Telematics provides early warnings about quality issues to automobile manufacturers and dealers
Originally 'telematics' meant the combination of telecommunications and computers. Today, the term covers the many wireless functions originating from an automobile. OnStarTM, which combines a global positioning system and wireless communications to provide safety, information and concierge services, is probably the best known. Many of these systems are purchased because of the safety and security benefits they offer.
But what if your car could use telematics to continually send information about its performance and tell you the specifics about a problem before you had a breakdown? Unlike the ubiquitous "Check Engine" light, this sort of early warning could deliver real information to auto owners. Add a little bit of intelligence and the early warning could give auto manufacturers "headlights" into quality issues before they become customer satisfaction problems. More importantly, this technology could help control the increase of warranty costs - which add up to more than $8 billion a year in the United States alone.
Quality information about cars currently relies on 'lagging' indicators, such as warranty costs, calls to customer service numbers and dealer service records. The trouble is that this information is only available after something has happened. Worse, there is little automatic communication between original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers that would allow them to work through the causes of current problems and prevent future ones. IBM is working on a solution that will combine data from multiple sources and provide manufacturers with an Early Warning System to identify potential problems before they become major liabilities.
IBM's Early Warning System uses telematics to capture performance and diagnostic trouble code data from cars as they happen. These leading indicators are combined with the lagging indicators, creating a comprehensive set of information. Complex analysis with clustering and data mining is done to identify trends and vehicles that behave abnormally. Once a problem is identified, OEMs, dealers and suppliers will be able to work collaboratively to track and investigate warranty problems and take corrective action.
A portal will provide dashboard views and functionality, failure notification, service reminders for customers and support for collaborative decision-making to track and investigate warranty problems.
While telematics provides critical functionality for the Early Warning System, one of the more important capabilities is the ability to correlate information across multiple sources and use analytical tools to provide useful information for decision-making and action. IBM Research's strengths in these areas, combined with an understanding of automotive technology and the industry, result in a solution that has the potential to help manage rising warranty costs, contribute to consumer safety and, eventually, help develop a better brand.
A prototype Early Warning System has been built and has monitored 25 parameters on 100 vehicles for three months. The next steps are to integrate additional sources of data and build the collaborative and decision-making support that will make these solutions most valuable for the auto industry.