Oracle accelerates rollout of in-car services

Oracle Communications is finding new adopters for its billing, revenue and customer relationship management systems in the machine-to-machine (M2M) space.
While most discussions regarding M2M focus on the connectivity side, the software firm claims it is enabling telematics firm Hughes Telematics (HTI) to enter new territory in the connected-car space – an area that is becoming increasingly hot as major automobile makers including BMW, Ford and Audi look to incorporate wireless tech into their vehicles.
In a bid to cash in on that heightened awareness, HTI turned to Oracle Communications for solutions that enable it to speed up deployment of new in-car services for millions of customers. The US-headquartered firm viewed Oracle’s Billing and Revenue Management (BRM) and Unified CRM and BRM (UCB) Solution - which recently received Frameworx Solution Certification from the TM Forum - as critical to offering a differentiated customer experience.
The Oracle products enabled HTI to extend its existing M2M services from the business-to-business (B2B) space into the business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) space by providing services directly to end-users that are marketed through the car manufacturer’s brand, insurance agents and other channels.
A smartphone first
HTI is already reaping the benefits of deploying Oracle’s solutions, launching branded services for Mercedes Benz (Mbrace), NetworkFleet, a fleet management business covering 100,000 vehicles, and InDrive, an aftermarket product for auto clubs.
The firm claims to be the first to launch a commercial smartphone application handling functions such as door locking and unlocking, locating your car and dealers, and roadside assistance. That app launched in November 2009, and a subsequent version launched in August 2010, added the ability to tag location information onto roadside assistance calls and a mobile concierge service.
Future versions of the smartphone app will integrate social networking elements, including the ability to locate friends and receive directions to drive to them.
Achieving those goals required HTI to introduce a scalable billing system to handle the large subscriber base and integrate it with its existing customer management systems. The firm picked Oracle to handle the change due to the software firm’s ability to integrate the new systems with HTI’s existing infrastructure, explains David Cook, IT director at HTI. He adds that Oracle’s Communications Billing and Revenue Management and UCB solution “were easy to implement, and provided the scalability necessary to handle an influx of new subscribers.”
That ease of integration provided the “flexibility to quickly launch new services and support new business models,” he notes.
HTI had several requirements for the new billing system and the integrated solution. It needed scalability to support growing volumes of customers; flexibility in the rating and charging set-up to enable increasingly complex billing models; speedy deployment of new offers to keep pace with the fast-moving automotive telematics market; and cost-effectiveness, to reduce the total cost of ownership of its IT systems and keep a tight rein on opex.
The telematics firm also had another key requirement: the entire solution had to be implemented in under 100 days for its services to be deployed with the new Mercedes Benz year-model. Andrea Canessa, Oracle Communications’ solutions marketing director, says hitting that deadline is an impressive achievement, given that some similar projects can take more than one year.
“What HTI did by deploying into full production both billing system and E2E solution in less than 100 days is absolutely outstanding,” he said, adding “they were able to best leverage the prebuilt capabilities of the Oracle solution and applications.”
Oracle’s solutions also fit HTI’s key guiding principles for IT implementation, namely to use commercial off the shelf (COTS) applications where possible, and to deploy productized solutions if available. The firm also isn’t shy about using systems already proven to work by its competitors. “Oracle didn’t design these products in a vacuum. If Oracle’s products worked for others, including our competition, why wouldn’t they work for us,” Cook explains.
Implementation challenges
HTI’s legacy architecture incorporated proprietary telematics devices and servers, along with Oracle’s Siebel CRM and Contact Center Anywhere products. The back-office set-up included Oracle’s E-Business Suite and the Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition. HTI’s devices took GPS signals and communicated with its telematics server via SMS and MMS. Fixed-line DTMF and voice was also employed to send information from the HTI device to its CCA and Oracle’s Siebel system, which was then relayed to a human operator.
Oracle’s approach, which it dubs "Concept-to-Cash", places its CRM and BRM products at the core of HTI’s next-generation telematics architecture.
The set-up works by first defining billable products in Oracle Communications BRM, which are then synchronized through Oracle Application Integration Architecture (AIA) with Siebel CRM. Billable products and services are then bundled in Siebel, and made available through the product sales catalog for purchase through the web front-ends where orders will be captured along with account and product details and sent to Siebel through Oracle’s Fusion Middleware. Siebel then sends order data to the telematics operating system for fulfillment, and the data is synchronized to BRM via AIA.
The communications BRM handles billing and revenue management – calculating charges and taxes, processing credit cards and working out what revenue has been earned by the process. The final step in the process is reporting on revenues to ERP through AIA.
Oracle’s component-based solution greatly reduced the time taken for HTI to integrate the new systems within its existing architecture and provided a flexible and open architecture that enabled integration with partner and third-party systems to fully support new services and expanded business models. 
By leveraging the out-of-the-box capabilities of Oracle’s BRM and UCB solutions, HTI was able to cut time to market from 14 days to just one day.
Oracle solutions enable HTI to minimize customization