Otonomo: The future runs on mobility data

The future is bright for Otonomo -- which recently raised $255 million in its IPO and acquired AI startup Neura as part of a bold growth strategy.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

Otonomo Technologies is an Israeli startup focused on collecting massive amounts of data from cars and mobile devices on behalf of major carmakers and large companies such as fleet operators. It recently went public via a Special Acquisitions Group merger and raised about $255 million. And it made its first acquisition -- AI startup Neura, also based in Israel, to help clients analyze the data and gain insights into transportation and logistics.

I spoke with senior executive Matan Tessler, vice president of product, about the company and its goals following the acquisition of Neura and its 30-strong team. 

Tessler says that both companies knew of each other and had started collaborating together before the acquisition. Neura also started to get quite a bit of customer traction for its AI technology -- making it a very good time to combine the two companies.

Otonomo has a hammer -- and it sees a future where data from cars and mobile devices is the nail that needs to be hammered down to enable the efficient transportation of people and the logistics for global chain supplies. 

"We have some very large clients who are good at analyzing all the data we collect from connected cars," says Tessler.  "The big companies have their own analysis and models, but with Neura's technology, we can offer powerful analytical tools to other companies, making the data accessible, and then they can implement the insights generated."

Otonomo recently launched an app on Salesforce allowing companies to consolidate and analyze their connected data. The company is targeting fleet operators, dealerships, and roadside service operators. Neura will enable additional analytical services and open up new opportunities in electric vehicle (EV) markets.

"We are working on a project to find the best sites for EV recharging stations. We can analyze the data to find the best places to build recharging stations where the demand will be the greatest due to traffic patterns and the capabilities of the vehicles."

Creating a supportive infrastructure for EVs will be essential to their success. And autonomous EV vehicles will also require Otonomo's technologies, says Tessler. 

"We have already developed sophisticated traffic models for the US and Europe, and we have mapped many Asian locations. But this data is constantly changing -- it is not an easy problem to solve."

Otonomo is able to collect huge amounts of data, but it needs technologies such as those from Neura to make sense of it all. A key focus at the company is on the development of tools that help make that data actionable. 

I asked about the latency in the collection of the data if that was important? He said that latency is only an issue in certain use cases, such as identifying a potential traffic jam or a traffic accident. For other uses, latency in the data collection is not an issue  -- understanding the data is far more important.

Mobility beyond cars

Otonomo has plans to move beyond cars and includes many other types of mobility data -- a sector that is enabled by the Nuera acquisition.

During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, there wasn't much mobility as people stayed home to work and socialize via video streaming services. But people in lockdown made heavy use of delivery services for food, medicine and emergency care. This type of mobility data is central to our society, and its true importance was clearly evident during our time of crisis as it will be in future times. 

Data becomes insights

Otonomo handles an ocean of car data -- as much as 4 billion data points daily from about 40 million vehicles. That data is in many different formats based on the IT systems of its clients. The company's secret sauce is that it is able to translate that data into a format that can be easily accessed and aggregated into actionable information. 

"We don't know what the future will bring, but we know mobility data will be an essential part of that future."

Otonomo is a startup with big opportunities ahead. Picking the right ones will be key. 

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