NEW YORK: By 2022 research and consultancy firm ABI Research forecasts that that there will be over 300 million smart homes around the world and over 500 million connected cars on the road, and automakers are already realising the importance of integrating with one of the dominant tech firms’ nascent connected home platforms, before they become mainstream.
Car companies are often accused of dragging their feet when it comes to adopting new technologies or reacting to trends, but that can’t be said about their realisation about the synergies between a connected car and a connected home.
For example, way back in 2014, Mercedes launched a feature for its cars that communicated with the Nest smart thermostat so that the car’s position in relation to its driver’s home would automatically instruct the thermostat to turn up or down the heat or activate the air conditioning.
But three years on, Google, Amazon and Apple are all moving firmly into the smart home space with voice-activated assistants that can do everything from answer a query regarding the weather to ensuring the oven is turned off, the lights in the garage are on and that a delivery of new diapers is imminent. However, each works on a very different digital platform and car companies are having to pick their technological partner wisely.
“Extending smart home voice control into the connected vehicle is part of an ongoing integration that will pull together home and vehicle personalization,” said Jonathan Collins, Research Director at ABI Research. However, Collins points out, by teaming up with either Amazon or Google, car companies who traditionally like to keep everything in-house, will be losing some of the control they currently have over the types of in-car technologies and their capabilities that go into their vehicles. “That means Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) will have to select partnerships and technology suppliers that can best support the widest integrations.”
BMW, Ford, Nissan, Hyundai and Mini have already adopted Amazon as a connected home partner enabling users to check on things like their car’s fuel levels, climate control settings or battery charge levels from the comfort of their living room sofa. All they have to do is ask Amazon’s Alexa and get a vocal response.
Ford has already embedded Amazon Alexa into its new cars’ dashboards and BMW is poised to follow suit so that drivers will be able to speak to the smart assistant while behind the wheel, asking about traffic and weather conditions.
But this is just the start, according to ABI. As the car becomes a mobile second hub of the smart home, other features will start to come to the connected car dashboard, from navigation and insurance services to health advice and even multimedia entertainment for passengers.
As exciting as this sounds, ABI believes that the fact that there are currently very few if any shared technological standards between any of the big tech companies, a car company choosing to adopt one company’s services over those of another could see them and their clients locked into a walled garden ecosystem that is potentially incompatible with elements in their smart home.
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