Alastair Sloane wrote this for the NZ Herald on August 16, 2000
It’s 2008 and you have invented something that New Zealand sports fans will tackle big Jonah to get to.
Who knows? It might be a television with a built-in microwave oven for couch potatoes who surf the sports channels. Or a way of instantly turning tap water into a choice of 10 beers.
Now you need to tell the nation about it. An advertising agency tells you how and where to reach your target audience.
But you insist on a captive audience, all ages and shapes and sizes.
You want Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, a scattergun campaign fired at a captive audience of tens of thousands, all of them stuck in their seats and glued to your every word.
Short of hiring stadiums, giving away rugby test tickets and cardboard cutouts of 37-year-old All Black captain Todd Blackadder, what do you do?
You jump on the internet, that’s what. And you tell the occupants of all those vehicles stuck in peak-hour traffic about your beaut beer trick –because they are not going anywhere.
A website dedicated to the latest inventions, a fun site to lighten a driver’s load, might just be the one that car occupants turn to when the going is slow.
It is called the new wired world of the car, or Telematics. It has nothing to do with battery or ignition leads. It has everything to do with a small console-mounted television screen, websites, consumerism and sales.
America is behind it, because someone figured out that American drivers collectively spend 700 million hours a week in their cars. That’s a lot of people with time on their hands to talk to voice-activated websites.
Analysts in America say voice-recognition software will change the advertising industry forever. Radio, for example, will no longer be the only medium available to millions of drivers. Carmakers will be able to talk directly to their customers, bypassing traditional advertising avenues.
Radio, especially, can expect to lose huge advertising dollars to in-car internet services. Newspapers and magazines will also be affected, say analysts, although print, pictures and graphics have advantages that radio doesn’t: convenient shelf-life and visual appeal.
Ford and General Motors are already on to it. Ford has teamed with a company called US Qualcomm to bring the internet to cars. The system, called Wingcast, will be standard on all American Fords within a few years.
GM, using a system called OnStar, plans to have most of its vehicles wired for sound and internet by the end of next year. Drivers will be able to access satellite navigation, e-mail, news, weather, sports scores, stock quotes … whatever. The same information will be available on an in-car phone.
The bottom line of all this technology is money. And carmakers will get more of it because they will no longer be just carmakers but internet service providers.