I had the good fortune to meet SAP’s VP Connected Vehicles, Laurens Eckelboom at Mobile World Congress recently and I invited him to come on the IoT Heroes podcast to tell us all about what SAP is doing with its Vehicle Network and other connected car initiatives.
Here’s the transcript of our conversation:
Tom Raftery: Hi everyone, welcome to the IoT Hero Show. My name is Tom Raftery, I’m VP & Global IoT Evangelist for SAP, and with me on the show today, I have Laurens Eckelboom. Laurens, do you want to introduce yourself?
Laurens Eckelboom: Absolutely Tom and pleasure to be here. My name is Laurens Eckelboom and I’m VP and Head of Business Development for the SAP Vehicles Network and Connected Vehicles working in Palo Alto California.
Tom Raftery: Okay, super. So Laurens what is a vehicles network, because we all know what vehicles are and we all know what networks are, but what’s a vehicles network?
Laurens Eckelboom: That’s a great question and actually SAP Vehicles Network is more like a marketplace. A marketplace around vehicle and mobility centric services with the focus on the B2B side of it, so what we are trying to do is connect on the one hand side supply, vehicle and mobility centric supply focused on parking, fueling and location based services. We aggregate, aggregators in that space, we try to standardize those business transactions and utilize a set of standard API’s to offer that aggregated inventory to the demand side of the marketplace, which are sales channels and sales channels could be vehicle manufacturers, it could be aftermarket providers, insurance companies, etc, etc with a large consumer base. That is in an nut shell what we do.
Tom Raftery: Okay, so and this is all delivered, the reason we’re talking is because it is all delivered using IoT technologies.
Laurens Eckelboom: Absolutely.
Tom Raftery: It’s being the IoT Hero show, I said I’d better bring it back to that. So there are many actors involved in this Laurens?
Laurens Eckelboom: Absolutely, there are many actors, there are many stakeholders that we bring together and again that is the power of SAP Vehicles Network, and yes, it is powered by SAP HANA Cloud Platform let’s emphasize that, but what we are trying to do is that we create an ecosystem where we did not only combined supply and demand where we bring not only content and transactionable content together and offer that to a large ecosystem of companies that have access to a large consumer basis. But we also try to come up with new cross pollination for data, new business models, new revenue streams, all because the more the marketplace is growing, the more the network is growing, the more the stakeholders are benefiting from it.
Tom Raftery: Okay and this is an unusual model I think because if we think about IoT and vehicles, people immediately think of maybe something like smart parking, but what the vehicles network is it’s much much bigger than that because if my understanding is correct. SAP is kind of standing in the middle of all kinds of vendors, of services for vehicles, so it’s a much, much bigger place, is that correct?
Laurens Eckelboom: That is absolutely correct and you’ve hit the nail on the head, if you look at it more realistically then of course we are a part of the SAP Leonardo Family, IoT family of brands within SAP and if you look at the value of proposition around the connected vehicles then we have 4 activities that we can identify, and SAP Vehicle Network is only 1 of those 4 activities, but if we look at it more broad then you know we are providing vehicle insights at more like fleet and B2B telematic solutions to a broad range of customers, not only data gathering, but also analysis and predictions that are associated with it, which is of course fascinating and a very rapidly growing activity within SAP.
The second activity that we do under the Connected Vehicles brand is ride sharing under the twogo brand, ride sharing to provide an economically friendly, more sustainable solution to companies to organize ride sharing initiatives that they have and also associate with all kinds of incentives around ride sharing.
Then the third activity is as we discussed SAP Vehicles Network, which is a B2B marketplace around vehicle and mobility centric services.
And last but not least, we are also providing SAP Connected Parking, which is a standalone Kiosk based on HANA Cloud Platform that is absolutely paperless and has the capability of being operated remotely in a new revolutionary design, very simple and very easy to do maintain and to operate, and again a 100% based on our cloud platform.
Tom Raftery: Okay, so just talking that one for a second, because that one is very easy to grok, the connected parking. Who would be the typical customers for that?
Laurens Eckelboom: So as you know SAP is a software company and the Kiosk is hardware right? So for us this is an outbound OEM solution where we will provide or are providing the IP of the hardware to what we call new ghost companies that will take over the design, the assembly and distribution, and install it at their customers inventory and then you need to think about parking operators, the large operators in America, but also think about other use cases such as airports, think about potential municipalities, real estate companies and other types of locations where you could use the unattended Kiosk in various ways of use cases.
Tom Raftery: Okay and this I presume obviously then connect back into the vehicle network as well, so you could have the two of them wired up together for all intents and purposes?
Laurens Eckelboom: Absolutely, the beauty of it is that the kiosk is part of opening up a lot of parking inventory that today is not accessible, that is not online accessible. So with the kiosk we are putting these offline locations on the grid, we make them available to reserve, to book, to pay, and that obviously benefits the whole ecosystem of SAP Vehicles Network because all the consumers now have a broader choice of parking inventory to go to in a seamless and frictionless way.
Tom Raftery: Okay and how long as the vehicles network been in operation?
Laurens Eckelboom: It’s pretty new, we launched the SAP Vehicles Network in America in October 2015 and in Europe in November 2015, so we have one and a half years on the way, but it’s exciting to see the growth, it’s exciting to see the development, and so we could not be happier with the direction that we’re going to today.
Tom Raftery: Okay, and in terms of, I mean do you call them customers or do you call them partners, people who are using the network, who interesting is on the network that we can work with?
Laurens Eckelboom: So we have two roles basically on SAP Vehicles Network, on the first of all on the supply side, every marketplace has a supply and demand, on the supply side we are working with companies that have access to a large inventory of parking spaces, and those parking spaces are online available, so that means that you could online or mobile interact with these spaces. We call that POP’s, Point of Purchase, which is different than POI’s, which is only static information. So we work with the market leaders for on and off street parking where we have the availability of their complete inventory, and by bundling that inventory, now suddenly through one API connection you have access to all this aggregated inventory, to these millions of parking spots, without the needs to sign up individually for these operators. [emphasis added]
And we do the same for fueling and we have a second activity within a marketplace is fueling, cashless fueling, where we could tie in a navigation experience towards a fuel station, with an identification use case through the head unit of the car, or through any companion app that through the cloud directly interacts with the transaction handler software, so we can activate the right fuel pump so that you don’t pay for the wrong fuel. And for somebody in front of you,
Tom Raftery: That’s important.
Laurens Eckelboom: Yeah, that’s of course very important. And we do the payments authentication and authorization through the cloud, and so all these elements are coming together, then the fuel pump will change its display you know saying hey, I’m ready. So the only thing you still need to do, we’re working on that as well, but you still have to get out of your car and put that nozzle in the gas tank and then that’s it.
Tom Raftery: It won’t fuel itself
Laurens Eckelboom: Yeah, that would be nice right, and we can tie that experience also into a business use case where if it would be a business trip, you could also tie that into Concur for your trip reporting.
Tom Raftery: Okay, so you pull up to the fuel pumps, you fill the car, you then have a reserved parking space you pull up to that, and at the end of the day the parking billing and the fuel billing all appear in your expenses report automatically?
Laurens Eckelboom: Exactly.
Tom Raftery: Or automagically maybe we should say.
Laurens Eckelboom: I like that better.
Tom Raftery: Interesting, so this obviously is great for business users. Is there a consumer aspect to it or is it all business to business?
Laurens Eckelboom: No, there is a huge consumer aspect to it. As I said prior in our conversation that we are looking for the demand side within the marketplace, for consumer facing companies, and we identify basically four tiers, one tier is of course the vehicle OEM’s where we are looking for direct integration in the head units combined with a companion app. The second tier would be rental car companies, where we interact with their user base. The third one would be aftermarket, where we work with dongle and Telco’s with an OBD2 Solution and a companion app that interacts with the car, and the fourth use case is of course an app that is out there whether it’s an insurance app or an existing parking app or maybe it’s a city specific app, where we can add locations and relevant services around parking and fueling into that app.
So those are the use cases that we have, and then seguing more towards your question, these services can be consumed by consumers, by a BMW driver, by a Mercedes driver that once you access parking, but of course they are also more like business use cases available that as basically comparable as a consumer use case, but by tying it to Concur, you can suddenly create a whole business use case scenario where a trip reporting and expense claim management is also integrated. I hope that makes sense.
Tom Raftery: It does and nobody likes doing expenses, so anyway you can make it easier for us, it’s so much appreciated.
Laurens Eckelboom: I feel your pain
Tom Raftery: You mentioned insurance, what would be the use case for the insurance industry?
Laurens Eckelboom: So insurance companies are realizing that there main channel of interaction is more and more mobile. Anyway they segue from people towards online, web towards mobile, and so to that ends they are adding more and more functionality into mobile apps, and that functionality goes further than a regular insight in your policy, there is now also a way to apply for an insurance policy whether it’s car or house or associated to insurance products, but also now they are looking on how they can increase interaction with their app, how they become more relevant, and have be brought interact more than twice a year, which is typically the renewal cycle of insurance to a more like weekly or even daily interaction, and to that end if you would add things like parking or fueling services to that app, suddenly the interaction with that app is becoming more repetitive and more frequently.
And by doing that they are adding more relevance and stickiness to their app and that is what they are looking for, they are looking more for a more like almost like a kind of a mobility value proposition to their end users that acts as there companion for more daily use cases.
Tom Raftery: Okay, interesting, nice. So we’ve covered a lot about it, is there anything that we haven’t talked about yet?
Laurens Eckelboom: Well, I mean there’s a couple of things that I think are really exciting and that is for instance the Hertz, Nokia, Concur and SAP showcase at MWC 2017 because I think that what is really interesting about SAP Vehicle Network is also that we can bring multiple large companies together, and create new innovative use cases, not necessarily by coming up with new technology, but by bundling the individual value propositions, and create whole new use case scenario that also provides a more delightful user experience, and more relevance and stickiness towards individual app or individual companies. So what we did in the Hertz case was that we used a Hertz mobile app as a front end and added additional solutions to it that would go way further than your rental car experience.
So to that end, you know the app during the Mobile World Congress, did not only enable you to, you know the moment you enter a rental car facility to select a car and do your regular rental car managements steps such as looking at the agreement, adding fuel services to it, maybe increase the insurance but after those steps you know the use case was that had interacted with vehicle to the cloud, so I’m a tall guy 6’4 I used to be 6’5, but at 6’4 these days, and so if I step into a car through the cloud the car recognizes me as Laurens, 6 foot 4 so the seat would go backwards, it recognized that I like 90’s music better than today’s music, so the radio would tune on 90’s music.
And the app could behave like a keyless access point, so I could pop the trunk, I could open up the car and there the keys of the vehicle would be available and I could actually start the car, so that would be one of the examples, but then we’re going to convert that car into a mobile wallet, the wallet on wheels by opening up the SAP vehicles network parking and fueling inventory, having the ability to push navigation from that transaction to the head unit of the car, and then when you’re at your point of interaction whether that’s a parking garage or whether that’s a fuel pump, there is an interaction through the cloud with that hardware, and by adding the components of Concur to this whole use case scenario, we suddenly create a whole business scenario.
And then also I think one of the unique things that we do is that we bring IoT also to business processes, and that’s of course our strength within SAP, and that is something unique and we are very proud of that. And so everybody is benefiting from it, it’s not only the user, the business traveler that has a delightful experience, but also these transactions through the cloud through the real world are coming back into one of the core things that we do, business processes.
Tom Raftery: Okay and that announcement, at Mobile World Congress with Nokia and Hertz, is that available now to Hertz users, or is it something that going to be rolled over the next however how many months or years?
Laurens Eckelboom: Yeah, absolutely. This is something that of course is not available today, it was a showcase, but it says something about innovation and the roadmap ahead, so rest assure that in the future that many of these elements will become available within not only the Hertz app, but also in other comparable use case scenarios.
And another example that I would love to give to you is with Mojio. Mojio is a aftermarket solution, it’s actually a connected car platform for T–mobile in the US and Deutsche Telecom in Europe, and here the Mojio team decided to add SAP Vehicles Network services around parking and fueling to their current use case, which is focused around basic telematics and navigation and issue management capabilities, and the unique thing is that they have access to a large target audience of T-Mobile customers in the US, and with the distribution network of T-Mobile stores in the US, so here you will see that hundreds of thousands of T-Mobile users and T-Mobile customers have now the ability in the next couple of months to start interacting not only with Mojio’s key and core competence, but also with transactions, paying for parking, starting to pay for fueling and this is all about the network you know.
Now you see that the transaction is starting to come in and now we also start to learn about behavior and other elements and that is very exciting, we could not be more happy about that.
Tom Raftery: Oh, fantastic, great. Okay, we’re coming towards the end of the show Laurens, we’re running out of time. Just for the people who are interested, what else is coming down the line with the Vehicles Network that you’d like to tell people about?
Laurens Eckelboom: I think that and that is great question. There’s a couple of things that we are working on besides the parking and fueling scenario, we are focusing now on location based services around parking and fueling, and we feel that parking was never a destination, but it will be great at the moment you parked, you could get a cup of coffee with a participating Starbucks around the corner or maybe a second bagel, and the same for fueling, of course I think the optimal use case scenario at a fuel station is that while you’re you know getting gas, you’re going to buy something at the convenience store, whether that’s a free coke or you know and we can tie that into your trip, we can also segment and fine tune that base on the time of the day, we could tie it in to how long you’ve been driving, so there are all kinds of deeper detailed scenarios available.
And after those services that I described, we will continue to add new vehicle mobility centric services to the marketplace. Think about I think in the near future insurance related services, roadside assistance related services, but also think about maintenance service, maybe in the future even multi modelling because again we also go to that direction, so it’s exciting and there’s a lot coming.
Tom Raftery: Fantastic, great. Laurens if people want to know more about you or about the vehicle network or any of these things, so where should I go?
Laurens Eckelboom: Go to sap.com and look for SAP Vehicles Network. We have a nice website with more examples, more information and the other way to reach out is send an Email email@example.com and I’m happy to answer any question you may have.
Tom Raftery: fantastic Laurens it’s been great thanks for joining us on the show today.
Laurens Eckelboom: Thanks so much Tom I appreciate the opportunity.
You can listen to the audio over on the IoT Heroes website or check it out below: