There will be several ways for users to interact with the Hughes Telematics system. Hughes has put a lot of development time into voice recognition software -- in fact, all in-car aspects of the system can be activated hands-free by simply speaking in a natural, conversational manner. This feature also allows new users to immediately start working with the system without having to read any technical manuals. In addition to voice recognition, Hughes also has a text-to-voice system that will interpret e-mail messages and read them aloud. The user can then compose and send an e-mail using just voice commands.
One of the more innovative aspects of the system is the ability to interface via a Web portal. A secure website hosted by Hughes Telematics will allow users to log in and check the diagnostics of their car, set up daily uploads via the WiFi network or subscribe to new services. Company president Erik Goldman envisions telematics as a way to integrate your car into your life in new and exciting ways. "Telematics isn't just a safety feature, it can be something you experience every day," he said.
Indeed, this philosophy is tied to Hughes Telematics' business model. Current telematics systems are linked to a subscription service. If the user stops paying for the subscription, he or she loses access to all of the system's features. Hughes will follow more of an à la carte model that allows for impulse purchases and micropayments. For example, users might not want to pay a monthly fee for access to local info and telematics navigation. However, if they travel out of town and find themselves looking for a restaurant, they might be willing to pay a one-time fee to access the service. Goldman gave another example: "Let's say you hear a song you like on the radio -- using voice commands, you can immediately purchase that song from iTunes."
Some features will be subscription based, but users will be able to choose exactly what they need. Goldman gave the example of a father who gives his daughter the car to use while she's away at college. He can use the Web interface to set up maintenance reminders and even configure a "geo-fence" using the on-board GPS to make sure his daughter doesn't drive out of state. The average user might not want these features, and even the fictional father in this example won't need them during the summer months, when his daughter returns from school.
The customization options don't end there, however. Development cycles for automotive technology can take years, but Hughes is developing a flexible mobile telematics system that can adapt to new applications as users demand them. It might work in a way similar to the iPhone App Store. Third-party developers could create software packages that take advantage of the telematics system. Once approved by Hughes, the apps will be made available for purchase by the users, who can pick and choose the applications they like.
You can learn more about vehicle telematics and other related topics on the next page.