Today’s consumers expect more from the products and services they buy, including products that are “information-enabled,” meaning they contain built-in information sharing capability, whether for personal data collection or sharing on social networks. These changes are driving automotive, industrial and product manufacturers to rethink their products based on how consumers will interact with them.
Technology in cars has grown increasingly sophisticated, transforming the driving experience. Connected cars give drivers access to an unprecedented level of information, plus dozens of new convenience and safety features. Conveniences like GPS navigation with turn-by-turn directions and fuel indicators showing how many miles till empty are now fairly standard. One big challenge all manufacturers face today is how to incorporate data sharing and collecting into their products. Specifically, manufacturers are looking for ways to improve product performance, provide valuable information to customers and gather information about customers. This kind of innovation in manufacturing is happening everywhere—whether it be cold-activated beer bottles and cans, connected dog collars or the thermostat in your living room.
Now that more than 80% of new car buyers and almost 100% of used car buyers begin their research online, it’s becoming increasingly important that automakers and car dealerships have strong online presences. From optimizing their web presence to integrating traffic from third party sites like Kelley Blue Book, Consumer Reports or Edmunds, there are many ways to attract today’s consumers. Some automotive companies have created virtual online stores that mimic the retail experience. Other premium brands including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla are changing the experience at the dealership, creating boutique-style stores that use 3D configurators, interactive video walls and tablets for clienteling to attract sophisticated consumers in premium city center locations.
As mobile phones and tablets allow people to stay connected from just about anywhere, smart technology in cars is keeping people connected on the road. Several automotive companies are now offering 4G LTE connectivity inside their vehicles, and the Android platform is being integrated into many cars as well. Features like Bluetooth and Pandora radio integration now come standard in many vehicles. Like automakers, manufacturers of all types are trying to build connected products that provide valuable information to and about customers. Appliance and electronic manufacturers are innovating to ensure their products can be part of the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Appliances like refrigerators contain capabilities to read barcodes or RFID sensors on food products stored inside to identify when items need to be replenished. The appliance can even create a draft online shopping list or send a push notification to help order groceries for the consumer.
Manufacturers today are creating connected environments for employees, who are increasingly mobile across production facilities. With the help of handheld tablets and scanners, factory workers can now communicate instantly, capture data and access critical information, like order details and stock inventories, from anywhere. Technologies such as RFID, telematics and barcoding allow for the creation of “perpetual inventory.” This gives companies a comprehensive view of end-to-end operations, including stock levels, machinery status, product quality, order progress and more. Now, it’s easier to adjust manufacturing schedules in real time to accommodate order fluctuations and other variables.
Big data presents a huge opportunity for automotive companies to meet the demands of their increasingly educated and demanding customers. The auto industry is suddenly inundated with data from a variety of sources, including vehicle sensor data, warranty claims and consumer opinion data. All of this information is helping automotive companies reduce costs, meet quality targets and extend equipment life, performance and availability. Big data can also help optimize supply chains. Suppliers can adequately stock appropriate levels of parts and components by anticipating demand for replacement parts more accurately. For vehicles in the field, data can help predict maintenance needs. Finally, innovators in the industry are monetizing their data and creating new revenue streams by selling information to third parties, like rental or insurance companies.