2013
11.06

Automakers have an opportunity right now with customers to pitch the benefits of technology. But are they missing the boat? After interviewing Bryce Hoffman, automotive industry reporter, The Detroit News, on my radio show I have to concur with his assessment that the automakers are squandering their chance to educate consumers about connected technology.

We all agree the connected-car industry is seeing rapid developments these days, but it’s also a very challenging time. With that said, there is a generational conflict that has developed in terms of technology in the car. Older motorists, i.e., baby boomers, are happy with the way cars have always worked—which means purchasing a vehicle for speed, power, performance, and appeal. However, now toss in some sophisticated technology and what you get are frustrated drivers, Hoffman said during the interview, who don’t understand how to work the technology in today’s advanced models.

On the flipside, younger drivers are demanding connected tech in their vehicles. Thus, automakers are caught between two demographics in terms of deciding who to please and how to please them. What’s an OEM (original-equipment manufacturer) to do?

Hoffman suggests automakers put a greater focus toward their educational efforts so that consumers are accustomed to technology in the car. He notes Ford learned its lessons the hard way with SYNC and MyFord Touch. Customers were very critical until Ford made some serious changes to the systems to reflect customer feedback and interactions. He adds it’s imperative that drivers are knowledgeable about the technology in their cars before they drive off the lot.

When dealers/automakers are selling their cars they have a tremendous opportunity to pitch the technology benefits of their vehicles. For instance, the technology in the Cadillac CUE has proven to be very confusing as noted in some recent studies, including Consumer Reports. But if the automaker were able to talk to customers about the important aspects of the connected technology, it could ultimately wind up with a higher satisfaction rate, explains Hoffman. The irony here is that many carmakers still do not get it and are failing miserably when it comes to educating the public.

Hoffman made another great point that’s worth noting. Automakers also need to keep in mind that driver’s need options. Companies should make it easy for motorists to lock out connected features if they don’t want them, but at the same time making sure they can be accessed if desired.

Only time will tell if the auto industry will catch on quick enough to save itself or whether it will cling to its old rigid ways of the past. Times are a changing and so is the technology.

2013
11.06

I came across a great story this week that puts this whole “wearable” discussion into perspective. U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer is calling for the DOJ (Dept. of Justice) to create and fund a program to provide voluntary GPS tracking devices for children who have Autism or other developmental disorders.

I applaud this effort and realize that something calling for the government to fund connected devices is not unprecedented (a federal government program already in place to track seniors who have Alzheimer’s using GPS devices). I love the fact that connected devices can help provide this type of peace of mind for loved ones and caregivers, and even more so the fact that someone is out there championing efforts to help offset the cost of the device (which can be more than $100) and even the monthly service costs to those who are in need.

I keep rather close tabs on this matter for personal reasons. One of my wife’s best friends is the mother of an Autistic child and as a result we always tend to keep an eye out for things that can help. In particular, because of my role as Chief Editor of Connected World I am constantly trying to share new devices, apps, and other ideas with my wife’s friend. So needless to say I was excited to share this news today. Again, I applaud the efforts of Schumer, and for those who might be questioning whether or not this is necessary, I find his quote here to be particularly insightful: 

He says: “The sights and sounds of cities, schools, and other busy places can be over-stimulating and distracting for children and teens with Autism, often leading to wandering as a way to escape. Voluntary tracking devices will help our teachers and parents in the event that the child runs away and, God forbid, goes missing. DOJ already funds these devices for individuals with Alzheimer’s and they should do the same for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Funding this program will help put school systems and parents of children and teens with Autism at ease knowing where their children are.”

Some would characterize this as “bolting” or wandering—and officially this is called elopement, which means having a tendency to leave a safe place. Schumer’s proposed voluntary program for parents would be run by local law enforcement agencies and even include funding to help train individuals for how to use and maintain these devices. 

So coming full circle with the whole connected devices discussion here, I think opportunities like this present yet another compelling argument for this whole burgeoning wearable-technology market. I’ve said before that while the market is hot right now with many players, I contest that those that ultimately exhibit staying power are the ones that differentiate themselves in two ways: usefulness and style.

In the case of this program, I believe success will be tied to the way in which the devices are able to hide, for lack of a better term, into the everyday lives of these children. In other words, a device clipped onto a belt might not be as readily embraced as perhaps a cool-looking watch or bracelet or anklet that becomes not only a potentially life-saving device, but also a fashionable accessory.

This is a big topic in the senior market these days and we have been testing out a few devices that are small and light weight enough so as not to pose as “tracking device” to seniors, but rather just another accessory that also happens to provide a useful function. This will be important for what Schumer is proposing as well. I hope the wearable technology market is taking notice of just how powerful a role they could be playing in this world beyond just providing some “cool” looking watch.