Hyundai's link-up with IBM continues the evolution of telematics services from elite playthings to common essentials. They will be on Hyundai cars for sale in Korea next year, and are expected to be available elsewhere soon after. As telematics services become standard, manufacturers cannot afford to miss the technological bandwagon.

Korea's largest automaker Hyundai and computer behemoth IBM have announced an alliance that is expected to yield a range of new in-car telematics services for Hyundai drivers. They include email and Internet access and concierge services, as well as data synchronisation for digital devices.

While such services foster an air of luxury for the driver, part of the thrust of advanced telematics is also towards enhanced safety devices, such as automatic notification of 24-hour roadside assistance in an emergency.

Amongst the more common services already on the market, albeit for high-spec cars such as the flagship Jaguars and Mercedes, are real-time traffic information and remote vehicle tracking through GPS.

A host of manufacturers have had in-car telematics services in the pipeline for several years, with the technology developing rapidly.

For Hyundai and IBM, as for their competitors, telematics promise several attractive advantages. They allow manufacturers to add value and uniqueness to their cars - over the next decade navigational systems, traffic information and emergency notification are expected to appear in more and more models. And by introducing services such as email and internet access they throw up the possibility of entirely new revenue streams.

Telematics are set to become permanent features of the driving experience, as common in cars as the steering wheel. Whether companies are in search of an attention-grabbing gimmick or pursuing a new revenue opportunity, the electronic wonders currently available on the world's elite cars will soon filter down to the everyday runaround.

As a result, the alliances that manufacturers strike up with technology companies look set to become increasingly influential.

SOURCE: DATAMONITOR COMMENTWIRE (c) 2002 Datamonitor. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without prior written consent. Datamonitor shall not be liable for errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

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