HANOVER -- One thing was clear at the 2012 automotiveDAY conference: IT is quickly becoming one of the major differentiators in the competition between the world's car brands.
Until recently, IT was mostly seen as way to reduce costs and boost efficiency. But in addresses to the conference, IT directors outlined how the services they provide can make the key difference in today's competitive environment.
Audi finance chief Axel Strotbek used the automotive IT conference, which is held annually during the CeBIT high-tech fair here, Â to highlight new car-IT developments ranging from production-ready mobile-device solutions to driver assistance systems that may soon lead to a form of autonomous driving.
Audi, for example is developing systems that let the car find its own parking spot and park there as well.
Premium competitor BMW is also betting heavily that its ConnectedDrive strategy for the networked car will give it a competitive advantage.
But BMW IT boss Karl Erich Probst and product manager Hildegard Wortmann warned that the proliferation of in-car Apps will not yield direct financial benefits. Rather, they said, better and more useful Apps will make the overall car more attractive, which should boost car sales.
It was clear from the various presentations last week that, in future, the car will be "always on." That means more data will flow in and around the car, which also has implications for business IT systems. Said Probst: "BMW is seeing annual increases in the amount of data of between 30pc and 50pc."
The new connected world has fundamentally changed how IT is managed in the major car companies. "Mobile services have dramatically changed the role of IT," said Daimler CTO Peter Schneider. Discussing Daimler's innovative car-sharing program car2go, Schneider noted: "The value added comes from IT."
The Daimler executive made another important point: IT can play a decisive role in making a company a more attractive place to work. That's one reason Daimler has developed an enduser-device policy that allows workers to increasingly use their own smartphones for business purposes.
The head of a small US carmaker, Local Motors, explained how IT lets him develop cars without the big and costly infrastructure of a regular auto company. Jay Rogers told the automotiveDAY conference that Local Motors relies for its development on an internet community of 25,000 members who contribute expertise across all areas of car making.
Given the growing importance of IT and data management, severalindustry executives explained how their companies put systems on a new and future-proof footing.
Matthias Schlapp, CIO of sports car brand Lamborghini said the introduction of SAP systems in his company had been executed more smoothly than expected. To save money, however, Lamborghini's data center is co-located with Bentley, a sister brand within the Volkswagen Group.
Service providers and consultants told the automotiveDAY conference that innovative new IT solutions can greatly improve business performance.
Luz Mauch, who is in charge of automotive business at T-Systems, said Cloud computing, when tailored properly to companies' requirements, can lower costs and increase process security. "Cloud computing has grown up," Mauch said.
Thomas Mueller, partner with consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers, said the auto industry is making progress in business process management. But he cited many more business opportunities in the increased use of more BPM tools.
Stepped up use of so-called "smart data" is another way to boost efficiency, said Oliver Oswald, partner at consultancy Mieschke Hofmann und Partner (MHP).Smart data management provides "a combination of speed and flexibility," he said.
IT experts at the Hanover gathering also heard from Steven Vettermann, general manager of the ProSTEP iViP association, that Â the industry is heading toward agreement on standardization of data for product lifecycle management (PLM) applications.
But Vettermann warned that, as automakers, suppliers and business software makers sign up for the new "Codex of PLM Openness," a new and important issue needs to be addressed: "What sanctions willapply for violations of the agreement?
Those issues and other IT developments are set to play out against a backdrop of demographic decline in Germany, said Dirk Schuermann, director automotive & steel at technology group HP. Schuermann cited expectations that the German population will have declined 10 pc by 2040, with jobs falling 23 pc.
Warned Schuermann: "A shortage of IT experts exists today already."
The automotiveDAY conference, which was attended by a record 520 auto and IT industry experts, takes place every year at CeBIT. The event is organized by Media Manufaktur, the publisher of automotiveIT.
-By automotiveIT staff