Greig Hilton, Tracker’s managing director, on the profit opportunities for dealers in connected cars, the internet of things and telematics.
What have been the biggest developments for Tracker in the past year?
I joined just before Christmas last year. Since then, the business has gone through a lot of change. We rationalised the business and moved offices. We’re also looking at putting more of a focus on the consumer market and making sure the business is set up for the future with a focus on connected cars, the internet of things (IOT) and telematics products.
The company is 25 years old and as I’ve come in and looked at things with a new pair of eyes, I think it’s given the business a chance to look at how it does things and how we’ll grow in the future.
How many dealers is Tracker working with and how has that business grown?
Our trackers are still the product of choice when it comes to prestige brands. We have a dedicated portal for dealers to use. There is a profit opportunity in selling the subscription and installing. It’s up to dealers to decide whether they want to fit the devices themselves or whether we do it for their customers. In the case of a recent deal with Arnold Clark, for example, they have opted to fit them, as they are accredited by us to do so.
How crowded has the tracker market become and what makes Tracker different?
There was a point where Tracker was the only game in town, but there are competitors in the market now. We have really strong ties with the police and we are the only service where the police will actually intervene on our behalf to recover vehicles. We have 1,700 police vehicles and 20 police helicopters that are equipped to track our products. Our technology can be tracked in vehicle containers and ports up to an accuracy of one metre.
How is Tracker responding to app-based tracking products?
When it comes to technology, consumers do want to see an app. However, I think purely app- or GPS-based smartphone technology is not as robust as having technology that is covertly installed in six or seven areas. The majority of smartphone app tracking technology isn’t accredited by insurers, so I’m not sure that it really stacks up as a credible solution. Thieves are getting particularly sophisticated with how they locate trackers and remove them.
I think there is a place for app-based tracking and certainly app-based connected car solutions, which we are looking at. There has to be a combination of the right physical solution matched with the ability to get access to data. I think you also have to stay relevant and that’s why we are looking to launch with something in the connected car space in the short term.
Does having a physical system tied to one vehicle create issues for customers who change car every three years?
We try to make sure customers are retained by offering them a competitive renewal subscription on whatever their new vehicle might be. It’s more effective to retain customers and keep them with us that way, rather than taking out the technology and putting it into the new vehicle.
What new techniques are thieves using to access vehicles and evade police?
There are no signs of a slowdown in organised criminal gangs carrying out “steal to order” on specific vehicles. These gangs are getting increasingly sophisticated with how they steal vehicles through keyless entry with a relay hack, or taking a vehicle to a secure location specifically to strip out any tracking or security devices. Luckily, there a lot of smart people working at companies such as Tracker, manufacturers and the authorities to continue to work to battle them.
What are the big challenges facing your industry?
Connected cars and data is going to be a hugely complex area in the future, but one where I think there is a lot of opportunity. There is going to be a big focus on security around how data from connected cars flows in and out of vehicles.
That data can be used in really interesting ways around parking, congestion and infrastructure. There’s a market there for how that data can be managed and interpreted and how those benefits will boost adoption. I think there also has to be a plan for how these services can be made backwards-compatible with the entire vehicle parc, so used cars are covered and feeding in to that infrastructure, not just new vehicles.
I think we’ll also be in a position in the future where we’re looking at ‘cyber MOTs’. Cars are updated remotely, but there’s going to have to be some sort of authentication process. It’s going to be quite a challenge. As a car becomes more like a device, the data going in and out is going to need to be managed at the highest level.
What is the biggest opportunity for the Tracker business?
We’re close to launching a connected car offering and that will be a big growth area for us. There are 35 million cars on the roads, but only around three million are connected, so that leaves a big opportunity for the company that can offer something to those vehicles.