IBM signs US$125M telematics deal with UAE

IBM has signed a four-year, US$125 million deal to install customized telematics devices in tens of thousands of vehicles in the United Arab Emirates.

The devices will provide UAE government agencies with a vehicle's location and speed via a nationwide wireless network. The system is expected to reduce traffic accidents among the UAE's 2 million drivers, according to Michael Nelson, a senior member of IBM's On Demand team.

The On Demand contract was signed with Cert Telematics, the technology and research arm of the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training, in Dubai, Nelson said.

"This is a very big deal for us, both because it's US$125 million over four years and because it's going to enable a whole new range of on-demand applications that we'll build on top of the technology that's being installed in these cars," Nelson said. "This is the largest automotive telematics deal in IT history."

Similar to the black boxes found in airplanes, the telematics device will receive and store vehicle data and integrate a number of embedded technologies. Those technologies include Global System for Mobile Communications and General Packet Radio Service functionality, the Global Positioning System, Bluetooth and an optional driver identification feature via radio frequency identification technology. It will also be equipped with IBM's speech software, Via Voice.

The box, which will sit on the underside of cars and be connected via a wire to the on-board computer screen, will capture, analyze and deliver data via a wireless network to the UAE's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Nelson said.

The device can monitor the speed of a moving vehicle and compare it with the defined speed limit on each street, Nelson said. If the car exceeds the limit, the device sends out a warning message to the driver.

The device will also monitor, in real time, dangerous or erratic driving patterns, which will allow authorities to anticipate dangerous situations and respond quickly and effectively to highway problems, IBM said.

"What's really exciting here for us isn't just the money for the initial contract. It's the opportunity that will be made possible when we have all these cars connected and collecting data," Nelson said. "The most obvious opportunity is controlling speed. If drivers know there is a potential that they could be monitored, they're going to drive more responsibly."

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