2012
09.11

While watching TV the other night, I heard a word during a car commercial that made me pause. It’s a word that usually doesn’t enjoy mainstream, prime-time exposure. The word was “telematics,” and it was spoken by the actor Jon Hamm during a Mercedes-Benz car commercial. Hamm, the current voice of Mercedes, lent the word his smooth, rich vocal tones, making it sound like something exotic and expensive. Perhaps that’s what Mercedes is going for. I can’t say for sure, but I do know that until recently, it wasn’t every day that you heard the word telematics on a national TV spot.

The commercial, which began airing in late August, highlights Mercedes’ mbrace2 technology, which provides a wide range of connected-car functionality. Drivers can lock or unlock their car remotely using a smartphone, send an address to the car, find it in a mall parking lot, or view remote vehicle diagnostics. Drivers can also use in-vehicles apps and safety and security features, and monitor the driving of teens.

The Mercedes commercial in question focuses almost solely on the technology. You can view it here. We learn the Mercedes driver with mbrace2 can follow sports, keep in touch with friends, find a restaurant, and receive weather forecasts, all from his car.

As a telematics system goes, it’s pretty thorough. However, the idea of telematics itself can hardly be called groundbreaking, even if the word is reaching new ears through popular TV.

Telematics has been around a very long, and the idea is a key part of M2M technology. Telematics refers to the collection of data from a vehicle, where the data is then transferred to another location to enable services or features. The technology has long been used in vehicles, first gaining popularity in commercial vehicles as a way to increase efficiency and reduce costs. In trucking firms, telematics could be used to monitor engine conditions and driving behavior, as well as plan routes and provide information on ways to conserve fuel.

But telematics has officially broken free from the commercial world and is firmly a part of the consumer automobile. From GM’s OnStar, to Ford SYNC, and now Mercedes mbrace, not to mention systems from nearly every other automaker, the technology seems to be what car manufacturers are leading with when they promote new vehicles.

The word “telematics” may soon be part of every car buyer’s vocabulary. And that’s a good thing, because with all the technology available in vehicles today, consumers need to understand the systems and how they differ. Thanks to Mercedes and Jon Hamm for kicking off the conversation.

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