Make Way for In-Vehicle Systems
The Internet and wireless networks are finally showing real evidence of pulling together. As the thinking goes, since there will be so many more wireless phones accessing the Internet, the wireless handset will replace the PC as the No. 1 Internet access device. This type of thinking is almost laughable. When it comes to the Internet and e-mail, the wireless handset will fall below the PC in the client/server architecture hierarchy, although there will be many more handsets sold than PCs in any given year (240 million handsets vs. 113 million PCs in 1999).
There is, however, one area that will actually allow wireless data to be used in a reasonable manner: the in-vehicle market, where a larger display, higher processing power and useful applications may simulate the home PC experience to a degree. Although car manufacturers would like to bundle hardware into vehicles and have new vehicle owners subscribe to services for years, it may be installation by a third party after the sale (the after market) that makes in-vehicle information systems (IVIS) fly.
Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standards are now being finalized for IVIS which should allow for participation by third-party vendors by 2003. The data bus seems to be a clear winner at this point, and the SAE has put together the long list of requirements for plug-and-play compatibility.
The interface will most likely be a de facto one pushed by large players such as Microsoft, General Motors and Motorola. This will also determine the pace at which an operating system is accepted, since they are usually paired. The U.S. DOT Critical Standards Report (June 1999) outlined a Jan. 1, 2001, deadline for many, if not all, specifications for plug-and-play to spur the in-vehicle market.
Although it will likely be 2002 before these are built in large numbers, products should be available in larger volume by 2003.
We are beginning to see sensible bundles as well. IVIS makes a perfect companion for satellite-based radio as well as location-based services. ATX recently announced a partnership with Sirius, a satellite radio provider planning to turn on service by the end of the year. Location services make much more sense in a vehicle than on a handset. Mobility implies walking, when it is easy to discern what is in front of you without prompts from a cell phone. Other great IVIS applications, such as navigation and mapping, need a vehicle to direct.
Wireless carriers are finally waking up. Sprint has partnered with Highway Master for short haul and with LTL Trucks and Ford for IVIS. Bell Atlantic is working with OnStar while its merger partner, GTE, has been providing GM with 800-MHz transmissions for OnStar. BAM is also working with ATX, which is providing the True Position time-difference-of-arrival (TDOA)-based location service. AT&T Wireless is also carrying ATX?s service.
All wireless carriers will use their new IP-based 2.5G and 3G upgrades for the vehicle market. Transceivers will bundle the display panel with the CD player, satellite radio and maybe even location-based services. This means the wireless carriers will be utilizing their network of suppliers and resellers to make this after market happen. In March, the Universal Wireless Communications Consortium (UWCC) said it would move up its data schedule to have Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE) in the networks for use in Q4 2001.
CDMA carriers Bell Atlantic, Sprint and Air Touch will have the 2.5G upgrade in by Q4 2000, with subscriptions offered by Q3/Q4 2001. Wireless carriers will be pushing the after-market players to become standards-based so they do not have to rely on new car sales from Ford and GM for their subscribers. The after market has a potential audience of 210 million cars on the road in the United States and that number is growing.
System obsolescence will also be a factor: Cars leased for even three or four years have the potential for 10 system upgrades. Even using Moore?s Law loosely, the processing power in the OEM IVIS version will be downgraded at least twice a year. New cars will have systems that will seem obsolete quickly in display, processing power, applications and bundled items. A third-party vendor can easily keep up with the fast-moving electronics market while car makers will not be as adept.
Although car manufacturers will offer the option on more models, they will not be able to keep up with the better-cheaper mentality. Systems bundled on demand will allow third-party vendors to provide a better deal. Even if all car manufacturers offer the option, that is still only about 8 percent of the potential market each year. With all this in mind, the third-party market should account for at least 50 percent to 70 percent of the market each year beginning in 2003.
Larry Swasey is vice president of the communications research practice at Allied Business Intelligence Inc. He specializes in wireless access technologies and infrastructure.