Media aggregation: the Holy Grail of infotainment?

The automotive industry is innovating at a faster pace than ever before.

Electrification, autonomous cars, regulations for improved fuel economy and fewer emissions are all pushing manufacturers to continuously innovate and improve. Smartphone penetration and innovation from ride share companies are already challenging traditional services such as taxis and public transport because of their convenience and ease-of-use. The sheer speed of this has now led to the concept of ‘Transport-as-a-Service’, where consumers choose to no longer own vehicles.

Imagine subscribing to a car service the way you do to Netflix or Spotify? Today, this may sound alien, but digital innovations could lead us to a world where mass car ownership as we know it will no longer exist. Simply put, the convenience of being able to jump in your car for a visit to the shops can be met via a subscription ride service, with no additional costs or hassle to get where you need to, and no need to search for cash for a cab. For car manufacturers, this can sound like a daunting proposition at first glance since they are not selling as many cars directly to consumers. Yet, as so frequently happens with change, it also enables further innovation: manufacturers will have a different route to their end customer and may develop relationships that are even more personal, perhaps garnering even stronger brand loyalty. Cherry on the cake: manufacturers will have the option to monetize these relationships too.

The industry needs to look beyond the performance-comfort-novelty trope and view their relationship in a new way. Manufacturers should strive to offer in-car experiences that adjust to each user, journey and time of day to increase engagement and promote brand loyalty. Today, the best way to achieve this is through customizable infotainment services that offer content at the tap of a finger, or via voice commands. By creating these experiences today, car brands are setting the stage to be able to deliver personalized service that respond to evolving transportation needs. These services can even be moved beyond the owned vehicle to others to provide a journey-based service. The aim must be to bring together content from free, subscription, pay-per-use and personal sources into a single aggregated environment to make content discovery and consumption easy. By achieving this, manufacturers will have a relationship that extends beyond four wheels and embed themselves more deeply into their customers’ lives.

This is easier said than done. Infotainment services face a fundamental hurdle beyond technological challenges: content provision. As manufacturers look to offer more content options, they will need to create commercial frameworks with games publishers, Hollywood studios and publishing houses, to name only a few. Apart from the legal implications of so many contracts, this also makes manufacturers responsible for the management of all these content sources. They will need to guarantee content delivery to all screens inside the car – both built-in and brought in (BYOD). Plus, there are content protection rules and the requirement for “rights management” that are new to manufacturers. These rules vary for each piece of content, destination device, region and delivery method.

Manufacturers also need to manage content across borders. Within the EU, this means complying with the EU Content Portability Rules, which allow services to offer the same content catalogue in many countries. Moving out of the EU may incur geographical restrictions or additional content costs. Working with experts in content rights management can solve this headache.

Ultimately, usability will be key. Consumers will expect to start playback from any service (or screen) within the car, on any device in the vehicle. Aggregated and shared content libraries will become the norm: we will soon be able to see and play music from all registered devices in the car over Wi-Fi rather than the point-to-point link provided by Bluetooth. Seamlessly shifting the media experience from one device or screen to another within the car will become commonplace. This will be a blessing for parents, who will be able to use their smartphone to start a cartoon for a child in the rear seat without having to reach around and try to press buttons on a screen they cannot see properly. Playback devices will include BYOD smartphones and tablets, rear-seat entertainment units and even the main In-Vehicle Infotainment console – which are all subject to legal restrictions such as viewing in motion. To provide this capability, a flexible software solution is needed so that the service can be varied by manufacturers based on vehicle model and target demographic. This feat of engineering shouldn’t be mired by a poor content catalogue and/or user experience. Luckily for manufacturers, there is a solution: implementing high quality media aggregation solutions handled by experts.

Published by Robert Guest

Robert is VP Product and Content at ACCESS Europe, with a focus on HTML5 platforms and media sharing solutions, including industry specific extensions such as HbbTV and W3C Vehicle APIs, so that ACCESS customers can deploy standards based state of the art products. He has been involved in projects with major customers in both automotive and TV and ensures a customer focused development strategy for ACCESS. His role involves working with telcos, middleware suppliers, STB OEMS, automotive tier 1s and automotive OEMS to ensure that ACCESS products deliver the features needed in these fast evolving markets.

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