Eva Munk reports on efforts to bring the connected car and connected home closer together.
Does the idea of your car chattering away with home entertainment systems, thermostats and even delivery services sound like the song of the future?
You’d be surprised how many are already working on it.
As of last September, Denso and Sharp are collaborating on new technologies that improve the comfort, safety and convenience of vehicles by integrating connected vehicle technologies with home electronics.
Mercedes-Benz is busy at work with Nest Labs to integrate the Nest Learning Thermostat.
Ford has partnered up with Eaton, SunPower, Whirlpool and Georgia Institute of Technology to explore ways to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions by integrating home appliances with plug-in electric vehicles.
And in February, at the Mobile World Congress, Volvo demoed a new “Roam Delivery” service that allows consumers to have their shopping delivered straight to their cars.
“By turning the car into a pickup and drop-off zone through using digital keys, we solved a lot of problems since it’s now possible to deliver the goods to persons and not to places,” says Klas Bendrik, CIO at Volvo Car Group.
And that’s just the beginning.
The future of connectivity
“Among other things, these connected cars will be able to act as a personal assistant, helping you plan your life,” says Michael Curry, vice president of product management for IBM’s Elastic Middleware Platform. “While you’re sipping your morning coffee in the kitchen, your car will tap into your home network or Cloud, check your calendar, weather forecasts and traffic updates to figure out the best route to take to work or to get your chores done — and even tell you what time you should leave.”
But it won’t be easy to bring the car and the home together, says Magnus Lundgren, strategic sales director – head of Connected Vehicle Cloud at Ericsson.“Finding the best way to connect the two is hard,” he says. “The first step is to make them both accessible from the Cloud and then to find new innovative solutions to bring these two entities together.”
There are basically two options for doing this: connecting the car directly to the home or connecting it indirectly via the smartphone or another portable device.
Aricent, a San Francisco-based engineering services and software company, has embraced the first option. Its connected car solution, which is now available on Texas Instruments’ OMAPTM 5 automotive platform, connects a car network to a home and Cloud network over LTE, allowing a driver to monitor and control his home remotely.
Apple, among many others, has embraced the second option with its iOS in the Car (newly rechristened CarPlay).
Obstacles to adoption
So why aren’t we all cooking dinner from our cars yet?
According to Egil Juliussen, principal analyst, infotainment & ADAS, IHS Automotive, it’s the house’s fault. “Home automation is a slow market,” he says. “Twenty years ago, home automation projects were controlled by PC, cost $3,000 to $5,000, and nobody could afford [them]. Now that the technology has [dropped] from thousands to hundreds of dollars, it makes a big difference.”
A dearth of connected home appliances is also a big factor. And so is the lack of crossover between the car and the home.
“There is a gap between the car and the home, and one of the reasons is that you have industries moving on very different timelines – industries with not a lot of crossover between players,” Juliussen says. “I see relatively no crossover into the home. Part of this is the ownership chain. The people who have relationships with the car are the car manufacturer in the first few years or the leasing company. They’re not the same people that you have your home services from.”
Nick Hunn, a British expert on wireless communications, agrees. “In one way they’re competing, in another they don’t really appear to understand the existence of each other because they are such a diverse market,” he says. “It’s a bit like saying your supermarket competes with your doctor. Both have an interest in you and your health, but there’s no way they’d consider themselves as competing.”
What’s more, there’s a lot of reticence of people to sign up with multiple service providers for different products, according to Juliussen.
And there is also the issue of privacy. For example, how do you resell a car that knows so much about you? “How do you disconnect all of your personalized electronics and reset the car for the new owner?” Hunn asks.
M2M to drive uptake
According to Lundgren, advances in M2M, mobile broadband and Cloud services will propel things forward, nevertheless.
He estimates that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020, and these devices will range from street lights that adjust to road conditions to shipping containers that allow fruit growers to remotely monitor their cargo and make temperature adjustments.
The connected car will be a big part of the uptake, according to Thomas M. Müller, vice president, electrical & electronics systems engineering, Volvo Car Corporation, in a presentation at Telematics Detroit 2013.
“The value of the connected vehicle is limited if you don’t connect it to anything,” he says. “Some of the connected services will be internal, but the Internet of Things is also quickly becoming a reality, and the car is a part of that. The speed and ease with which we are able to connect to external providers, services and partners will be very important going forward. This is one of the reasons why we are investing in Cloud services.
“Some of the more immediate integrations will be with third-party services such as Internet radio [and] traffic information. But we also see a range of other interesting opportunities. For instance, usage-based insurance, vehicle-to-vehicle communication and mobility solutions. … For any of these solutions to work, it’s imperative that we can connect to external partners and providers quickly and at low cost.”
(For more on the connected home, see Smart homes connect to Europe's power grid, part I , and Smart homes connect to Europe's power grid, part II .)
Eva Munk is a regular contributor to Telematics Update.
For all the latest telematics trends, check out Insurance Telematics Europe 2014  on May 6-7 in London, Data Business for Connected Vehicles Japan 2014  on May 14-15 in Tokyo, Telematics India and South Asia 2014  on May 28-29 in Bangalore, India, Insurance Telematics Canada 2014  on May 28-29 in Toronto, Telematics Update Awards 2014  on June 3 in Novi, Michigan, Telematics Detroit 2014  on June 4-5 in Novi, Michigan, Advanced Automotive Safety USA 2014  on July 8-9 in Novi, Michigan, Insurance Telematics USA 2014  on Sept. 3-4 in Chicago, Telematics Japan 2014  in October in Tokyo and Telematics Munich 2014  on Nov. 10-11 in Munich, Germany.
For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Insurance Telematics Report 2014 , Connected Fleet Report 2014 , The Automotive HMI Report 2013  and Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013 .