Cars have become the new battleground for consumer Internet companies. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier in the month, Google unveiled a new plan that will allow car manufacturers to use a version of its open source Android smartphone operating system. Android will power car’s dashboard-based information and entertainment systems — no doubt with the help of apps like Waze, which Google purchased in mid-2013.
Audi, one member of Google’s alliance, has introduced a tablet for use within its cars that will also run on this new car OS.
Apple launched a similar initiative last year, “iOS In The Car.” Honda is among the car manufacturers tweaking its dashboard “infotainment systems” to make them more iPhone friendly.
In a recent report from BI Intelligence, we examine how Silicon Valley and Detroit are in a race to bring Internet technology and services to the car. We explore the technical underpinnings and foundational initiatives, analyse the three main ways to bring mobile apps and services into cars, explore whether app usage in the car will be centered on the phone or in embedded computing systems and connectivity, look at how the war between Android and iOS will play out, and detail what apps and services might stand to gain the most from in-car usage.
Here’s a brief overview of the prospects for the mobile car:
- There is already a sizable and growing mobile market in the car, with huge revenue potential: Five years from now, there will be over 60 million connected cars on the road globally, according to estimates from the GSMA and others. Car-focused telecom, hardware and software services will drive some 40 billion euros ($51 billion) in annual revenue by 2018. Pandora, for example, is now being used in 2.5 million cars and 100 car models through one of its 23 partnerships with auto brands and eight partnerships with stereo manufacturers.
- To state the obvious: Cars are inherently mobile. Many of the things people do in their cars — listen to music, look up directions — mesh nicely with popular app-mediated activities on mobile gadgets. Americans spend an average of 1.2 hours a day travelling between locations and an average of 38 hours a year stuck in traffic. If mobile apps and Internet-based services can shoehorn their way into the in-car environment, that means a great opportunity to absorb consumer attention, and gather data. Not to mention, current dashboard “infotainment systems” are mostly terrible.
- Integration is one of the three main ways to bring mobile products and services into cars: The owner’s Internet-connected handset connects with vehicle-based hardware and computing systems. However, the mobile device drives all key facets of the app, including Internet access, and the car simply provides some tools to facilitate it (i.e., dashboard user interface, voice controls, speakers, jacks, and/or steering wheel-based controls). Currently, many in-dash automobile app suites in cars are nothing more than an interface that provides control over a Bluetooth or audio jack-connected smartphone.
- Tethering is another option: Connection is provided through external means, but the computing and delivery of the services is done within the car. For example, a Bluetooth or USB connection might link a car’s navigation system to your phone-stored contact list, and from that moment forward a simple press of a button in the car would guide you to a friend’s house from any location. In this scenario, the car depends on the external device to gather Internet-based data.
- As is embedding: Connection and intelligence are baked into the car. The car houses the operating system, apps, and other services that will deliver the Internet-based mobile services to the user. A mobile device might sync with whatever’s in the car, but external mobile gadgets aren’t essential to running the car-based apps. GM is moving in this direction with its new fleet of 4G cars. Means of integration can be blended, and often are.
- Examines the technical underpinnings and leading initiatives for bringing mobile into the car
- Analyses the three main ways to bring mobile products and services into cars
- Explores whether app usage in the car will be centered on the phone or in computing systems and connectivity embedded into the car
- Looks at whether car companies will bring the war between Android and iOS into the car or if they will build their own Web-ready platforms
- Details what apps and services might stand to gain the most from in-car usage
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