All eyes on Jio’s connected car tech as it gears to offer a glimpse of future

Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd will on Wednesday unveil its connected car technologies at the auto expo, becoming the country’s first telecom company to enter an arena so far reserved only for global automakers.

The move will allow India’s largest telecom operator by users to project itself as an Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provider rather than being just the telecom company it was when it started operations in September 2016.

“Jio will exhibit car connect vehicle tracking system for transport service providers, logistics companies. With this expo, Jio will demonstrate the role of connectivity, network and technology for connected vehicles of the future,” said a person aware of the development, requesting anonymity.

Jio has been working on connected car technologies for more than a year at its campus in Navi Mumbai.

“Jio’s portfolio of use cases for connected vehicles includes hardware, cloud platform, data management,” the person said.

A spokesperson for Jio did not respond to emailed queries until press time.

The entry of the Reliance Industries Ltd subsidiary into connected car technologies comes at a time of a prolonged slowdown in the Indian automobile market. In the telecom market, Jio’s rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have posted record losses in the September quarter.

At the annual general meeting of Reliance Industries in July last year, chairman Mukesh Ambani had said that IoT would be a key “growth engine” for the company.

“Connected mobility is the future. In a 5G-first era, it makes sense for Jio to position itself as an IoT company and seek to establish its leadership in all niche market segments, including connected cars,” said Prabhu Ram, head, industry intelligence group, CyberMedia Research.

“With the first wave of internet-enabled cars entering the Indian market, including the likes of MG Hector, Kia Seltos, and Hyundai Venue, the battle is truly on among automotive companies for establishing their leadership in connected cars,” Ram said.

Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel are already working on connected car technologies and have pinned their hopes on the segment at a time of falling revenues from their core mobile service operations.

“For telcos such as Jio, this provides them with a first-mover advantage to support automotive players with embedded SIM or eSIM technology to support connectivity, security, safety and infotainment among others,” Ram said.

Simply put, a connected car has seamless connectivity to the internet, which enables the operation of a host of features that can make driving an easier and safer experience. A user can also get notifications on fuel usage, over-speeding and prevent accidents through smart emergency brakes.

Vodafone Idea and South Korea’s Kia Motors in October last year signed a partnership for the India debut of the UVO connected car system with the new Kia Seltos sport utility vehicle. Vodafone Idea’s ecosystem of IoT will boost Kia through the integration of e-SIMs with voice, 3G/4G data, SMS, and application programming interface.

The Kia Seltos SUV has 37 smart features such as artificial intelligence voice command, stolen vehicle tracking and immobilization, auto collision notification, emergency assistance, remote engine start and stop, remotely operated air purifier, and in-car air quality monitor.

Bharti Airtel showcased a connected version of MG Motor’s Hector SUV at the India Mobile Congress in October last year . Hector is powered by Airtel’s connectivity suite. Carmakers are betting on connected technology in vehicles at higher price points to lure tech-savvy customers. Hyundai Motor Co. was the first to launch an integrated connected vehicle solution, Blue Link, with its first compact sport utility vehicle Venue. Maruti Suzuki has launched Suzuki Connect.

Connected car technology will become integral to vehicles with the advent of electric and hybrid vehicles. In India, only a handful of passenger vehicles boast of this technology. However, collaborations between telecom service providers and carmakers are set to pick up steam.

Malyaban Ghosh contributed to this story.


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