At the start of the new year, I asked Dominion Enterprise’s Chief Information Officer, Joe Fuller, to share his knowledge on technology trends that could influence dealerships in 2018. Joe provided insight into six areas to watch, three of which we featured in our January blog post. We’ll focus on the other three in this post.
The (Public) Cloud
Hosting critical business functions in the public cloud continues to grow. According to Rightscale, 88% of enterprise companies rely on at least some public cloud computing. According to Gartner, Amazon holds about a 40% market share with its annual cloud revenue of about $14 billion while Microsoft, Google and IBM together account for a 23% market share. Amazon was first to market but Microsoft has made recent market share gains with businesses because their ecosystem is so well integrated with familiar Microsoft software and development tools. DX1 is built with Microsoft development tools and hosted at multiple locations in the Microsoft public cloud. Dealer data is backed up in multiple locations and if one hosting center goes off line, another can quickly take over to ensure dealerships stay online.
Most CIOs are confident that cloud providers can secure data much better than in their own onsite data centers. The big public cloud providers employ thousands of security professionals and their business models simply can’t afford security failures. So they invest more in security than even large businesses would invest on their own. Public cloud hosting offers inexpensive redundancy, flexible capacity and overnight scalability. It is safe to say that hosting in the public cloud is here to stay.
Internet of Things
According to Forbes, the Internet of Things is where any device with an on/off switch is connected to the Internet and/or to each other. One example is light bulbs, cameras and door locks controlled by apps on cell phones. Other examples are mini-weather stations collecting weather info, dumpsters that report when they are full, pacemakers and insulin monitors reporting medical statistics and water sensors measuring local flooding. Gartner estimates there are already 8 billion devices connected to the Internet and they predict that will be 20 billion by 2020. What makes this possible is the dropping cost of sensors that measure everything from temperature to motion, the prevalence of Wi-Fi connections to the Internet and the cheap cost of computing in the cloud.
What does that mean for dealerships? Like the infrared inventory trackers used for years in retail, we could see tracking devices on units and parts to help track them. Sensors in vehicles could warn us via email when particular parts are close to failure or in need of maintenance. Customers who have visited before could be tracked based on the proximity of their cell phones. Vehicle manufacturers can build in sophisticated security devices and cameras connected to the Internet for safety, security and fun. Riders could retrieve maps of any rides they have made, including automatically captured video and pictures, because all their rides could be saved and stored for free in the Cloud. Like with autonomous cars, riders will rely on automatic safety features as their vehicles talk to other vehicles on the roads and receive notifications from traffic signals and road hazards just because of proximity. The Internet of Things will potentially have a profound effect on the industry.
Bitcoin and Blockchain
The Bitcoin craze is the most obvious example of blockchain. Bitcoin is an electronic currency. What is blockchain? Blockchain is a public ledger that stores detailed transactions that everyone can see but no one can tamper with. Bitcoin is currently the leading electronic currency built on a blockchain foundation. Today we trust banks to hold our electronic money and manage transactions where money changes hands. With blockchain, a set of rules for managing transactions is published and public computers record the transactions. These public computers store transactions in a public ledger that is written to many public computers using agreed-upon rules. The ledger, once written, can’t be tampered with because any future transactions poll the multiple computers to ensure the transactions are legitimate. A digital audit trail is created that can’t be hacked by any individual. If you set aside the weeds of the technology and accept that an unhackable public ledger is possible, you can eliminate banks. It won’t be long before dealerships will be accepting Bitcoin for payment. Joe also predicts that some day, dealerships will no longer use a bank to keep their money. All the transactions will be electronic, instantaneous and based on blockchain. If you’re one of the first dealerships to accept Bitcoin, you could get on the news and you might attract buyers you otherwise would miss.
It wasn’t too long ago when the concept of autonomous vehicles was still in the realm of sci-fi. Now, there isn’t a week that goes by without reports of advancement in this technology being reported. It’s important to remain current with technological advances both personally and within your business. Evaluate the systems running your dealership. If they’re outdated, you’re not gaining the benefits of security and efficiency that updated technology can bring you.