Open Road

Connecting our connected cars to connected things

Connected. It's a word that has transformed in meaning over the last decade to represent how we as humans and even 'things' are integrated as part of our experiences with technology – namely the cloud. We're connected to social media, our devices are connected, and even our refrigerators have cloud capabilities. And over the last five years, we've seen connectivity drive a new generation of in-car experiences with content and services that make our commutes safer, simpler and in some cases, more satisfying.

According to a 2015 AAA study, the average American drives 29.2 miles per day, making two trips with an average total duration of 46 minutes. Multiply that across seven days a week, or 365 days a year...that's a lot of time spent behind the wheel, giving rise to consumer demand for the ability to access more information and content and be more productive or accessible to minimize time lost.

Business Insider expects that 75 percent of the estimated 92 million cars shipped globally in 2020 will be built with internet-connection hardware – an evolution that the Auto industry is already in the midst of. Many systems now ship with the ability to leverage the cloud to send messages, find Points of Interest (POI), navigation, stream cloud-based music services, and for some, even the ability to book a reservation or buy movie tickets – taking their cue from our common smartphone dependencies but optimized specifically for the car.

Similarly, data analytics software is increasingly being embedded into intelligent sensors and modules in connected vehicles, providing car owners, manufacturers and service providers with a wide array of information about the status, condition and health of the vehicle and its systems. This is driving a shift to bringing more artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive capabilities into the core infotainment experience – with the ability to listen, understand and proactively suggest routes, news updates and music choices, as well as find the best possible parking spot, advise of maintenance updates, gas mileage, and important diagnostic information.

The BMW 7Series began shipping its updated experience in late 2015, featuring voice capabilities powered by neural net technology, and a dialogue-based system that quickly provides a driver with POI, music, messaging and car diagnostics.

"The Automotive analytics market is still in its early stages but it's catching on quickly. And Strategy Analytics forecasts that voice will play a big role in these automotive applications in providing real-time information to drivers," noted Laura DiDio, Strategy Analytics, Director of IoT Research.

But in the spirit of being connected and productive, there is a convergence ahead where the Internet of Things meets the connected car. In the same time period we can expect connect car shipments to surge, Strategy Analytics predicts that by 2020 there will be 33 billion connected devices, with spending on smart systems for the home to reach $130 billion globally in that same time period. Lighting systems, intelligent speakers, thermostats, home security, televisions, appliances – connected and ready to deliver on your needs reactively and in many cases, proactively with more AI and conversational interfaces.

So in our connected society – it only makes sense that all of these intelligent devices would be smart enough to connect to each other. There is an endless list of use cases that support the need for a better-connected IoT experience.

For instance, being able to engage a home app in your car to set an alarm or close the garage door if you've forgotten – or better – have the alarm or garage system alert you that you've forgotten. Close to home? Imagine an in-car system that knows based on your location, speed and traffic how many minutes away you are, turning up the thermostat on a cold day in just enough time to heat up the house. And vice versa, being able to engage a home smart hub to prepare a traffic and navigation route for your car based on data it's received and your preferred route. Listening to your favorite Internet service radio while getting ready in the morning? Your car can pick up where you left off without missing a beat (literally).

The good news is these systems are in fact becoming aligned. BMW Labs developed a Widget through ConnectedDrive giving drivers the ability to open the garage door as you're arriving home, receive an email reminder for your parking location, and turning on the lights as you arrive home. BMW also introduced smart watch app for remote valet parking at CES 2015. Ford continues to explore SYNC integration smart homes, and, Mercedes cooperates with Nest to control the thermostat from the car.

This is a market with much anticipated growth and opportunity for Automakers and IoT ecosystem players alike – notably when it comes to all that data generated. According to DiDio and Chris Schreiner, Director for the Automotive Consumer Insights at Strategy Analytics, overall IoT enabled Big Data Analytics worldwide revenue is experiencing exponential growth. Strategy Analytics forecasts it will double from its current global 2015 revenue of $36.20 billion (US Dollars) to $73.77 billion by 2021 and rise to over $81 billion by 2022 for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 12% over the next seven years. And the Data Analytics software revenue in Automotive sector is similarly experiencing healthy revenue increases.

But this is early stages, with the need to be focused on efforts from both the auto and device ecosystems creating platforms and UI technologies that make this convergence both possible and seemingly simple.

While there is much happening "under the hood" that is incredibly complex in nature, the key to adoption is making it simple and rewarding for consumers. And in turn, there is incredible value for automakers looking to differentiate their offerings while keeping consumers engaged in a more holistic way.

The holistic element is an important one as we watch the convergence of IoT and the connected car. While cars follow the trails blazed by the mobile industry, they're not phones. They have different needs, different systems and different environments. And yes, some services and needs are the same, such as navigation, messaging and music – being fully integrated as part of the infotainment system that also accesses diagnostic systems is critical to usability and ultimately safety.

If a system isn't well designed as part of one experience, not only will it minimize new revenue opportunities through decreased adoption, it poses unnecessary frustration behind the wheel.

The same goes for TVs, home security systems, appliances – they too, are neither phones nor cars, with their own set of needs for connectivity, user interfaces, etc. So as this convergence comes to fruition, there will be an increased demand for software and services that deliver intelligence, personalization and specialization, bringing the IoT and automotive worlds together into one IoT ecosystem that delivers incredible opportunities for consumers. And as cars begin to drive themselves – we can expect to get even more done on those long commutes – which is another topic for another day.

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