Keeping Consumers Safe and Connected while on the Road
We are all familiar with the leap in consumer connectivity facilitated by over two decades of developments in mobile technology. With personal smart-devices (phones, tablets, watches, wearables, etc.) reaching near ubiquity, the retail markets have been at the forefront of application development. By facilitating real-time links between consumers and service providers, mobile connectivity enhances a convenient retail experience, improves selling ratios, boosts loyalty, and facilitates payments.
Most retail applications center on timely product recommendations using a combination of geo-location coupled with spending pattern and behavior analysis. However, the underlying technologies remain in a state of flux with considerable interoperability issues as competing solutions and rival payment solutions are evaluated on the ground.
However, shopping is not the only game in town. One of the biggest connectivity growth areas has been the initiative to bring the vehicles fully onto the information superhighway. Conventional retail outlets may have blazed an interconnectivity trail with consumers, but similar technologies aim to provide the same enhanced experience and mutually beneficial customized offers to motorists. Modern vehicles rolling off production lines are increasingly connected and are becoming fully interactive – only exacerbated by all-electric car revolution. A crucial difference is that vehicle connectivity promotes many genuine safety benefits; it is not just about an improved retail experience.
For many years high-end cars have had rudimentary connectivity capability built-in, but the applications centered primarily on the car reporting back statuses to the manufacturer, or sending geo-location information within fleets. Recently, this capability has exploded with manufacturers opening up their vehicles to a wider array of capabilities.
In the future there will always be a parking space. Recent innovations include cars finding their own parking place and reserving your spot, before guiding you to the door. Cars simply connect to services maintaining an inventory of real-time on-street and off-street parking locations globally, and coupled with links to the parking providers, the car can make automatic reservations, and even pay on exit.
Just-in-time intelligent auto maintenance. If your car is low on fuel, your geo-location, coupled with links to merchant pump price services in the vicinity, suggests the best offers locally. Even electric cars need to refuel, so local recharge options are recommended – with the additional benefit that the car will helpfully message the driver once it is fully charged. As the car gets low on oil the best local deals are displayed. Tire pressure levels, tread-wear, or seasonal tire change deadlines trigger suggestions to advantageous propositions in the area. Real-time offers adapted to consumer buying habits and preferences.
Further ahead, as electric cars were once a novelty that has become a norm, the era of fully driverless cars cannot be far away. Not only will the connected self-driving car take you to the restaurant, it will drop you off at the door before finding its own parking spot. And then reappear at the door as you exit having been notified of your imminent exit by the bill payment.
Typically, individual consumers are the early adopters of connected vehicle capabilities. However, the opportunities for the haulage and trucking industry, as well as public transport sectors, probably eclipse the personal car potential.
A Truly Mobile Wallet
But before consumers can outfit their vehicles with James Bond gadgetry, they need a way to pay for it all. But at least they can take comfort from the fact that they will be able to pay from behind the wheel. Credit card companies are developing automated in-car payment mechanisms for fuel, forecourt shop and restaurant purchases. The days of manually paying for fuel are numbered as the fuel companies themselves rollout numerous auto-pay mechanisms. Similarly, transport tolls for bridges, highways or tunnels are drive-by transactions, no need to even slow down to transact.
An Interim Smartphone Explosion
Given the millions of smartphones already in the hands of drivers, it is logical to leverage its processing capability and flexibility rather than reengineer the same functionality within the car. Many technologies such as Mirrorlink provide an interim solution that connects smartphones directly to the head-up displays and dashboards of vehicles. Application still run on the phone itself but the interface is migrated to the vehicle – with apps such as messaging and movies disabled while in motion of course.
With just a smartphone in your pocket, you can unlock the car (on approach) and start the engine without the use of a cumbersome ‘analog’ key; you can even share the key temporarily with your co-driver’s phone. With the key integrated into the phone, you can even delegate the key to a friend or family member from a remote location (while on vacation) – and revoke permissions at will.
Simple and hassle-free Interconnection remains key to connecting consumers. The level of interoperability between different environments is critical to success; but this is not just about a consistent and seamless experience in the car, or in the shopping mall, but throughout our increasingly hybridized online reality. As consumers connect with more devices to facilitate a widening array of circumstances, consumers’ online lives have become increasingly intertwined with their daily routines. Adding intelligent decision support and smart judgment assistance to only one realm is insufficient; the whole point is to interconnect all aspects of consumers’ lives.
Delivering scalable and globally connected solutions requires collaboration from multiple market innovators, companies need to pool their technological know-how to deliver a future-forward experience to consumers. There are calls for standardization and open protocols to facilitate customer connectivity, but current initiatives are largely exploratory. However, regulation and compliance standards may not be far away. We are witnessing a consumer-centric revolution of open access to their information being mandated on providers by regulators in many sectors of business and society, especially in financial services and its downstream applications.
But in the end, a transactional capability remains the driving force of consumer connectivity – commercial applications are irrelevant without payments. As we enter the era of the Internet of Things, payment services will underpin, if not provide the underlying business justification for, the considerable investment in information provision and machine analysis/decision-making. Without a tangible impact on the bottom-line, why would any merchant or corporation invest?