Making the 'connected car' a reality

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The "connected car" is a term the wireless industry tosses about frequently to describe a vision in which automobiles can provide all types of services for drivers--from navigation and location information to infotainment services and even diagnostic details. Already some early iterations of the connected car have been launched, such as Ford's Sync technology, which provides connectivity and voice control for phones and music players via Bluetooth or USB. Most automobile makers, wireless operators and even app developers believe that this area holds great potential for their businesses.  

And analyst firms tend to agree with that assessment. According to Machina Research, 90 percent of new passenger cars are expected to have some form of connectivity platform by 2020. In addition, the firm forecasts that the connected car market will reach $600 billion by 2020, making it the largest market for connected devices and services.

Car-makers are becoming much more aggressive with their connected car visions and many are engaging with wireless operators and app developers to figure out how to make wireless technology a part of their long-term roadmap. But making the connected car vision a reality is challenging, particularly as the lifecycle of a car is much longer than the lifecycle of wireless technology.

Some ways to avoid that issue is to allow consumers to sync their smartphones in their cars instead of embedding cellular technology. Wireless operators, however, argue that synching the cell phone limits functionality and that embedded connectivity provides a much better consumer experience.

Of course, driver distraction continues to be an area of great concern. Many regulators and consumer groups believe that infotainment services in the car could greatly increase driver distraction.  

But perhaps the biggest obstacle in the connected car vision becoming a reality is the business case. Will consumers want to pay extra for the services that their "connected car" provides? And if so, how much will they pay for those services?

I'll be discussing these issues and more during my roundtable luncheon, "Driving the business case for the connected car," next Wednesday, Feb. 27 in Barcelona, Spain. The luncheon, which will be held in conjunction with the Mobile World Congress trade show, promises to be an engaging event. My panelists include Glenn Lurie, President, Emerging Enterprises and Partnerships at AT&T; Doug VanDagens, Global Director, Connected Services Solutions at Ford Motor Company; Bryan Trussel, CEO at Glympse; and John Horn, President at RACO Wireless. To register for the luncheon, click here. --Sue