Tomorrow’s Connected Car

The car of the future will find you a free cup of coffee, and some value-added services will make cars more practical than ever. SAP has already created the technical prototype: Now it’s the service providers’ turn to follow suit.

The car of the future will offer many services: For instance, when you set off on a shopping trip, your on-board computer or an app could offer you discount vouchers, complete with reserved parking spots near to the stores that are offering a discount.

In mid-2012, Heino Kantimm and Alexander Braun from SAP started collaborating with BMW Group Research and Technology to develop value-added services and the technology platform to run them. One of their objectives is to create a marketplace for drivers – or to “integrate vehicle-related services into cars” as Kantimm, Chief Expert Sustainable Industries at SAP, puts it. In the meantime, they have developed a “prototype of a flexible infrastructure for comprehensive mobility services”.

SAP and BMW have already completed two application prototypes that use SAP HANA technology to ease parking and offer discounted coupons. The concept works like this: Service providers such as parking garages, gas stations, and restaurants are grouped together on a virtual marketplace. Drivers receive tailored, localized offerings when they enter the neighbohood of these businesses. Once the driver has made a decision, the system looks for a parking lot in the vicinity – if requested – and navigates the driver to it, sending a coupon to the driver’s smartphone for redemption at the checkout. This is an effective way to run promotional campaigns.

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Mobility Services with SAP HANA: “How can I make this part of the real world?”

At least, that’s the theory. In practice, however, many questions are still unanswered. Research expert Braun poses the key question: “How can I make this part of the real world?” By not every parking garage is equipped with sensors that inform the operator electronically which lots are vacant and which are not. Some parking garages provide useful custom solutions for driving in and out, but these aren’t compatible with other parking garage operators. “Who wants to have a dozen RFID transponders stuck to their windshield?” Braun asks. What’s more, the idea of reserved parking spaces sometimes requires a parking garage to have several access points. This isn’t always the case.

The next question to be answered is who will actually earn money from these new offerings. Software company SAP is a strong candidate, because many major car manufacturers and automotive suppliers are SAP customers, and oil companies also belong to SAP’s customer portfolio. A single service module isn’t enough to build a strong business proposition, but it’s the right starting point. “We’re hoping for and expecting a snowball effect among service providers,” Kantimm explains. For example, if a parking garage operator equips its parking lots with sensors and puts the information about availability online, the step to the marketplace is only a short one. “Sooner or later, competitors will be forced to go along with the technology so that they can join the marketplace,” Kantimm believes. Only then will the threshold be reached where service providers will actually want to spend money on the service. “Of course, automotive manufacturers have much longer innovation cycles than we do in the software industry,” Kantimm adds. Even if people are in favor of the prototype, it will be some years before such services are integrated with on-board electronics and smartphones are used.

Co-innovation with service providers is imperative. “We need new business models,” says Kantimm, who has a degree in business information technology. He is convinced that the service providers will come up with some good ideas. SAP’s main role in conjunction with the marketplace, car manufacturers, and automotive suppliers is to create the necessary technical conditions for the transactions. Kantimm envisages a standard, “not just for big service providers, but particularly for smaller ones, who can join the marketplace without a great deal of effort.” Next year, according to Kantimm, the transaction systems will already be marketable. This means the software teams will have done their homework by then.”As soon as a decent mass of data is there, SAP HANA will also pay off,” Kantimm believes.

The Goal Is to Move in Traffic Without a Driver

At this year’s CeBIT event, SAP used a simulation to demonstrate what the connected cars vision at SAP looks like. SAP recorded various parameters from more than 120,000 cars that were on the road in Germany. How offensively or defensively did the driver drive? How much did they accelerate when merging onto the autobahn? Did they break down or were they involved in an accident? How energy-efficient was their driving? Drivers and car insurance companies alike are interested in these statistics. Drivers, too, can benefit from this real-time information about traffic congestion ahead, road accidents or car break downs. “Of course, every driver needs to consent to their vehicle data being used,” says Bernd Huwe from SAP. The objective is to achieve autonomous driving, which – in principle – means that vehicles are able to move in traffic without a driver. Experts predict that this milestone will be reached by 2020.

Such platforms will be useful for vehicle fleets deployed throughout company groups, for example, at logistics service provider Deutsche Post DHL, which has thousands of cars on the road every day.

But enough of the vision. What about the actual vehicles themselves? The number of electric cars on our roads is set to increase over the coming years. So, the ability to display the location of charging stations for electric cars on the vehicle’s on-board computer would be a very useful service to have. “You’ll then know immediately where the next charging station is and how far away it is,” says Braun. “What’s more, the system could analyze the driver’s habits and show which is the most energy-efficient route.” Because electric cars still have a limited range, this service will help drivers get as much mileage as possible out of batteries.

Kantimm concludes, “One way or another, it’s obvious that we’ll find it hard to imagine cars without value-added services in a few years’ time.”

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