The Connected Car

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor — August 22, 2013

Senior Director of Product Management for Juniper Networks, Ashwin Krishnan has a security background that extends eight years. He became interested in the concept of connected cars about six months ago when a call came in his from his BMW dealer.

“We’re calling to schedule your service appointment, Mr. Krishnan,” said the dealer.

“How did you know I needed service?” he asked, surprised, because he certainly didn’t initiate an appointment request.

“Your car called us,” the dealer replied.

“What do you mean my car called you?”

And that is when Krishnan found out about a unique feature his particular vehicle offers, and became rather interested in connected cars in general, from the benefits to the potential security risks.

Where We Are Headed
According to ABI Research, connected cars are a steadily growing market. Specifically in the U.S., there is 20%+ compound annual growth rate projected in the next four years, which means by 2017, the market will have tripled.

“In the same sense that radios and to a lesser degree navigation has become standard, connected cars will be standard,” said Patrick Connolly, Senior Analyst, ABI Research, to Mobile Enterprise.

However, because car technology has a more prolonged process in the development phase, (roughly six years, Connolly noted, while smartphones are generally just one), new cars by 2017 will be the ones most likely completely connected. For older vehicles on the lot, there is always the after-market navigation systems, or alternately, a driver using his or her smartphone for directions and making calls via Bluetooth.

What are the benefits? As Connolly explained, there is a potential increase in safety, from identifying problems with a car before they happen, and changing driver behavior. Likewise, an individual broken down on a freeway will have peace of mind that a call for help has already been made on his or her behalf.

There’s also the entertainment angle: more choices for passengers in the back to download movies on demand. In addition, it’s entirely possible that cars will eventually start communicating with each other on the road, to automatically maintain (or at least warn the driver) to keep a safe distance.

The Other Side
In an interview with Mobile Enterprise, Krishnan brought up the potential problems with a connected car. “Most will view it as a way to run useful / fun applications,” he said, from voice activated tweets to obtaining crowd-sourced traffic reports. “No one wants to think of it as a ‘5,000 lb. killing machine,’” he noted, but unfortunately, that is a potential scenario if hackers figure out how to manipulate the vehicle.

Krishnan explained that the service providers / auto manufacturers / software providers all have something significant to gain by a connected car. However, each party, equally, must take into account the sensitive data that exists - the personal information – and circumvent the security risks.

The market is still in its infancy but will grow, fast. “The ship is starting to sail right now,” Krishnan said, adding that service providers are on the watch-and-react mode while auto manufacturers are actively pushing the needle. GM, for example, is planning a large deployment for 2014 while the Audi S3 has just launched in Europe, the first 4G wireless car.

“The big question is, can they capitalize on the technology, applications?” Krishnan asked, noting that software is the ultimate driver for adoption. The user wants, demands, the same experience he or she obtains from a smartphone or tablet and if the connected car experience isn’t seamless, it will become frustrating instead. In other words, the driver really is in the driver’s seat.

Although it’s not immediately here for everyone, it’s also not a far-fetched vision of the future where we are asked to imagine the impossible or impractical. “In a smart everyday world, this is the next logical mobile evolution,” Krishnan said. “It’s going to happen sooner or later and we will all be a part of it.”

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