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Telematics: vehicle internet in overdrive.

Your car has broken down or you have been in an accident in a remote part the country. Rest assured--someone will be there to help. General Motor's OnStar has been a leader in such roadside location-based service for years. Germany's Mercedes-Benz and BMW, as well as Japan's Toyota, Nissan and Honda, have been other major players in in-car telematics with emergency alert at its core.

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Now, with streaming video, wireless broadband and feature-rich content, telematics is becoming another cutting-edge mobile Internet service rather than a niche accessory. The new telematics integrates not only the old location-based services including recovery and remote diagnostics, but also serves as a high-tech communications tool that makes your car as connected as your office or living room. "People aren't just looking to add another gadget in their car, but if you give them convenience, security, entertainment and information all nicely packaged into one device, they might try it," says Lim Kyu Kwan, vice president of SK Telecom in Seoul.

Think of telematics as your in-car portal or a combination of Yahoo, Google, TV, radio, MP3 player and, indeed, a mini server on your dashboard. Telematics packages four key features: navigation and traffic information; safety and security, like emergency alert and remote diagnostics; information and mobile commerce, like news and online banking or online stock trading; and multimedia, including video and music-on-demand all in the car. There are also separate channels so that kids in the back could watch "SpongeBob SquarePants" while dad navigates the roads or mom monitors weather reports and traffic conditions. The advent of super-fast wireless broadband like WiMax and WiBro will ensure that telematics can be used everywhere roads or cars exist. WiBro will make sure that cars traveling even more than 60 km (36 mph) per hour get perfect pictures rather than jerky motion streaming video. Anybody who has been caught in traffic jams in Asia will appreciate the real value of telematics.

Koreans believe that developing telematic devices will strengthen the overall competitive power of the Korean economy, especially for automotive manufacturers. But it also will clearly help electronic companies that make in-car telematic display panels fitted on dashboards or chips that will go in it or embedded software.

However, Lim says there are several issues that need to be ironed out before telematics can become a commercial success. First, building the infrastructure that will support telematics is a big issue. Collecting and managing raw data like real-time traffic information is not cheap. To bring costs down would require both private- and public-sector investment in telematics information centers, which gather and share raw data. Perhaps advertising might defray some of the costs.

Korea is now committed to building a strong telematics infrastructure. The Telematics Information Center will serve as the nexus of the nationwide portal of sorts. For its part, SK Telecom began working on a Telematics Model City in Cheju Island last year.

Secondly, telematics is complex because it requires the integration of diverse technologies. Therefore, building open platforms and open standards will be important. That means global automakers, mobile communications companies, hardware makers and service providers will have to agree on common standards, never an easy task.

A third issue, simply put, is whether there is a killer app for telematics. In the U.S., safety and security services are key features while in Asia navigation and traffic information services are more popular features. The arrival of digital mobile satellite broadcasting and wireless broadband in these markets has demonstrated that the best information has to be local--traffic information, points of interest, names of movie theaters and what they are showing. Creating local content that shifts as a vehicle moves is a major challenge.

Lastly, creating a complete telematics infrastructure will require extensive global collaboration. Samsung Electronics, which is working on single chips that will support telematic display panels, and SK Telecom, which is a telematics network operator, both believe they will need to join hands with foreign companies to further develop the technology and ensure its commercial success on a global scale. "Telematics needs to become an integrated part of consumers' entire mobile information and communication experiences," says Kim Hang Woo, a vice president at Samsung Electronics. But that's easier said than done.
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Title Annotation:The Key Technologies
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Words:707
Previous Article:System-on-chips.
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