General Motors Relies on IoT to Anticipate Customers’ Needs

Moving from 2G to 4G LTE connectivity has had a profound impact on GM’s ability to expand consumer services.

Steve Schwinke, a member of the original design team for General Motors’ OnStar service and director of its Global Connected Customer Experience unit, has this to say about how GM leverages the Internet of Things to deliver products and services that consistently ensure the safety and security of its customers: “When I think about the Internet of Things (IoT), I think of three things: you can extract information from a particular device; you can share that information with other devices so they can communicate with each other; and you can add new services and new features.”

While Schwinke notes that GM has been engaged in IoT engineering for nearly two decades, “we’ve gone from 2G connectivity to 4G LTE connectivity, so multiple devices are connecting with unheard-of speeds.” Schwinke spoke with Michael Fitzgerald, contributing editor at MIT Sloan Management Review.

It seems that the work you’ve been doing at GM was the Internet of Things before we knew it was the Internet of Things. When did you realize that?

I’ve realized it gradually over the last few years. When I think about the Internet of Things (IoT), I think of three things: you can extract information from a particular device; you can share that information with other devices so they can communicate with each other; and you can add new services and new features. We’ve been doing all those things at GM really for 20 years. The big change is that we’ve gone from 2G connectivity to 4G LTE connectivity, so multiple devices are connecting with unheard-of speeds.

Is what you’re doing now with OnStar different from what you were doing when you started? Is it different because of the change in the underlying technology?

The 4G commitment has had a profound impact on our ability to expand what we can do. One of our proof points of 4G is vehicle health management (VHM), which is one of OnStar’s many services.