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Point Of View: It’s All A Matter Of Connectivity

The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) currently being held in Las Vagas had me dreaming. No, I don’t attend that show. And though it might seem to be something really fun to do, being a veteran of our industry’s all-industry event in early November keeps me easily at bay whenever I consider attending CES. I need to attend another trade show like I need a root canal.

But, as many know, I love technology. And, though I never really go overboard in acquiring the latest item nor rush toward the cutting edge regarding the newest product released, I do embrace the value of what technology can bring to our lives — both in regard to entertainment as well as in the way we gathering information.

I stream a lot of what I watch or listen to. I am rarely more than a few feet away from my smartphone, my pad or one of my laptops. And, whether I am home or on the road, I am never so far away that I cannot access the essential work I may need to execute in running my business or to communicate on a moment’s notice to family or friends or colleagues located in all corners of the U.S.

With that perspective, my curiosity was piqued when I noted a recent announcement concerning the AT&T and GM sponsored connected car challenge/hackathon, part of the AT&T Developer Summit during CES. Developers participating in this two-day, GM-sponsored challenge have full access to AT&T’s suite of cutting-edge APIs and developer resources as they vie for a chance to win a Chevy Volt or cash equivalent as their prize for developing the winning app. (APIs are application programming interfaces, a protocol intended to be used as an interface by software components to communicate with each other).

In a world where connectivity has permeated all aspects of life, this is where the rubber is meeting the road. And it needs to be where the independent automotive service market is at, now and in the immediate future.

According to the global consulting firm Oliver Wyman, by 2016, there will likely be about 216 million connected cars on the world’s roads — up from 45 million last year. And, as the folks at Oliver Wyman said, that provides a direct opportunity to provide individual and competitive service offerings to a vast array of potential customers.

That is an opportunity staring us in the face. And, right now, only the carmakers are in position to take advantage of this opportunity — and even they are not as well-positioned as they wish they were with OnStar and similar OE services.

At the same time, according to Strategy Analytics, in Q3 2012, the number of smartphones passed 1 billion worldwide – 1.038 billion, to be exact. It took 16 years to reach the 1-billion mark, and, with the cost of devices coming down quickly and the number of smartphone makers continuing to grow, we may reach the next billion in even less time. In fact, It took 15 years – from 1996 to Q3 2011 – to reach 708 million smartphone devices, but then it took only one year for another 300 million to come online, said Scott Bicheno, a senior analyst at Strategy Analytics.

That works out to one smartphone for every seven people worldwide, and, in this country, that ratio is definitely much higher. Mash that together with the number of vehicles on the road today, and the means to connect is in place. It is now a matter of the programming and the process to be developed.

Most vehicle owners want to reasonably keep their cars running well, willingly investing in the necessary service needed to get the most out of the vehicle investment and the fuel costs. And, when they have a problem, they want direction and guidance — a relationship with a shop that can get them back on the road. That is what connectivity is about, whether high tech or not, and we need to have the means of keeping that relationship strong.

As the coming year unfolds, we will be anxious to see how things develop in this regard. It will have a great deal to do with what our long-term future is like.


Gary A. Molinaro

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