Time will tell how well this works, but Hughes Telematics says the platform underlying mbrace, its telematics system for Mercedes-Benz owners, is flexible enough to support expansion into new markets. Later this year the firm plans to announce a device that will plug into a vehicle’s OBD port and provide voice and data links to a call center. Hughes plans to market the device through auto clubs and insurance companies.
What’s more of a stretch is a wearable device Hughes plans to launch next year for people who want or need help close at hand in the event of a medical emergency. Hughes is partnering with Qualcomm to develop the product and it has a marketing arrangement with American Medical Alert Corp., which by its name alone must understand the application.
“We built a platform several years ago that allows us to host a range of services that connect to remote mobile devices,” says Hughes Telematics president Erik Goldman. “We built it with the automotive industry in mind, but a host of vertical applications can fit on top of that platform. We can go to market pretty fast, and as we extend the platform we can decide how far down the value chain we want to go.”
What’s so hard about building a flexible platform? “We have to be able to manage various types of products; communicate with wireless carriers to turn them on or off; integrate content from various sources; aggregate it, sanitize it, compress it to make the best use of air time, deliver it to the customer, personalized, and then provide usage and billing information,” Goldman explains, adding that Hughes will also offer transactional billing to accommodate customers who, for example, just need their car unlocked this one time.
What made all that possible was a large investment in technology – upwards of $200 million – plus the advantage of starting fresh and not having to worry about legacy systems. Nice.