In-car technology could change our lives

telemat2009In 2008 I talked about in-car technology as becoming less utilitarian and more about the car as a content platform of tomorrow.  And why not, cars and trucks increasingly share information with other platforms (RFID sensors, tolls, central tracking systems, etc.).  For 2009, I am curious how this in-car technology and the growing digital ecosystem could actually help improve one’s quality of life, beyond just getting to your destination.

We know that cell phones and cars are increasingly being delivered to the end user with GPS capability (in-car GPS, Personal Navigation Devices, or Pedestrian Navigation Devices).  We know that this GPS capability can allow people to see where you are.  We also know that it is possible to cross reference where you are specifically to what is around you.  Whether this technology is actually deployed is unclear.  This ability to locate and cross reference will increase as more and more locations look to formalize their location in the GPS universe.

So what am I getting at here?

Imagine a doctor who prescribes an obese person to 30 minutes a day cardio training at a gym and a firm warning not consume fast foods.  Also, let’s layer in a doctor’s advice to eat only healthy foods.  With GPS and location based services along with the support of the employer, insurance and doctor, one might be able to craft a healthy living plan that is to a large extent verifiable, cost reducing and most importantly affective.

The patient will need to get to the gym and by leveraging the GPS in the phone or car an overlay of the gym’s location and the device location can be made.  Concurrent with that is the duration of the two overlays.  You now have information on where, when and how long.  This same thinking can be used to know if/when this same patient is at fast food restaurants or better still at doctor approved eateries.  To help the patient along, he/she can receive location data to establishments that conform to a healthy living profile.

You’re probably thinking that in the scenario I outlined it would be so easy to rig the system.  You are correct.  A friend could go to the fast food place and get you food.  A healthy friend could take your phone with them to the gym.  You could also go to the gym, park your car, leave your phone in the car and walk down the street to get a double scoop of ice cream.  The reality however is that if the doctor “looks” at where you have been based on the GPS data and over time see’s no improvement then there is clearly a disconnect between the data and the results.

It is important to not get too caught up in the example but rather focus on the possibilities that this future technology and the convergence of multiple players might have in making a significant change in how brands affect people’s lives, how different brands can interact collectively and how they can provide unique opportunities in aggregate rather than individually.    A nice partnership with say Whole Foods, 24 Hour fitness, Kaiser, the employer and the doctor can help to reduce long term employer healthcare funded costs, increase worker productivity, reduce employee premium payments and increase traffic to many of the locations built into this wellness program.  2009 will be an important year to start looking at emerging technologies as a means to gain market share, productivity and establish a unique brand awareness.

Keep an eye on our blog for announcements from Ford and Microsoft from this year’s CES for new developments in telematics technology.