SMARTPHONE AS A TRAVEL COMPANION:

The role of telcos in the changing mobility landscape

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OLIVER BUCAO

Now that Holy Week is upon us, we can again expect Filipinos to travel en masse to anywhere but the major cities in Metro Manila. Many will head back to their home provinces to observe this very important Catholic tradition, while others will take advantage of the long weekend to get some summer R&R. Some will be heading to the beautiful vacation places in our own country and some others will probably be traveling to other tourist destinations abroad. But wherever people may want to go, one thing is for sure, most, if not all, will bring their most important travel companion: the smartphone.

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It’s a long trip and you can’t sleep? Use your smartphone to stream movies and music. Need to get to the airport but having trouble getting a taxi? Use your smartphone and book an Uber or a GrabCar. Need to check in for your flight? Use your smartphone. Need directions to where you’re going? Use your smartphone. Need to know the best place to hang out at night while in Boracay? Wait, do you have a smartphone? Forgot to pay your credit card and you’re already in Singapore? Yup, you got it—use your smartphone.

The mobile phone has gone beyond the usual call and SMS to become an important tool that enables a personalized, faster, safer and more efficient travel experience, whether for work or for play. But it’s not just the smartphone that is paving the way for this kind of travel; it is the mesh of smart devices, network connectivity, and content and experiences delivered in ways previously unimaginable. And the future promises a more compelling and seamless travel experience—one that can only be enabled by fast, reliable, omnipresent connectivity.

In a series of reports, Deloitte took a look at the changing mobility landscape and the significant role (and opportunities) telco companies will have in a new mobility ecosystem that is connected, seamless, efficient, intermodal and highly personalized for the commuter.

Experience enablement
Technological advances are making on-the-road experience—both in and out of the vehicle—more varied and data-intensive. Vehicles are becoming more and more connected. The rise of autonomous vehicles means it will just be a matter of time before we start sharing the road with driverless vehicles. As the number of connected and autonomous vehicles grows, so will demand for mobile data use for commuters who don’t have to mind the road, leaving them free to stream videos, browse the internet, maybe even shop online as they travel.

Telecom companies already have the upper hand here as the smartphone increasingly becomes the hub of our digital lives. But growing consumer demand for on-the-go content will require new types of audio/video content aggregation and delivery methods to provide interoperability for different types of content. Content delivery will, therefore, not be restricted to the home and the smartphone and may be made across different modes of transportations, such as screens on trains or city buses to provide a more immersive and engaging in-vehicle infotainment experience, compared with media consumption on the smartphones and tablets of today.

Telecom companies can champion the efforts toward creating an open, integrated platform that can work across different types of devices and vehicles in supporting various content formats. They can also use their large subscriber base and existing customer care and billing services to enable a wide range of in-vehicle services, such as pay-as-you-go infotainment.

The flood of data that will become available to telcos as more people spend more time online will also allow these companies to analyze consumption patterns during different times of the day and across different modes of transportation. These telcos may then use these insights to advise content creators, networks, and advertisers about how media is being consumed.

Mobility management
Deloitte expects shared mobility (ridesharing and carsharing) to increase in prevalence, especially among millennials. In the Philippines, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s standing decision to stop accepting new applications from the three most popular ridesharing services has done little to dampen demand. In fact, one of these ride-hailing apps is already looking to expand its presence into four other cities (as soon as the moratorium is lifted) following impressive revenue growth in 2016.

In this environment, telcos have an opportunity to play a pivotal role in serving customers’ end-to-end transportation needs. With their expertise in billing, payments and analytics for planning and optimization, telcos can help commuters develop a customized intermodal route plan and facilitate electronic ticketing and payment transactions across different modes of transportation. They can help establish new models of consuming intermodal transportation – where mobile phone subscribers now pay for call time or a number of SMS messages, in the future they can, through their telecom service provider, pay for road miles or commuting time per month.

Telcos can also play a key role in enabling fleet management services through automated fleet scheduling, dispatching and tracking, especially as autonomous fleets grow in number.

Vehicle development and operations
As more vehicles get connected to network infrastructure, some of their operations can begin to be controlled remotely. Wireless connectivity will be needed to enable new or enhanced functionality, such as built-in navigation or over-the-air software updates. Autonomous vehicles, in particular, will be equipped with sophisticated onboard software—on average, an autonomous car in 2030 could be embedded with some 30 sensors, compared with about 17 sensors in 2015—that will be highly dependent on over-the-air updates and will consume vast quantities of data.

This new ecosystem presents telcos with an opportunity to penetrate vehicle operations. They can generate entirely new revenue streams through processing and distributing data from the many sensors that will be installed in autonomous vehicles. These sensors would capture a vehicle’s health in real time to prevent breakdowns, or capture environmental data to prevent collisions.

Telcos can also play a critical role in providing strong vehicle and device security solutions, especially as driverless cars become more ubiquitous. Mobile network operators and telecom infrastructure providers can provide scalable cloud security solutions to mitigate the cybersecurity threats that will surely hound this kind of technology.

These are just some of the many opportunities that will open up to telco companies as the mobility ecosystem continues to change—in some ways, drastically —due to innovation and advances in technology. We are still a long way from enjoying this connected, seamless, efficient, intermodal, and highly personalized mobility landscape. However, players in the telco sector would do well to start exploring now the ways to “win” in a future where commuters and vehicles will be constantly connected and the travel experience will be highly customized and incredibly packed with welcome distractions. It’s something to look forward to even as you make your long, arduous trip to your Holy Week destination.

The author is an audit partner at Navarro Amper & Co., the local member firm of Deloitte Southeast Asia Ltd., a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited ­comprising Deloitte practices operating in Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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