operator immediate vehicle data.
"It's a better user experience. It reduces the amount of time the customer is actually waiting for the operator to come on the phone," he says.
For data-hungry automakers, the change brings a fairly rapid return on investment over paying for separate data calls, he added.
"By us being able to reduce that, by almost 30 to 40 percent, they save that amount of time, number of minutes, across a four-year contract they may have," Jumpa says.
Egil Juliussen, co-founder of Telematics Research Group, said the move away from separate data messages is necessary as telematics data grow more complex.
"You've got to send multiple messages to send the data, and the more you send, the more complex it gets," he says.
Modem-based data transmission is a next natural step, he says. "To me, this is the natural improvement that tends to happen over time."
You may e-mail Tim Moran at [email protected]