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Here's How Retailers Are Using Your Data To Design Connected Travel Experiences

Augmented reality and the connected car

Kindra Cooper

Connected car

Emerging connected vehicle technology harnesses AI, machine learning and augmented reality to enhance the travel experience for passengers and drivers. 

One Los Angeles-based startup, Connected Travel, designs made-for-vehicle interactive applications and branded channels for retailers and content producers.

Instead of trying to keep a child preoccupied with a handheld device or BluRay, the company works with household-name brands to create branded in-car experiences that use AR and VR to enliven the real world instead of tuning it out, and allow the driver and passengers to engage in a shared activity. 

By instating a points system, retailers can reward consumers for engaging with their applications through discounts, loyalty programs and more. Consumers, meanwhile, receive value in exchange for sharing their data. 

At CEWeek 2019, Connected Travel founder and CEO Bryan Biniak shared some of the latest tech innovations designed around the connected car.

While Biniak was working for Nokia in 2011, the handset maker wanted one of its cellular tablets to penetrate a wider market.

Tablets are normally used only with Wifi, and the only location without Wifi where people spend a lot of time is the car. Nokia designed a connected car experience in collaboration with Dreamworks, which was doing promotion for a new animated film, How to Train Your Dragon 2

dragons_adventure_2The result was an AR-driven smartphone and tablet game called Dragon’s Adventure: World Explorer, where users could train and fly dragons from the film and guide them through quests across five continents. However, the animated world was derived from the real-world surroundings as the gamer traveled by car, using data rendered by Heremaps, a Nokia-owned mapping and location and data service. 

“We also took telematics data from the car and your smartphone, we plugged in mapping data from 4Square and Factual, as well as Flightaware data,” explained Biniak. “So if you looked out of the car [window] and you saw a plane in the air, that would generate a dragon in the game.”

Boats and buildings were rendered in the medieval style seen in the film, and interstate highways became muddy dirt roads. 

“We took all this data about the real world and about individual’s drives and fused all of that together into a a way that would happen on the device in real-time,” said Biniak. 

By combining Flightaware data and weather data from the Weather Channel, the company built a next-generation flight tracker.

Read more: Connected Retail, AR/VR and More - How 5G Connectivity Could Shake Up Retail 

If you can track what’s happening the skies, why not do it for the undersea world? The flight tracker became the basis for a digital glass-bottomed boat by the Royal Caribbean, where extensive sonar buoy data is used to digitally render the undersea life below. 

Connected Travel“Spain has one of the largest commercial fishing networks of sensors in the ocean,” said Biniak. “We took that data and rendered ecologies of fish in the ocean.” 

When paired with AI and virtual or augmented reality, it’s quite astounding just how crucial consumer data can be to retailers looking to engage with customers through organic, non-advertising channels. 

While working with one Marriott Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland, Biniak and his team mapped the real-time transaction records made with Visa debit and credit cards to create a “next-generation concierge service” to inspire visitors to patronize certain businesses and attractions. 

“It gave you a sense of where transactions were happening, where people are making purchases, what was popular and current,” said Biniak, a former general manager for Microsoft. “All of these things would then transform the ability for people to see what was going on in the city and help them navigate.” 

Pay-as-you-go or on-demand car insurance is powered by the very same telematics data, where a customer’s insurance premium is commensurate with behavioral data. In 2017, Connected Travel was approached by financial services company USAA to develop behavior-based car insurance.

Above all, the insurer wanted to nudge its customers to adopt safer driving habits, like decreasing speeding and cell phone usage. To do that, they needed to understand people’s day-to-day driving behaviors. 

Read more: How to Use Customer Data Insights to Build a Better Customer Experience

“You learn very quickly that the vast majority of people go to the same places every day, every week, every month,” Biniak said of the findings from the AI system he built to track driver telematics.

“So you can learn about where they consume, where they get their coffee or groceries or gas, when they go to school or to work and whether they’re on time or late for these activities and what routes they take.”

What looks like simple geolocation data can reveal so much about a consumer’s shopping habits, tastes and lifestyle - invaluable data not just for the insurer but for merchants and retailers looking to engage with hyperlocal consumers in real-time. 

“With that, we built a whole point system for incentivizing people to change their behaviors by gamifying the drive,” explained Biniak. “And we were able to get people to reduce their speeding by 43 percent, their phone handling by 40 percent and their hard braking by 13 percent.” 

Honda Dream Drive

Photo courtesy of Honda 

Armed with these new insights into how telematics data could benefit retailers, when Honda approached him to collaborate on the Honda Dream Drive experience, a suite of in-car applications, Biniak knew what to do.

He partnered once again with Dreamworks to promote the movie, Trolls, creating a Trolls-themed VR driving experience featuring the voice of James Corden, who plays the character, Biggie, in the film. 

“We were able to create a 3D model of the city of Las Vegas, so as you’re driving through you can glance at buildings and billboards and activate them, make purchases and book reservations,” Biniak said. “Everything becomes actionable when you fuse telematics with virtual reality.”