Why an open platform: 8 million use cases
The problem with the automaker’s attempts to address the demand for in-car connectivity are many:
5-7 year development cycles, decades of fierce competition, corporate inertia stemming from legal departments that run numbers to minimize lawsuits and recalls, and so on. In spite of all these things, it really boils down to the fact that car companies focus on selling cars and do not think or operate like software companies, who focus on creating experiences.
Great product experiences are made up of dozens of tiny nuances iterated countless times until they can be fully realized by masses of end users, and this just isn’t possible when it comes to building cars. Once the steel is bent, it doesn’t go back. Software on the other hand, can be updated on an infinite number of devices every month, every day, every minute until the user experience is perfected. How would an automaker know what experience to focus on? Should a connected car app be built that allows drivers to track their teenage son driving their car on weekends? Automate their mileage reporting? Report on their driving behavior? What use case will satisfy the modern driver’s needs for connected driving? There are at least as many connected car applications to be invented as there are app developers out there, and this is why a solution that can be easily installed in nearly any car and is capable of supporting any use case is precisely what consumers expect.
The world is changing. And for those not keeping up, it can look like a strange, scary place. The sharing economy has emerged. People are growing accustomed to exchanging their data for discounts on car insurance, renting a stranger’s house or car, and being able to choose from a selection of the world’s best route navigation applications for free. All in a smartphone-based online marketplace where open innovation reigns supreme and the development cycle is measured in days instead of years. For carmakers whose every design is dictated by a 200-page Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards guide, this is scary indeed.
On average, Americans own 1.35 sim-card enabled smart mobile devices. Yet the car, arguably the smartest and most mobile device – and by far the most valuable, is still unable to take advantage of the endless amount of information available on the web, nor make its vast information available to the broader ecosystem of smartphones, watches, computers and surrounding automotive service providers such as parking payment companies, insurance companies, roadside assistance providers, leasing companies, retailers and so on. While the automakers can see the obviousness of mirroring the success of the smartphone by building dashboard-embedded applications or even opening up their platforms to the app developer community, they simply can’t address the tens of millions of drivers who aren’t in the market for a new car now or in the next five years. What’s more, they can’t offer the seamless experience of personalizing your connected driving experience with apps that are unique to your car ownership needs and bringing those apps with you as you move in and out of different makes and models that modern families share.
Now, the convergence of high-speed, low-cost wireless networks, the saturation of smartphones and the consumer expectation for open app marketplaces is readying the market for a device-based solution for the connected car. Mojio’s 3G+GPS cellular OnBoard Diagnostic (OBD) device and open developer platform is analogous to docking a high-power smartphone right into a car’s OnBoard computer, giving the car the entirety of the Internet, with an open API so developers can start writing apps that allow cars to talk to apps on the owner’s smartphone. It’s basically like jailbreaking your car.
While every driver has several connected car needs, from usage-based insurance, to pre-emptive roadside assistance, to disabling smartphone texting while driving, there’s only one OBD port in every car, effectively defining the market as one that necessitates an open platform.
Why this really matters
With the very real possibility of being able to connect nearly every car on the road today, the vision for the connected car can finally become a reality in a time frame that’s achievable and will cause a fundamental shift in the quality of life for society. Countless lives, hours and emissions will be saved by applications like pre-crash 911 calls, apps that gamify safe driving and simultaneously improve fuel consumption across millions of cars, adaptive cruise control for older cars and new cars alike, and so on. Car-aware applications are being built by companies we never would have guessed would ever be in the connected car space. Apps that ‘know’ when an accident is going to occur based on the series of traction control and ABS events happening in cars moments ahead, apps that generate a driver stress index on the weather channel and suggest routes with less road rage, and even apps that let drivers talk to their cars over social messaging services will be the norm. Businesses and people alike are starting to take advantage of Mojio’s open platform for car-smart applications, blurring the line between the traditional enterprise and consumer market view.
This phenomenon is important to understand as the Internet of Things emerges, which promises to deliver small gains in resource efficiency across every light bulb, every joule lost on a chip, every gallon of fuel that’s burned, and every mile driven on a set of tires. For an intensely resource-constrained future, businesses seek solutions that allow for the consumerization of Information Technology, in order to drive mass market appeal and reduce consumption overall. This is especially important for the connected car market to succeed, where 20% of US GDP is driven by all the automotive verticals dependent on the automotive industry as a whole.
In next week’s post, I’ll discuss how these smart devices are changing our behaviours and why the auto industry needs to keep up with these changing times.