Covisint behind Hyundai39s Apple Watch BlueLink app

Covisint behind Hyundai's Apple Watch BlueLink app.

Connected Vehicles Ultimately a Good Thing, Says Covisint

If an automaker in partnership with a supplier using Covisint’s identity and access-management technology can detect failure patterns via examining smart-part data, then expensive and time-consuming disasters could be avoided.

NOVI, MI – Despite increasing concerns by privacy advocates over data generated by vehicles, and who can use it and see it, the sharing of that data ultimately is a good thing, says an official of information-technology firm Covisint.

“Studies out there show over 60% of warranty costs to an OEM are caused by things that break after the thing that broke,” David Miller, Covisint chief security officer, tells WardsAuto here in an interview.

“So your timing chain breaks. That’s only about a $50 part. The valves that all got destroyed when your timing chain broke? That’s $1,000,” Miller says.

If an automaker in partnership with a supplier using Covisint’s identity and access-management technology can detect failure patterns via examining smart-part data and using the vehicle’s data bus to stream information, he says such expensive and time-consuming disasters could be avoided.

“The OEMs can basically look at this fleet of vehicles…and use big-data analytics (to) predict the breakages and actually say, ‘You need to go into your dealership to do this exact thing even though nothing’s broken yet.’

“And it ends up saving (the OEM) a lot of money, and if that saves them money then it saves you time and it saves you money,” Miller reasons.

Not only do suppliers want to be involved in data monitoring of parts to head off costly warranty claims, so do dealerships looking to heighten their level of customer service.

For instance, if dealerships know when a check-engine light is triggered in a customer’s vehicle, they can determine the issue and notify the customer they have the replacement part ready and waiting.

While connected-vehicle technology is good for Covisint’s bottom line, Miller admits to being personally wary of automakers who may view data as a revenue stream. Automakers owning data culled from vehicle buyers or lessees could result in things that are seen by many as annoying rather than helpful, such as in-car advertising.

“Everyone always asks, ‘What do you think about Apple car and Google car?’” Miller says. “And I say I have no idea whether they’ll be successful, but here’s what I’ll tell you: The Apple car will be absolutely gorgeous but will cost $200,000, and the Google car will be free but will randomly drive into stores it wants you to go to.”

Who owns the data generated by the vehicle and its components is a thorny subject and is sure to get thornier as smart parts proliferate and vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure, with the necessary data tracking and sharing, take hold.

There are no clear rules, but the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, representing heavyweights such as BMW, General Motors, Ford and Toyota, has adopted privacy principles that state automakers reserve the right to view some data (technical data). Other data (subscription, infotainment data) is owned by the consumer and information stored on a vehicle’s electronic data recorder can be obtained by the automaker with authorization from the vehicle owner.

But some privacy advocates are fearful technical data eventually could make its way into the hands of insurance companies, which could use it to raise rates if they deem a driver is operating his or her vehicle in an unsafe or harsh manner.

Miller sees the day, supposing legislation is passed, when automakers or suppliers would need a vehicle owner’s authorization before they could gain access to data generated by the vehicle.

“Now your mobile app you connect to is going to say, ‘Do you opt in to allow General Motors to see this data for the purpose of…,’ much like you opt-in today if you’re running any kind of operating system. You do that once in the cloud (and) it applies to everything,” Miller says of a possible future scenario.

GM, Hyundai Covisint Customers

Covisint was formed in 2000, aiming to be a one-stop shop for its original owners, GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Renault-Nissan and Peugeot as an online portal to procure parts as well as shipping and logistics services from suppliers.

The failure by all involved to agree on a single application to perform these functions transformed Covisint into an information-technology company serving other fields, including healthcare and energy.

“The concept is (to manage) lots and lots of users who have to be administered to systems that are all over the place,” Miller says of Covisint’s work with health-information exchanges such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and managing a joint venture for Shell and Chevron.

But in 2008 Covisint got renewed interest from OEMs who needed the company to manage owner and vehicle identifications in light of the growth of in-vehicle infotainment.

Covisint counts among its automotive customers GM, Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and Hyundai.

By the number of vehicles it manages, Covisint’s biggest customer is GM/OnStar, but the always-aggressive Hyundai has taken advantage of the most of what the tech company has to offer, says Timothy Evavold, executive director-automotive for Covisint.

“Hyundai (is) trying to grow and accelerate and add innovation in a safe, sound, fast manner,” he says. “They’re a little bit more open to, ‘OK, what are best practices and let’s take advantage of those.’”

Covisint’s work with Hyundai includes the brand’s BlueLink mobile app, with features such as the popular GeoFence, allowing a vehicle owner to be notified if, for instance, his teenage son drives his car more than 10 miles (16 km) from home.

Covisint expertise has allowed Hyundai owners using the BlueLink mobile app to have a singular, modern experience now matter if they drive an ’11 Sonata or a ’15 model, Evavold says.

While some older-generation vehicles might not have all the same features available on the mobile app as do newer models, Covisint has been able to turn back time in some instances.

“We can actually enable the feature before the hardware, so we can add capability to the old hardware,” Evavold says, noting the company has figured out how to delay a remote-engine start, for example.

“Newer hardware will take a value that says, ‘OK, start, but wait 10 minutes.’ The older hardware didn’t. So we just won’t send a signal to that car for that amount of time,” he says.

Covisint also helped Hyundai be first-to-market with a wearable app (for Apple Watch) across its entire fleet.

Evavold is especially excited about Covisint’s work with Hyundai on the new Genesis-brand models and the Ioniq green-car lineup, noting the latter’s user experience should be top-notch judging by pre-production models with fast and fully functional infotainment features.

The ability to manage, via the cloud, different people using and interacting with the same car is something Covisint already is doing with Hyundai, and Miller sees the cloud expanding as a storage medium for vehicles for convenience and security reasons.

“The whole idea of putting all this data in the vehicle, why do that? Why can’t my contact list just be in the cloud?

“We often drive up to places and hand the keys to some dude who’s standing out front,” Miller continues. “It’s an insecure platform. Don’t put things there.”

The management of multiple personas via the cloud also makes sense in light of ride sharing, he notes.

“This car (may be) owned by me and six of my neighbors…But I want my experience. When I get in that car I only want my contact list and I want it to pair to my phone, my way, and I want my radio stations and my stuff. And when I leave that vehicle I want that experience to disappear.”

Despite its successful automotive forays, Covisint financially has been underperforming this year. The company posted a 15% drop in fourth-quarter revenue on June 6 and its stock has been trading below $2.50 per share. Two key stakeholders, Vector Capital and Roumell Asset Management, reportedly have requested a possible sale of Covisint, which was spun off from Compuware in September 2013.

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Learn more on this topic at the WardsAuto UX Conference, October 4 in Novi, MI. Check out the agenda and our announced speakers from FCA, Bosch, Continental and other leading OEMs and suppliers. Visit the conference website

TAGS: Industry HMI
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