Saturday, October 18, 2014

Connected Cars and Cameras on Dashboards

So I am definitely not the authority when it comes to connected cars. I'm pretty good at building wireless networks for municipalities, enterprises and businesses, but when it comes to the carrier stuff and building out a national network that's not really my expertise. The reason I preface this blog post with that is because I'm curious about the connected car.



On a recent drive from Houston, Texas down my hometown of McAllen, I saw a Ford Mustang with GoPro attached on the dashboard and two more cameras on the front of the car above the headlights. As anyone who's ever surfed the Internet knows, that is not an uncommon sight in Russia or any Eastern European country. Why? I dunno. You can scour YouTube and find videos from dashboard cams from all over Eastern Europe. However that doesn't necessarily seem the case of United States.

So what I started thinking about was this: if that GoPro was connected via Wi-Fi to the vehicle, and then out to the web, what opportunity would that open up for someone like, say, the insurance companies? Take that Flo. As more connected cars get introduced into the marketplace, specifically talking about GM's announcement to have 33 models all with 4G service, what kind of applications are we going to find for Broadband in the vehicle?

At CTIA's Super Mobility Week this year there were tons of examples of what you could do with the connected car. The CTO of Tesla motors talked about sending suspension updates down to the vehicle so that the car ran smoother and more efficiently for example. But I wonder how other people are really going to start using this type of connected technology to do things with cars that we haven't even thought of yet; and again, I am not a voice from the connected car manufacturing community, or a wireless carrier that serves up LTE across the continent, but I'm just a nerd trying to figure out different ways that I would use broadband.

With specific regard to the concept that I was just talking about, I can't imagine how awesome that would be for the insurance company to have cameras mounted into the bumpers an sides of the vehicle with a small DVR in the vehicle. It could not only be recording video and imagery, letting you review what happened, when it happened, how it happened, but when combined with all of the other sensor data on the vehicle including GPS imagine how that's going to make life easier for insurance adjuster?! If you're in an accident they don't have to wait to determine who's fault it was based on the police report, they can review the on-board sensors and on-board video to immediately figure out who was involved and how the accident took place.
When some developer of a connected "black box" for vehicles starts to push this out the insurance agent, I would not be surprised if it became standard equipment on every vehicle that goes off the lot.

I have a friend that sells used cars and he does something similar, not only to track his cars but also to have a killswitch so that when a payment is not made they can disable the car, grab the GPS location and go out to the site to pick up the vehicle. There was just an article published about this and circulated nationally where both sides of the argument came out in force.

If vehicles now have broadband connectivity built into them and it can be leveraged to support things like that on a much larger scale, as well as all of the sensor data, pushing firmware updates to braking system, etc. I think it could definitely impact that entire industry in ways we have yet to see or even imagine. When wireless took off, first with wireless cable, then the WISPs, then the muni broadband phase, and the overall proliferation into everyone's home and offices we saw this happen. Every PowerPoint slide had the "If you build it they will come" tagline. We saw connectivity being used for so many different things that we never thought of ... for whatever reason. Nest? Really? But what a great application. Imagine this "new" frontier. It's gonna be pretty exciting!

Anyhow, those are just my random thought about this subject, but I think we should really start to think about where this is going to lead the car industry not just from a connectivity standpoint and ability to watch SpongeBob SquarePants on a road trip, but how this is going to benefit every different level of business in automotive industry. I'm looking forward to the innovation.

As with all of my posts, thank you for taking the time to read this random string of thoughts and I hope you have a great week!

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