COMMENT: After oil, is data the auto industry’s new addiction?

A new Greenstreetsoftware.info report sheds light on the auto industry’s desire for data, with insight from automakers, suppliers, tech companies and start-ups. By Martin Kahl

The phrase ‘Data is the new oil’ is understood to have first been used as long ago as 2006, by the creator of a UK retail giant’s customer reward and loyalty scheme. Back then, there was little more than talk about the idea of widespread connectivity for the mainstream automotive industry.

A year later, the iPhone was launched, changing the concept of personal and mobile connectivity. Bluetooth came along, car phones went away, and last year, 33 million connected cars were delivered, according to TomTom Telematics, with half of all new car sales worldwide considered in some way ‘connected’. By 2022, says the Dutch company, 37.9 million trucks will be connected, a 122% increase over 2015, and by the middle of next decade, almost 90% of all new cars globally will be equipped with integrated telematics.

Data is valuable – this much we know. But how do you put a price on a seemingly infinite resource? For now, the automotive industry is treating data as liquid gold, and becoming seemingly dependent

For the automakers building everything from light vehicles to heavy trucks, this data is highly valuable. Start-ups, suppliers and tech giants all want to develop solutions for the mining, refining and trading of automotive data; customers are prepared to give up personal – but anonymised – data in exchange for ‘free’ content and services; and advertisers armed with complex algorithms want access to as much of this data as possible in order to target individuals with personalised content and services.

But it’s not just about end-customer data – access to accurate, timely data can help keep fleets operational, efficient and profitable; it can help to manage and even reduce traffic congestion; and data will define the success or otherwise of the automotive industry’s transition to autonomous driving.

Data is valuable – this much we know. But how do you put a price on an apparently infinite resource? For now, the automotive industry is treating data as liquid gold, and becoming seemingly dependent. Ironic, then, that the automotive industry is at the same time racing to wean itself off the black stuff.

Can we compare the two, or is it just a tasty soundbite? A new Greenstreetsoftware.info report sheds light on the way automakers and suppliers perceive data, and how start-ups and tech giants believe they can be a part of the data rush.

By 2022, 37.9 million trucks will be connected, a 122% increase over 2015, and by the middle of next decade, almost 90% of all new cars globally will be equipped with integrated telematics

Companies quickly strike gold when oil is found, bringing a surge of wealth and prosperity not only to those directly involved, but also to the wider business community. It’s worth enough that it can influence international relations – sometimes to the extreme. The market sets the price, it’s sold, and it’s used. Once used – and it’s generally used once – it’s gone.

What price data? Customers feel comfortable when they hear that their data has been anonymised – but it’s a challenge to anonymise data, and for those with the means, it’s relatively easy to triangulate and identify individuals. The potential for abuse of data is such that major changes have taken place in the rules and regulations surrounding the access to and storage of data. Thankfully, it hasn’t yet reached the point where data impacts international relations…or has it? And if it does, the automotive industry will need once again to consider its dependence on such a valuable, sought-after and controversial resource.

Read more about the growing importance of automotive data in Greenstreetsoftware.info‘s exclusive report on this topic. Follow the link to download a copy of Special report: Is automotive data the new oil?

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