Are Smartphones the Key to Wider Car to Car Communications?
The real money to be made in car to car communication isn’t with outfitting new cars. It’s with retrofitting old ones.
We already have car to car for non “connected cars” on a certain level. Waze is the driving and navigation platform that enables smartphones to be used as information broadcasters. The backbone of the app is the aggregator, the thing that makes sense of data coming from millions of smartphones. The individual app is the receiver, presenting traffic data from the aggregator in context with where you are.
Early in 2014, Automatic announced that iBeacon technology was coming to their OBD-II port dongle based system. Haven’t heard anything about it since, unfortunately. Theoretically, iBeacons on cars within 30 feet of each other could pass information back and forth.
These two examples represent the two paths taken so far. Smartphone or beacon. Both have advantages, and their disadvantages aren’t “deal killers.” A beacon stays in the vehicle, a smartphone can be lost or stolen. Beacons can be installed in phones, and can do most of the same things their OBD-II brethren can accomplish.
My thinking is that if you want to spur car-to-car communications even faster, build it on the smartphone. Why? It’s what we already carry with us. It can provide a foundation of information about speed, direction and location. If you want to add more value, augment the smartphone app with an OBD-II port dongle. This would allow you the ability to pull data about tire traction information (from wheel sensors), outside temperature (from the car’s outside thermometer), weather (are the wipers on or off?), and other information.
Smartphones could pass basic information off to similarly equipped phones seamlessly, as each vehicle passes the other. All cars would send this data to an aggregator for processing.
Apps like these usually fail because we humans get our ego up. Once we accomplish this, we believe that we’ve created the wheel again–and then want to keep it for ourselves. If you want to make this car to car communications app usable for more people than those who have the app, make it open source–as well as something that can be easily be integrated into existing connected car technology standards. We are learning, slowly, that giving people the tools to integrate data into their own solutions saves time, money, and results in a better new product.
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