The Internet of Things Meets the Internet of Cars

All trends are pointing to an upsurge in the use of the Internet of Things. Cisco forecasts that there will be 37 billion intelligent things connected to the Internet by 2020. Gartner predicted in 2011 that automobiles would be “among the top three fastest-growing connected-device platforms for Internet-based content” by 2014.

The IoT is changing the way consumers are choosing and buying their cars. According to the Huffington Post, close to half of all consumers would want the ability to access wireless apps in their cars. Gartner says that, by 2016, most consumers will be making their car purchase decisions with connectivity in mind, making connected cars a common desire for those who are driving. Because of this, cars are no longer just a way to get around. The IoT makes them more valuable for their buyers. For manufacturers, this means new business and a good way to differentiate their cars from the competition. Currently there are three key areas where the IoT is meeting the connected car.

Vehicle infotainment systems

It used to be that the radio was the car’s total entertainment system. Then tape decks and CD players found their way into your cars, followed by small television sets. So who would have thought that you will soon rely on streaming media and smartphones to get your information and entertainment? And as tape decks and CD players continue to find their way to oblivion, we are going to see more and more new cars coming with an infotainment system that is more and more connected.

Infiniti InTouch is an example. It enables you to connect your car to the Internet, and you can get apps that allow you to be informed and entertained your own way. You get SiriusXM Satellite Radio, HD Radio, clock, compass, maintenance notes, quick guides, and a monitor of your driving performance. It allows you to control the temperature and audio volume, as well as your Direct Adaptive Steering and Driver Assist systems. You can even connect your smartphone to your infotainment system.

While driving, you can listen to your favorite playlists, get updated on your schedule for the day, and take a call. If you feel hungry, you just say “steak” or “coffee” or whatever you are craving. Your car’s infotainment system will search for the nearest steakhouse or coffee shop, along with reviews from real customers.

What’s more, you can do all these without becoming distracted and getting into an accident.

The trend toward such infotainment is so prevalent that streaming media services are increasingly showing up in new cars, either by using apps or connecting your smartphone to your car. Not only that, but connectivity features such as USB or Bluetooth are also coming bundled with your cars, along with speech recognition technology. And the latest must-have technology to go mainstream is integrated Internet or even LTE data connectivity.

Telematics

Telematics is the coming together of information processing, telecommunications, and wireless technologies. In cars, there are now systems that help you track your vehicles using GPS and electronic devices that are installed in your car. The device collects GPS data and sends it to software that turns all the data into reports or pinpoints your location on a map. It can also be used to track your trailers and containers; for companies, this is a good way to manage fleets of vehicles.

But more than just knowing where your car is, telematics has a far more significant use in today’s connected cars. It can help you become a safer driver. With a wireless safety device, telematics can help your car communicate with other vehicles or with wireless units near traffic signals and get road hazards, the speed of other vehicles, the location of other cars, and other safety information. Telematics is also proving useful in emergency warning systems and in intelligent car technologies. It can collect real-time GPS data and give you a better navigation experience by overlaying places that could be of interest to you while driving, as well as providing access to a variety of location-based services such as traffic data, weather reports, and road condition alerts.

Telematics can help you get other useful data while you are driving, such as revolutions per minute, fuel level, vehicle speed, idle times, and over revving. It can be used to block mobile phone usage while the car is running. All these can help you become a better driver.

Onboard diagnostics

The IoT and telematics can also help you know when your car needs a repair. It goes beyond reminding you when your car is up for maintenance; onboard diagnostic systems can tell you if there are potential problems and breakdowns with any part of your engine. For example, they can help you monitor temperature, tire pressure, emissions, transmission, fuel injection system, canister purge system, exhaust gas cleaning system, and other parts of your car.

For instance, GM’s OnStar system can tell you if there is anything wrong with your engine right from your car’s dashboard. It can also tell you if an airbag has deployed or if any of your doors are unlocked.

The video below shows the many useful features of OnStar RemoteLink.

You could extend this functionality to include safety. Yes, you would be able to save money by being able to identify problems with your car before they become big and costly, but you could also be safer with onboard diagnostics. For instance, if your airbag deployed, your car could make 911 calls even without you doing anything. If an accident knocked you unconscious, your car would be able to call 911 and give the emergency responder your GPS data. And if your car broke down, you could send diagnostic data to mechanics, so that they could see what is wrong before they get to your location.

How about anti-collision applications, wherein your car could communicate with other vehicles on the road? This way, your car would know that the Honda in front of you is having engine problems and could break down soon. Your car could then adjust its speed to avoid a collision.

The bottom line is that the IoT is changing the way you look at cars. A car is not just a car. It keeps you entertained, it keeps you informed, and it even keeps you safe on the road.

Of course, though it might be a growing trend, connected cars will not enjoy smooth sailing. There are bound to be issues and hurdles, such as the complexity of cars, long product life cycles, lengthy product development times, and the harsh conditions in which automobiles operate. However, manufacturers are overcoming these hurdles, and soon we will see more and more functionality being built into our cars thanks to the Internet of Things.

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