Glympsing the Rise of the Connected Car

Ford telematicsI’m not at CES; it’s too much of a zoo (and becoming less important). But one of the most interesting sets of announcement to come out of the show involves the connected car. Both GM and Ford announced new or updated app developer programs yesterday.

Chrysler, Honda, Lexus/Toyota, Mercedes, BMW and others are also developing telematics systems that allow (to varying degrees) mobile apps and content to be accessed and/or displayed in dash. Most of these carmakers also have voice-controlled systems (for convenience and safety).

Many OEMs are also working to enable in-car Apple Siri integration as well. Nuance is another company getting deeply into telematics as a voice front end on many of these in-car services (initially with Chrysler).

For well over a decade telematics have been discussed, hyped and forecasted. Some higher-end car models have offered in-dash navigation and local search. But the announcements coming from CES make the whole opportunity much more real and accessible to more car buyers.

Indeed, in a couple of years some sort of telematics and voice control capability will be “table stakes” for cars above a certain price threshold and perhaps even entry level models, as Ford has done with the Fiesta.

One of the initial apps announced as part of the Ford SYNC AppLink developer program is Glympse. Glympse allows users to send their location to a third party (who doesn’t need the app) to enable location tracking for a limited time. A primary use case is: I’m running late and I want you to be able to see my ETA without me having to repeatedly call or text.

Location on Glympse is only allowed for a limited period. Recently the company launched a new version of its app that includes group and social sharing of location. Waze recently added a similar capability.

So-called “connected cars” are basically becoming rolling smartphones, which will increasingly provide hands-free access to many mobile apps. It’s also not hard to imagine video streaming from Netflix replacing DVD players in the back seat of the minivan at some point soon.

How advertising and marketing will be handled in these contexts has yet to be fully thought through. The long-dead Dash (a PND) was simply going to replicate internet ad models (e.g., ads on a map or at the top of search results). But everything-old-is-new-again models such as audio ads (think Pandora) or video (think YouTube pre-roll) will probably find their way to a car dashboard near you in the not-too-distant future.

And in case it wasn’t clear this will truly be the final nail in the coffin of stand-alone PNDs (if smartphones weren’t already).

Below is a video demonstration of voice-enabled Glympse in a Ford vehicle.

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