Telia is using the emerging connected car market as a testing ground to transform itself, a senior executive has revealed.

The operator's official goal is to turn itself into a “next generation" telco, but Jens-Peter Meesenberg, Head of Industry Verticals for Telia’s Global IoT division, has a more colourful way of describing how it wants to transform.

“We want to combine the speed of the cheetah with the punch of the elephant,” Meesenberg tells European Communications.

Telia Sense, the connected car platform that launched in Sweden in November 2016 and in Denmark earlier this year, is the “spearhead product” in this regard, according to the exec.

Based on a dongle that plugs into the on-board diagnostics port of a car to provide a range of services such as connectivity, emission warnings and anti-theft alerts, it has forced a complete change in the way that Telia works, Meesenberg says.

The partnership with mobile development specialist SpringWorks, who helped to develop Telia Sense, and the likes of car maintenance specialist Bilia, which has developed add-on services, were part of the rationale for carving out of a separate business unit.

Formed last year to focus on emerging technologies and businesses, Telia X oversees Telia Sense and connected home service Telia Zone and looks to operate in a different manner to the rest of the business.

“When you talk to partners they are doing innovation on their services, so you need to be able to adjust what you are doing to accommodate them,” says Meesenberg.

Citing Telia’s partnership with smart parking specialist EasyPark, he says: “These companies won’t accept two-year hikes for development – it needs to be a two-week sprint.”

Accordingly, Telia Sense was launched as a minimum viable product, in the earliest form possible that would still attract customers.

The operator has learned to add improvements quickly, Meesenberg says.

The driver journal, which started as a basic log of trips, was prioritised after feedback from users and now includes integration with calendars and the ability to export trips to an Excel file, for example.

More widely, Telia has had to learn to be more than simply a technology provider, explaining to partners how to use the capabilities of the platform, Meesenberg says.

“We are no longer just selling telephony, but are a trusted advisor, helping them put together offerings,” he says.

For example, Telia can help car dealers to become more proactive in engaging with customers by offering diagnostics to anticipate when a service is required.

Further, the operator can support these dealers with its expertise in privacy.  

Meesenberg says: “[As a telco], we deal with privacy on a daily basis [but] for some of our partners privacy is quite new.

“The car dealership only just got a CRM system installed.

“They are very apprehensive about GDPR, and counting on us to make sure the privacy part is handled correctly so they don’t do anything wrong.”

For all the upbeat talk about new ways of working, Meesenberg declines to share how many customers are actually using Telia Sense out there in the real world.

Financial information about the emerging offering is also kept under wraps.

But Meesenberg suggests internal issues are more important at this stage.

“It is a proof point that we are transitioning into a more modern version of a telco,” he says.

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