2012
07.18

Today Honda officially entered the in-vehicle connectivity race with the announcement of its cloud-based HondaLink. Actually, it won’t officially enter this race until this fall when HondaLink comes equipped in the 2013 Honda Accord, but nonetheless, the automaker has joined the ranks of the many in the suddenly crowded in-vehicle connectivity market.

So what makes HondaLink stand out from the pack? At this point I am not quite sure. But I do applaud the automaker for focusing greatly on the idea of putting down the smartphone in the vehicle and streaming all your desired content instead to the head unit. During the Webinar today announcing the launch of the HondaLink, the automaker emphasized the need to reduce driver distraction multiple times, which is a plus for sure.

Also during the Webinar, Honda officials acknowledged that there is indeed a great deal of competition in the in-vehicle technology category, but that none were without challenges. The automaker says its starting point with this system is on it being intuitive and easy to use, saying that it hopes to eliminate that visual burden that can distract the driver.

A new HondaLink smartphone application allows drivers to preset content on their phone and then once in the car, they can access content using voice recognition, steering-wheel mounted controls, and in-dash audio system controls. Honda calls the service a tether that serves as a conduit to a great deal of cloud-based content. It hopes to do this by featuring an automotive OEM application of Aha in the HondaLink that will allow drivers to access a range of cloud-based services that can be updated dynamically.

What I liked was the fact Honda acknowledged that technologies need to support the idea of the connected customer. As consumers, we are always on and always leveraging our devices, so to be able to bring in our devices and consume our desired content is appealing.

The automaker introduced some streaming audio and SMS features last fall in the 2012 Honda CR-V, and with today’s announcement even went into some of the energy efficient options with its Honda Fit EV vehicle. So Honda is making the commitment and seems to want to provide some flavor of the connected automobile for every type of driver it serves.

Will it be enough to stand out from the pack? It’s hard to say at this point, but we will wait with anticipation when we can step inside one of these vehicles this fall. If anything, we just have another candidate for the 2013 Connected World Connected Car of the Year.

2012
07.18

Perhaps the connected consumer truly will become king … or already is. The bigger question we face now is whether or not corporations recognize the shift and are appropriately armed to accommodate.

The idea that Gregg Garrett presented to readers in his latest column that consumers have begun this transformation around connected technologies in order to make buying decisions and that their expectations for how products, services, and life experiences should function definitely has legs.

I just read an interesting benchmarking study from FedEx on the impact of social media technologies on today’s business environment. First of all, I love the fact that a company like FedEx is providing us with some benchmarking data on social technologies for business. But what I like most of all is the fact that the study didn’t simply outline a series of numbers about how businesses have a social-media presence and the impact it could have. Instead, it challenges businesses to become what it calls a “social business” in that it transforms from simply having a presence in the social-media world to one that takes strategic action around engagement in order to support business goals, foster brand affinity, and generate some value.

The study, which was done in conjunction with communications company Ketchum, is a great first step. But I say why stop at social? Referencing Garrett’s article, he points out that things like social media are simply the front edge of a more complete connected movement. He says, “An entire generation has been raised in this world and the expectation that life is “connected” no longer only means that a communication signal (cellular, Wi-Fi, etc.) can reach them, but more importantly that their experiences are integrated throughout their life.”

Have large corporations recognized this trend early enough to capitalize? Those that aren’t slow to adapt their business model to meet this change will come out on top.

More focus should be on things like how consumers are engaging with your brand using devices; how are they influenced by advertisements of all kinds; and how do they relay their recommendations to friends and family? My bet is that a device or social media platform is involved in each instance. And just as the FedEx study suggests, rather than just having a presence in this worlds, corporations need to be understanding these interactions and capitalizing on what the “king” consumer is telling them.

Companies today are moving in that direction. We’ve seen large consumer goods makers moving away from 800 numbers on product labels for consumers and instead encouraging them to interact with them on social media. The smart ones are capitalizing on this data, aggregating the information, and implementing real plans of action based on this realtime consumer feedback. Retail and POS (point-of-sale) markets are in prime position to capitalize.

Even to a degree, large package delivery companies that invest billions in telematics technologies are making a statement, either direct or indirect, that they realize the consumer wants to be able to track their goods on their terms. Such technology is letting them do so, and from their very own connected devices at any time they wish.
We just saw Southwest Airlines announce GPS-enabled package shipping for freight. Could this one day move to passenger transport where we know exactly when our loved ones land? A stretch, maybe … maybe not.

The point of the matter is, every move a company makes with regards to technology should be a test for how to better serve that connected consumer. Even if the original intent was just on improving enterprise function, there could very well be a solution in there for better serving that king connected customer. And it’s always good practice to want to please the king.