For Sprint, the connected car will be the new phone and the carrier’s Velocity engine will be the tool to help make cars smarter through automation, apps, and connectivity. Unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show as part of Sprint’s M2M (machine to machine) platform, Velocity isn’t just about delivering connectivity to automobiles, but it’s a turnkey, end-to-end solution targeted at automakers where Sprint will help to select the components and curate the content for an entirely new industry beyond smartphones and tablets.
Infotainment and automotive is a new area for a wireless carrier, and Sprint is taking a different approach than rival Verizon Wireless, the latter of which is focused on embedding LTE modules into cars whereas the Now Network is prepping a ready-to-go solution that will provide the modems and radios for connectivity, the hardware and components to monitor and diagnose the cars, and the apps and mapping solutions that will be part of curating the infotainment and in-dash experience.
However, this comes as little surprise for Sprint, which has been working with insurance companies and various M2M partners at the Sprint Collaboration Center in Burlingame, California, to deliver a better, modular connected experience. Over a year ago, Sprint had demonstrated to me in Northern California a solution that allows insurance companies, with the participation of drivers, to track driving behavior through the use of a vehicle’s OBD II computer. Sudden braking, swift lane changes, and rapid acceleration are all indicators of risky driving behavior, and if insurance companies can determine that a driver doesn’t possess as many of those behaviors, it could offer lower rates to insure safe drivers. This makes sense as health insurance providers charge lower premiums for non-smokers and those without existing health problems, and why shouldn’t drivers be afforded the same discounts for doing their job–which is driving safely?
Other components of Velocity include remote vehicle unlocking and locking, remote start of the vehicle, hotspot functionality, web access, voice texting, vehicle performance monitoring, location-based searching and services, and other tools in a safe, contained manner. These are all helpful to consumers. In hot climates, remote start can allow customers to start their cars and turn on the AC before even trying to get into their scorching vehicles, and in cold New York winters, drivers can heat up their cars while still getting ready for work and sipping that last cup of coffee before headed for their cars.
For auto companies, they can get diagnostic information about the car even before a car comes into the shop for service.
Most of the services here can be operated on cheaper 2G data access. Where 3G/4G LTE will come to play would be in the in-dash infotainment experience, and we’re eager to see what Sprint and its auto partners have lined up to creating a curated solution for customers. Think iTunes. Think App Store. Think content. But all delivered in a safe manner to avoid distracted driving, which has been a focal point for Sprint CEO Dan Hesse.
Sprint’s approach is unique in approaching the auto space. Rather than forging its way alone, it’s recruiting partners to deliver components and creating a modular system.
“Sprint Velocity enables auto manufacturers to customize the variety of connected features inside the vehicle, through the simplicity of a single point of mobile integration and enablement,” said Wayne Ward, vice president-Emerging Solutions, Sprint. “Automakers simply collaborate with Sprint on the specific features they desire for their vehicles and Sprint will handle the rest. We believe Sprint Velocity is the most technologically advanced and most comprehensive connected services platform for auto manufacturers, wherever they’re located around the globe.”
It’s interesting to view the car as another device that will be able to access the Internet and be connected independently. It’s like a tablet or computer that’s permanently mounted into your vehicle, rather than today’s implementation in many cars that taps into your phone to get connectivity or information.
And Sprint definitely has the infrastructure to take this expertise to a mass level for consumption. It has the billing in place to monitor data use, it has the connections with hardware partners and developers, and it has the infrastructure to deliver connectivity.