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Wireless Wednesday–What can you actually do in a connected car?

October 9, 2013 — by WEBOOST

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This week for Wireless Wednesday we’re taking an extended look at the connected car. Why, you might ask? For starters, not only is the concept of a connected car incredibly cool, but it’s actually becoming more of a reality for many! Check out what AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had to say about the connected car via this @FierceWirless article: “The way we think about the car is that it’s just a big smartphone on wheels,” Stephenson said earlier this year at Mobile World Congress. “The connected car will become just as routine as people carrying a smartphone.”

So, over the next week, we’re going to dig a little deeper into this @FierceWireless article, (because they did such an awesome job at compiling all this information and insight), and see everything that the connected car potentially has to offer.

Representatives from carriers, car makers, components suppliers and analyst firms agree that the market is on the cusp of a boom. Indeed, according to research firm Analysys Mason, auto makers will ship around 11.5 million connected cars this year, but will grow that number to around 170 million in 2023. Most of the shipments will be in the developed world but emerging markets will grow quickly as well.

“One thing is for sure: We are on the precipice of almost all new cars coming off the shop floor with a SIM card pre-installed and mobile network operators will be keen to find multiple customer segments for the connectivity and other services they can provide,” Analysys Mason analyst Morgan Mullooly said. “Because these deals were struck between the [carriers and the] auto manufacturers in the past few of years, the operators [have] been thinking about how to charge for and how to market services.”

However, that’s where confusion sets in. The connected car, despite all the hype, is still a somewhat nebulous concept. Wireless carriers have talked up the benefits of bringing cellular connectivity into the car as if it were self-evident that consumers would not only find connected car services useful but would be willing to pay for them. Undoubtedly, as General Motors’ OnStar service has proven with its 6 million customers, there is a market for such services, which are likely to become more advanced over time. Yet there still has not been a great deal of explanation of what a consumer can actually do in a connected car environment.

Thus, FierceWireless canvassed a wide range of players in the connected car market to find the most popular current uses cases and applications for the connected car as well as what will be coming down the pike in the next few years.

To be clear, this list is certainly not comprehensive, but is instead meant to give an indication as to where the market is heading.

Safety and security – connected car

Safety and security, which has been the driver of connected car business models for years, remains a critical application for both consumers and automakers. The most well-known example is General Motors’ OnStar service, which has been in place for 17 years and now counts more than 6 million customers. The safety and security features of the service include the ability to contact OnStar representatives for emergency services, vehicle diagnostics and directions. The services also provides the ability to track stolen vehicles, among other features. These types of services do not take up a lot of resources on carriers’ networks, but provide customers with peace of mind.

GM’s RemoteLink allows drivers to unlock car doors with their phone.

“They don’t require a lot of bandwidth,” said Paul Hedtke, senior director of business development for automotive at Qualcomm. “But really what they drive is the need for ubiquity [in network coverage].”

In February, GM announced it will replace Verizon Wireless’ CDMA service with AT&T Mobility’s LTE service for OnStar starting in 2014. Tim Nixon, executive director and CTO of applications delivery at GM’s global connected consumer division, said that upgrading to LTE will improve data transmission, call processing and give OnStar customers the ability to simultaneously use voice and data.

Nixon also talked about GM’s recently introduced upgrade to its OnStar RemoteLink app, which lets customers remotely unlock doors and start their vehicles. The service will be on all OnStar-equipped 2014 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models, even if the customer decides not to pay for other OnStar services.

Of course, all of the players in the industry noted that any connected service must be implemented in a way that won’t distract drivers.

Chris Penrose, senior vice president of AT&T’s emerging devices unit, said enhancing driver safety is a “resounding common theme.” To that end, he said the carrier isn’t just looking at specific safety services but is instead concerned with how connected car apps are architected so that they won’t interfere with motorists’ attention. Penrose said that apps should be optimized for touchscreen displays within cars to make them easily accessible, and that voice-activated apps and services that provide spoken feedback will let drives “keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.”

What do you think of this article? Is the connected car something you are interested in? Let us know in the comments section below, or on Twitter/Facebook.
Tomorrow we’ll look at navigation/concierge in the connected car, so make sure to check back then. To read the rest of this article, click here.
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