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Internet Enabled Vehicles Closer Than You Think

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A recent study by Gartner predicts that “by 2012, the majority of vehicle manufacturers will concentrate product development efforts on enabling wireless data connectivity in their next-generation cars.” The headline is being treated like fortune telling or prediction, but realistically, internet enabled vehicles are just an extension of a movement already witnessed over the past few years.

Since roughly 2000 internet enabled devices have begun making their way into the vehicle. It started with GPS and RFID devices embedded with cellular antennas to report position or events back to distribution centers. Next, Windows Mobile, Treo and Blackberry operating systems provided a user-friendly interface in a handheld format that was successfully leveraged for a multitude of business applications such as signature capture for package deliveries, access to customer accounts, and the integration of barcode and RFID scanners with cell phones for logistics solutions.

The internet enabled vehicle is a concept already entering maturity – the only thing new is that vehicle manufacturers now accept that they must focus energy on integrating internet data with their vehicle platforms to satisfy consumer and customer demand. Many would agree that the current process of accessing internet data on a cell phone while driving is not the safest approach. Therefore – the question becomes “how do we integrate internet data with the vehicle to make driving safe?” This will be the true focus of vehicle manufacturers. Below are a few concepts worth considering – my predictions – if you will:

1. Combination of Speech Recognition with Email, Text, and Internet Search: This has already been done in some part by Ford’s Sync software embedded in certain vehicles. Sync integrates in-car communication with entertainment options. For instance, Sync reads your incoming text messages and emails and responds accordingly when the driver says “Play Barry Manilow.” In the future, this functionality will become standard in vehicles as manufacturers seek to streamline the integration of the most basic internet functions in their vehicles. Government legislation controlling the use of cell phones while driving will also drive demand for this functionality – hand’s free conversations might become de facto by law. Additionally, internet enabled navigation systems responding to driver requests for directions will become standard, “Take me to the nearest P.F. Changs restaurant.”

2. In-Vehicle Workflow: As stated previously, the first internet enabled cell phone uses focused on business solutions such as logistics and inventory control. However, asking employees to interact with a cell phone while driving creates liabilities and the cost of replacing dropped, damaged or stolen cell phone handsets can be substantial. In the future, vehicle manufacturers and internet enabled device manufacturers will find new ways to integrate screens into vehicle interiors allowing employees to interact with workflow software in safer, more economical ways. Combine this concept with speech recognition for even more powerful solutions. Envision a driver stating to his delivery truck “Package delivered to XYZ Company, route to next delivery location.”

3. Driver-Centric Data: The Acura RDX cross-over vehicle began integrating real-time traffic data into the dashboard navigation screen to assist drivers in avoiding congestion. The traffic data was received by cellular antenna embedded within the vehicle coupled with a wireless internet account. The result was a simple, yet highly effective combination of the driver’s need for information, existing traffic monitoring and routing software, and a vehicle manufacturer responding to customer demand for more technologically advanced products. In the future, this model will be used as a baseline for future in-car solutions. At first, existing software solutions will be coupled with in-car screens. As consumers become accustomed to this functionality and begin to demand more features manufacturers and software creators will design never-before-seen solutions. “Warning – a weather system on your planned route home is producing golf-ball sized hail. Turn left and proceed three miles to avoid danger.”

4. In-Car Entertainment: The average commute in America is 24 minutes by car. Vacation road trips can log tens of hours spent in the vehicle. As a result, in-car entertainment options have emerged over the past few years such as mobile DVD players, satellite television and gaming devices connected to in-car monitors, mobile broadband internet access and Sirius XM radio. The internet expands entertainment options via new solutions such as Hulu.com replaying your favorite network television shows, YouTube for watching your favorite “Mentos dropped in a Diet Coke” video, or thousands of internet-streamed radio stations. Theoretically, it would be possible to listen to streamed Hawaiian music while watching Pearl Harbor and surfing the net to learn more about diving spots in Maui. This niche of the internet enabled vehicle stands to cause the most action from governments wanting to ensure drivers focus their attention on the road, and not the Road House movie starring Patrick Swayze. Vehicle manufacturers will focus on integrating these heretofore after-market products into cars as standard equipment.

Vehicles will change dramatically over the next decade as we respond to the need for more economical means of transportation to head off global warming. But along for the ride, and possible as a compliment to it, will be the trend to enable vehicles with internet access either for point specific solutions such as workflow or as a general entertainment option for your rambunctious children in the back seat.

Gartner Says Wireless Connectivity to be Main Focus for Vehicle Manufacturers by 2012

Copyright 2009

Kelly Short is an expert in the technology, business process automation and marketing disciplines. He shares over 15 years worth of experience everyday at http://www.kellyrshort.com helping small and medium companies with actionable advice on increasing sales with powerful marketing, lowering operating costs using business process management, and leveraging unified technology to crush competition.


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