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Why the GM and IBM deal may mean more spam for you

General Motors is teaming up with IBM's Watson to make things more convenient for you while you drive. The program will use Artificial Intelligence to tell you if you are close to your favorite coffee shop or store. In other words, GM and IBM are going to try to spam you through your OnStar.

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Let me make it clear right at the start, I don’t mean spam in the sense that they are trying to scam you. General Motors and IBM will use Watson to try to get you to buy advertiser’s products. Watson will be programmed to try target you with advertisements of stores or services that you may be inclined to want or use.

In its news release, GM gives this example of how Watson could help a driver. “OnStar Go taps Watson Personality Insights and Watson Conversation APIs to remind a working father to pick up diapers and formula at the pharmacy a few miles before his exit, so he won’t have to leave the house again once he gets home.” Some may like the idea of constant reminders from a vehicle about places he could shop or stops he might have made in the past. Others may find it creepy.

OnStar and Watson could inform you every time you are close to your favorite coffee shop. How many reminders are too many? According to the release, the technology can go even further. It can order you a coffee and pay for it through your dash.

Driers will have to opt in for the service. But once you have opted in, you are an advertiser’s dream. The program will analyze your data and market you based on your brand preferences. “This information will allow brand and marketing professionals working with IBM and OnStar to deliver individualized location-based interactions that directly impact their target audiences. Companies in retail, fuel, hospitality, media and entertainment, restaurants and travel and transportation and more can use OnStar Go to build individualized mobile, in-vehicle experiences for a growing population of connected drivers that opt-in.” And they will!

GM hopes to have 2 million OnStar subscribers available on the OnStar Go network by the end of 2017.

It will be interesting to see if there is a way to unsubscribe from certain advertisers that become annoying or don’t apply to the driver. It will also be interesting to see if the driver can reduce the number of advertising messages they receive.

General Motors and IBM’s Watson aren’t the first to use the technology. Google mines its email platform for information and uses it to target users with advertising. Facebook targets users with ads based on past practices as well. However, they do not bombard you with advertisements while you are stuck in your car.

According to Phil Abram, who works in GM’s Connected Products and Strategy department, “On average, people in the U.S. spend more than 46 minutes per day in their car and are looking for ways to optimize their time.” There will be a fine line between looking to optimize your time and being a captive audience.

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