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Summary:

With more chips, our cars are getting smarter. That paves the road for more mobile apps that work between a phone and a vehicle: 129 million will use such apps by 2016, up from the 3.2 million consumers this year. What will the apps look like?

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The number of consumers using telematics smartphone apps with connected cars is about to increase over 40 times in the next five years. ABI Research today estimates that by 2016, 129 million people will use smartphone software that works with a vehicle, up from only 3.2 million consumers this year. Such forecasts could fuel new and innovative mobile apps specific to vehicles and travel-related activities.

Smartphone applications specific to cars may best illustrate the promise of mobility and connectivity: intelligent, pocketable devices combined with wireless broadband and smarter cars. While there have been a number of in-vehicle applications for years — think of navigation, point-of-interest searches, real-time traffic data and remote automobile diagnostics — most until now have been constrained for use within the vehicle.

By leveraging the ability for a smartphone to be tied with a car, such apps can move beyond in-car use. And as vehicles gain more processors and sensors, especially in greener cars as noted in a GigaOM Pro report, (subscription required), the possibilities for mobile apps will expand.

So what kinds of mobile apps will connect smartphone-toting drivers with their cars? Ford already launched software specific to its all-electric Ford Focus, allowing users to remotely monitor the battery level and even schedule a recharge during off-peak rate hours. Location Labs, in a partnership with T-Mobile, today launched software that can detect when a driver is behind the wheel of a vehicle and automatically shoot calls direct to voicemail or lock down access to text messaging. Focused on driver safety, the new app appears to monitor vehicle movement through GPS, but in the future, could get that data directly from the car.

But these examples, along with streaming music entertainment from Pandora and smarter navigation solutions, are just the tip of the iceberg. Pairing a connected car with smartphone apps is likely to lead to automatic location check-ins, voice-powered Facebook status updates from the driver’s seat, or even shopping list reminders when you’re about to pass a local retailer that stocks items you’re running out of at home. Whatever the application, mobile broadband and smart handsets combined with the cars of tomorrow could give new meaning to the term “information superhighway.”

For more research on electric cars check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

  1. Golly gee. This means no one is listening to the holy pronouncements from Consumer Reports about connected vehicles.

    Feet of clay, etc..

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