The connected car market is entering the fast lane, and Romil Bahl is helping to keep the momentum going.
As president of internet of things and analytics for DMI, a Bethesda, Maryland-based company with roots in the end-to-end mobility services market, Bahl is helping the company pave new roads of possibility through its entry into the connected car market.
That effort comes on the heels of DMI’s May 2017 acquisition of the technology consulting services and IoT provider Lochbridge, where Bahl had previously served as CEO. Partnering with automotive original equipment manufacturers for nearly two decades, Lochbridge was an early pioneer in the connected car market.
Broader, More Ambitious Vision
Now that Lochbridge has integrated into the larger DMI team, Bahl is shifting into higher gear – with a pretty bold vision – of helping the company transcend its founding purpose, outlined back in 2002, of providing mobile-types of services in the federal market.
Now comes “a broader, much more ambitious vision,” as Bahl puts it, of expanding the company’s focus on commercial targets, with new offerings in the connected car space, specifically. Bahl couldn’t be more excited, either.
“DMI has obviously expanded greatly since its start, moving away from being an end-to-end mobile device-focused company to something broader – specifically, mobilizing to make the ‘essential difference’ in the ever-evolving connected world,” Bahl said.
“Our vision,” Bahl added, “is evolving to become the ‘partner of choice’ for innovators – and thought leaders – who see the power of this emerging technology and connectivity, which is redefining boundaries; as well as how those companies operate and compete; and how they connect to their end customers.”
Powerful Promise of Connected Cars
The time couldn’t be more fortuitous. Well before DMI’s acquisition of the private equity owned-company Lochbridge, Bahl had seen the powerful promise waiting to be tapped by companies on the periphery of the connected car market. That realization occurred in November 2015, when he first started at Lochbridge, and soon kicked off a 100-day plan.
One of the preliminary areas of focus was the connected car market, something Lochbridge, and before then, its predecessor Compuware, had been no strangers to, having helped to build out a pioneering connected car service delivery platform.
But just how big was the market potential?
To answer that question, Bahl’s team spearheaded a real market-sizing initiative, and interviewed nearly 70 subject matter experts who either were or had been in connected car departments of 19 different automotive OEMs. Ultimately, the team gathered intricate intelligence and shaped a robust financial model to size the market. The results surprised even Bahl.
“I went in thinking, ‘This is a large market,’ but I had no idea just how big – in the engineering and systems integration space alone, companies were spending $5 billion a year on the connected car market, and that was in 2016,” said Bahl, noting that amount would grow to $10 billion of annual spend by 2020. “When we got those results, it really cemented our strategy and that we were on the right path with a strategic pivot toward IoT, starting with the connected car use case,” Bahl added.
That path, and accompanying focus on building out a five-tier connected IoT framework and architecture, continues now under the DMI brand. To date, the company is now providing expertise and tools to seven OEMs.
“A much larger company than ours can take years sometimes to penetrate these large OEMs,” Bahl said. “These are difficult customers to serve, with complex and sophisticated procurement departments – I credit our team’s expertise for the speed with which we have been able to start this ‘growth journey’ and penetrate these large international Fortune 100 companies.”
That speed rests on providing automakers with offerings that span a wide spectrum of need, from helping to build out telematics platforms to providing third-generation solutions that offer a broader, risk-based diagnostic approach, built on end-to-end IoT architecture that can assimilate, integrate, cleanse, act on – and monetize – data. Above all, the goal is to be the OEMs’ innovation partner of choice, with focus on building and extending industry-leading SDPs.
As an example, in the usage-based insurance space, Bahl said, “We take in over 100 data elements, and bring that to bear to provide a detailed driver score … we are doing this work on the OEM side, because we believe that is where this market is going to end up.”
It’s all a far cry from the early days of the original, first-generation UBI.
Along the way, Bahl and the DMI team are mindful of additional needs – cybersecurity, especially.
“Security is certainly a critical component in this evolving space,” Bahl said. “That’s why we bake in security, from the very beginning, as we architect these solutions, partnering with specialists in the cybersecurity space.”
Mindful of these guideposts, Bahl has his eyes squarely on DMI’s evolving vision, which includes setting itself apart from telematics service providers of yore that left the big automakers feeling a lack of control over their own destinies, as Bahl put it. DMI, and Bahl, see a new way forward – and they plan on taking the lead.
“We will certainly own and lead the connected car center of expertise – and be the preeminent connected car services player in the market,” Bahl said. “More broadly than that, we want to focus – to lead – our company’s IoT charge.”
That bold vision will be accompanied with solutions to tough questions in the connected car market space, Bahl stressed.
“People sometimes confuse the issue, and think that IoT is about connecting devices, and they very rapidly learn, as they begin their journey, that connectivity is actually just the beginning,” Bahl said.
“You need to make the connection happen but it is really a data play; what are you going to do with that data, what insights are you going to draw, how are you going to improve your products,” Bahl said, “and reduce your defects and warranty claims’ costs and other continuous improvements, and then connect to the customer, while adding value – that will be the thrust of our focus as part of the DMI commercial business unit.”
Welcome to the fast lane.