J. D. Power wins Samsung’s Harman data and services business

Samsung IoT products and services subsidiary Harman has hooked up with US consumer analytics firm J.D. Power, over connected car data aiming to provide OEMs with more accurate feedback from drivers. This is the latest in a spate of alliances between OEMs or dealerships with software or big data firms, as analytics become increasingly central to competitiveness. The objective here is to exploit driver behavior and preferences for a variety of connected car services, expanding beyond infotainment and telemetry, to embrace a host of services or products that can be offered to people while on the road, or even at home.

J.D. Power is a large privately-owned consumer insights and data analytics firm, that was purchased by investment group XIO for $1.1 billion in 2016 and is now being prepared for IPO. It already offers automotive advisory services, based on its Power Information Network (PIN), operating in the USA and Canada. This provides real-time automotive information, analysis and decision-support tools, designed to reduce risk exposure and enhance marketing.

Driver data derived by this network appealed to Harman for integration with its connected car compute platform, based on its LIVS (Life-Enhancing Intelligent Vehicle Solution). Harman became a visible force in the connected car field in January 2017, when it unveiled its intelligent cockpit based on this compute platform, integrating the instrumentation cluster and safety features. This incorporates a digital assistant and car-to-home IoT functionality, as well as augmented reality navigation.

Following the new partnership, data provided by J.D. Power on driver preferences and behavior can be incorporated into this Harman cockpit platform, but there is also scope for providing analytics solutions for running on other systems. In fact, an objective is to combine real world data about the driving experience with information derived from sensors about aspects of vehicle performance to improve safety and performance, as well as to shape future connected car services. On this basis, the two companies will seek partnerships with OEMs which in turn would offer benefits and services to customers in return for opting in to share their data on an anonymized basis.

Such benefits could include targeted marketing, exploiting knowledge of the customer to relay promotions in which they are likely to be interested. They also include personalized vehicle care, based on predictive maintenance that could match when vehicles are brought in for servicing and repair with real need and customer convenience, rather than just doing it when a preset mileage or date has been reached.

There is also potential in insurance for going deeper into personalized premiums based on driving behavior – often referred to as usage-based insurance (UBI). Vehicle owners are more likely to consent to being monitored in return for substantially reduced premiums, but then the process has to be done intelligently and take account of variations in driving style between individuals that do not have a bearing on safety. Some drivers for example are jerkier or accelerate a bit faster, but without causing any additional risk. Others might appear at first sight to be safe but drive too close to cars in front, which could be deduced from sensor data.

Route calculations and suggestions of detours to avoid traffic could also be linked to driver preferences, for some prefer to arrive soonest at all costs while others prefer a more relaxed or scenic route – although this could depend on the reason for the journey. J.D. Power and Harman argue that with all the data available they are better placed to apply analytics and machine learning algorithms to tune in on these subtleties and improve the experience for drivers and passengers.

The two companies are also looking at opportunities to exploit their combined data in partnerships with third parties beyond the vehicle OEMs, including online retailers and providers of services. Harman’s VP and General Manager for Cloud Services, Steve Surhigh, noted how General Motors in April 2018 kicked off a partnership with Amazon in 37 US states to have packages delivered into car trunks. Using an app, delivery agents have keyless access to the car boots to deposit packets inside, wherever the vehicle happens to be. Amazon has a similar deal with Volvo which made the service available earlier in Sweden and Switzerland in 2015, through the carmaker’s Volvo On Call app.

There is also the possibility or selling the data directly to third-parties, exploiting the combination of driver information with the vehicle telematics. Some firms deal just in that, such as Israel’s Otonomo, founded in 2015, as the first automotive data services platform independent of any manufacturer.

It was set up to collect data, then cleanse and organize it, before selling it to third-parties. Such parties are mostly the major automakers, with Daimler among the clients. The firm says it appeals to the car makers by helping them meet the challenge from the big tech companies, especially Google and Apple, which are ultimately an existential threat, as the car’s value becomes increasingly as a conduit for data and personalized services. J.D.Power and Harman are also independent of the OEMs and so have a similar opportunity.