With more than 200 sensor-based data sources, the connected car is a data goldmine, collecting information on everything from when a driver steps on the brake and how fast they’re travelling to where they go, when they pick up the phone – even what radio station they’re tuned into. New start-ups like ConnectedTravel and Drive Time Metrics are fusing this fountain of vehicle data with other sources to measure – and influence – consumer behavior, include radio listening.

ConnectedTravel describes itself as “a behavior-based marketing platform and application services company serving the everyday travel and mobility ecosystems.” Among its clients is a major auto insurance company that collects data from consenting customers to price insurance premiums based on driving behavior. Speaking at last week’s NAB Show in Las Vegas, ConnectedTravel founder and CEO Bryan Biniak said his company also works with automakers to better understand real time interactions that take place in the car. Partnering with an automaker, ConnectedTravel is able to determine when the radio is on and off, what station it’s tuned to and other listening behaviors. Combining this with other data sources can create new attribution opportunities for broadcasters. Biniak envisions a world where data collected from in-car sensors is fused with social data, credit card transactions, and a station’s programming and spot logs to show how listeners responded to ad campaigns. “The car is a shopping cart,” he said during the “What's the Big Data Deal for Radio” panel. “You can map where people are consuming, where they get their coffee, where they do their laundry, where they buy groceries or gas.”

But it goes beyond that. What’s known as real time data fusion “allows you to interact with your drivers and passengers, not only in real time but on a predictive basis,” Biniak said. “Suddenly when you combine those things together, a lot of the data that the industry is looking for is very available and very insightful.” In fact, Binakik sees real-time data fusion as a way for broadcasters to influence listening behavior, such as getting people to listen to radio longer, both inside and outside the car. “We are very optimistic and bullish on what we’re seeing as opportunities for radio and data and measurement, particularly with consumers that are willing to opt in and share information,” he said.

If this sounds far-fetched, consider that ConnectedTravel isn’t the only new entrant looking to leverage in-car data for radio. Drive Time Metrics (DTM) has also partnered with auto manufacturers to leverage the massive amounts of data that can be collected from the connected car. The Rhode Island-based company says it collects and analyzes audio listening data from the connected car infotainment systems of millions of vehicles. The anonymous data is analyzed to provide insights into listening behavior. As Inside Radio previously reported, Entercom is already a strategic partner with DTM and recently worked with the company and an automaker on a case study involving 30,000 vehicles in a top three market.

Then there’s Nielsen, which may be sitting on a treasure trove of big data, following its acquisition of Gracenote, whose audio content recognition technology is now integrated into 110 million connected car infotainment systems. In a promising sign, Nielsen VP of Product Leadership Rob Kass said Nielsen engineers have been working to tweak Gracenote technology so that it can detect the PPM watermarks that form the backbone of audio measurement in radio’s 48 largest markets. Nielsen is also having conversations with automakers about what data they have that Nielsen might utilize, while still protecting consumer privacy. But Kass said auto data comes with a lot of bias, meaning it isn’t truly representative of the population, while he pointed out that there are also technical hurdles to overcome.