Don’t you hate when this happens? The nagging feeling that you just might have forgotten to lock the car that’s now sitting, vulnerable, in an airport parking lot hundreds if not thousands of miles away? Well rest easy from now on if you have a Mercedes and an iPhone or a Blackberry.
Smartphone connectivity is one of the key features in the mbrace telematics system (http://mbrace.mbusa.com) that Hughes Telematics just launched for Mercedes-Benz USA to replace ten-year-old Tele Aid. The new system can not only lock/unlock your car from miles away, but can also guide you back to wherever you parked it, should that be necessary. Hughes VP Kevin Link notes that the smartphone function is secure, so losing your phone will not put you in danger of losing your car.
The mbrace system offers 18 safety/security, navigation/destination planning, and convenience features, any of which can be accessed from within the vehicle or through a personalized web portal. Owners can customize the system in a variety of ways, such as specifying as many as 20 preferred routes and getting advice on which one to take. Link says the concierge service has been enhanced so that live agents can be even more helpful; making reservations, for example, or locating services.
Link says the ability to personalize the mbrace system, as well as to expand or modify it quickly and easily, required a two-year platform development effort. Adding the ability to monitor usage patterns took an additional man-year. “We don’t know what content we’ll need to aggregate tomorrow, so we had to build a platform flexible enough to integrate current and future applications and content quickly, securely, and safely.” Hughes’ next generation telematics architecture combines software from Oracle and Siebel with a front end tailored for Mercedes. It’s leveraged the architecture to develop a white label brand, Cocera. “We could do a rapid implementation for another OEM without having to start from ground zero,” Link suggests. Presuming that every automaker has a telematics road map, Hughes probably will.