When will car manufacturers launch functional in-car apps? – Question from Ric Ferraro

Welcome to Barcelona! With Mobile World Congress starting today, our M2M Q&A continues. This time we have been asked when we can expect all the major car manufacturers to launch a full suite of in-car apps that can remotely diagnose, alert and provide functional access to the onboard car software? Ric Ferraro has specifically suggested that a mobile app might be able to alert the driver to low tire pressure in the front wheels. So, just how far off is that idea?

Well, it has to be said that all OEMs are very safety and security oriented. So any features that may cause driver distraction have to be considered carefully. In addition, I believe there are recent reports from the US that all in-car entertainment will be banned. This means all OEMs will be further encouraged to follow an already conservative approach.

However, there is definitely a market for functional in-car apps and a look at how the radio found its way into the car might show how this new market evolves.

A history of radio integration into cars – let’s analyse this in more detail.

Phase 1 – The first radios were added to vehicles by consumers, anyone remember the battery-driven transistor radio using a window antenna to increase reception?

Phase 2 – The second phase saw manufacturers (OEMs) recognizing the potential business case and selling radios in their dealer shops (OEM dealer option) that fitted to a standardized interface.

Phase 3 – In the third phase radios were assembled by the OEMs and OEM embedded.

Drawing on this analogy, we expect a similar evolution of in-car apps.

Phase 1 – The business opportunity has already been recognized and the first companies will probably soon go after it with a consumer aftermarket solution, I predict by the end of 2012 if not sooner.

Phase 2 – The first OEMs are already integrating smartphones into vehicles. I imagine we can expect the first big wave smartphone-integrated vehicles on the road from mid to late 2013.

Phase 3 – Once in-vehicle connectivity becomes widespread we predict two communication clusters developing. 1) Connectivity for the vehicle and the driver. 2) Connectivity for the passengers. And we imagine this will be available from 2015 onwards.

The type of information that can be made available will depend on the level of integration between apps and the vehicle. The technology exists to help the communication between car functionality and smartphones and there’s a huge amount of potential around this. So, that’s our prediction for it – do you agree with us? Come and see our demos at our stand in Hall 8 where we are showcasing innovations in M2M as well as NFC and LTE.

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