Telenor connects electric cars
Telenor has signed a pan-European deal with Nissan to provide M2M connectivity for a range of innovative automotive telematics services that will be offered in the car maker’s new line of all-electric vehicles, which are due to be launched in early 2011.
The announcement touches a number of key themes that are likely to be important over the coming months, including B2B2C business models, the use of ICT to deliver reduced carbon emissions, and the deployment of social media as a persuasive technology.
While Telenor’s role in the deal is that of connectivity provider, its ability to offer value-added services for M2M, such as over-the-air management of M2M SIMs, is an important part of the overall proposition.
The automotive applications described by Nissan are extremely innovative.
Its first objective is to use telematics to address customer’s key concern about fully electric vehicles: the fear of running out of battery while driving.
The internal displays offer various visualization modes, including one which tells the driver how many kilometers they can drive at the current speed without requiring a recharge. Similarly, a satellite navigation application, triggered by a single button on the steering wheel, shows the driver the same distance as a “reachable” area on a map, and shows how far the car can go with and without air-conditioning. These features are integrated with real time information from the car’s own instruments, offering functionality that can’t be matched by standalone satnav devices or over-the-top navigation services.
An iPhone app (Android is coming soon) allows the user to remotely monitor the status of the car’s battery, its charging progress, and the ability to switch on the heating or air-conditioning while the car is still connected to the charging point, reducing the need to run either of these from the battery itself.
Nissan is also using the opportunity to roll out its “Carwings” offering, which has previously only been available to drivers of petrol vehicles in Japan. Carwings analyzes drivers’ behavior to provide tips on more energy-efficient driving, and also allows them to compare their performance with those of others. This uses the power of social media to drive behavior change through both conformity and competition. Carwings will also provide drivers with information about how much carbon emissions they have saved compared to the same journey in a conventional car.
The deal further demonstrates the rise of the B2B2C model for M2M services
The role of service provider is played by Nissan, not by Telenor, and the telecoms vendor will remain completely invisible to the customer. Nissan intends to provide the telematics services free to its customers for the first five years. After that it plans to offer a chargeable service, but it doesn’t yet know what that will be or how much it will cost. Nissan rightly points out that telematics is a constantly changing area, and that it would be foolish to try to guess which services would be available or attractive in five years time. The deal it has done with Telenor offers it sufficient flexibility to consider different kinds of services and charging models. Telenor does not disclose the nature of its own B2B charging model.
Telenor's role is to provide a pipe, but not a completely passive one
Nissan has explained that it chose Telenor because of the operator's proven experience with M2M (including several automotive telematics implementations), its roaming footprint in Europe, and its dedicated M2M platform. Telenor’s M2M platform provides Nissan with a portal for managing the SIMs in the telematics modules, including over-the-air activation, as well as a dedicated access point name that ensures that the time-critical M2M traffic will not have to contend with consumer data traffic. In fact, Telenor delivers its SIMs to the module manufacturer (automotive component specialist Continental) and they are subsequently activated over-the-air.
Telenor also cites its ability to provide roaming with multiple networks in each European country so that the M2M modules can enjoy better coverage than would have been the case with a purely local provider.
In truth, most of the major operators with an interest in M2M could make a similar offer. All have dedicated M2M portals, and it would be a poor operator who couldn’t offer multiple network options to outbound roamers in most European countries. However, Telenor’s focus on, and experience with, automotive telematics must have been instrumental in it securing this deal.