Cerence biometrics partnership brings voice purchases to US gas stations

Company raises earnings guidance after record quarter

Busy biometric startup Cerence books 3 big car deals, launches services in March

Cerence is expanding its biometric authentication and voice-based payment services through a partnership with mobile commerce platform provider P97 Networks.

The integration of P97 mobile commerce platform with Cerence Pay makes voice biometric payments available at more than 30 percent of fuel retailers in the U.S., according to the announcement.

Motorists can use Cerence Pay for contactless payments secured with face and voice biometric authentication, and the integrated service will also help them find a fuel retailer, view information on price and amenities, select a pump and complete a payment, directly through the car. Convenience items like a car wash or coffee can also be purchased as part of the same process, the partners note.

“The Cerence Pay partner ecosystem is integral to our delivery of a flexible platform that enables OEMs to create unique branded experiences that meet the needs of their drivers,” comments Nils Lenke, VP and GM of Apps for Cerence. “With the addition of P97 to our partner roster, we are further expanding the capabilities of Cerence Pay and the automotive assistant with extensive reach to fueling sites across the U.S.”

Cerence Pay was also integrated by connected car software-maker Xevo earlier this year as part of a fleet management software suite.

“Voice-powered payments are becoming an increasingly critical element of today’s mobility experience,” says David Nichamoff, senior vice president of Innovation and Platforms at P97 Networks. “We are proud to partner with Cerence to bring our gas station commerce services to Cerence Pay, an innovative platform that will transform how drivers think about productivity and safety on the road.”

New high revenue in Q2

Cerence also reported record-high earnings of $98.7 million in revenue in the second quarter of its fiscal 2021, a 14 percent improvement over the same period a year ago.

The company says it beat its quarterly guidance on all financial metrics by both GAAP and non-GAAP, and correspondingly raised its revenue and profitability guidance for the full year.

GAAP net income during Cerence’ Q2 2021 was $11.2 million, and the company booked an adjusted EBITDA of $39.3 million.

Highlights during the past quarter for Cerence include strong bookings for new applications and strategic wins in two-wheeler market segment, according to a press release.

Cerence now expects revenues for its 2021 fiscal year, which ends September 30, of $380 million to $390 million, a 15 to 18-percent increase over 2020, with a GAAP net income between $35 million and $42 million and adjusted EBITDA between $143 million and $152 million.

White label, don’t outsource, CMO advises

Cerence Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Richard Mack recommends automakers protect their brand by implementing conversational AI systems that prioritize in-car experiences, rather than outsourcing them to technology companies for whom automotive applications are not part of their core business.

Mack points out that his own use of tech platforms extends across four major players, and he expects personalization systems to connect all four. OEMs taking ownership of the connected vehicle experience can also build more applications and better protect driver safety, he argues in the article on Cerence’s website.

“Because of connectivity, the driver/brand relationship now extends far beyond the dealership, having shifted to real-time, intelligent in-car engagement throughout vehicle ownership,” Mack reasons. “Drivers are buying branded experiences – not just a body on four wheels. If they buy a Mercedes, they want to feel like they are driving a Mercedes. And that means they do not want to get in and be greeted by Alexa. Using their own in-car voice assistants, OEMs can bring their brand essence to life within the car, deepening the relationship with drivers while better understanding what those drivers need and when and how their experiences can be improved.”

Mercedes-Benz and Cerence struck a deal to incorporate voice biometrics into in-vehicle systems in late-2020.

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