The Internet of Cars: How IoT is Impacting the Mobile Workforce

“The Internet of Things” (IoT) is the network of physical objects embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity collecting and exchanging data – or in layman’s terms, the growing number of everyday objects that we have connected to the web, including: watches, thermostats, glasses, televisions, speakers, microwaves, light-switches, and everything in between. IoT quickly became one of 2015’s most popular buzzwords, and yet, according to Mckinsey, the potential for IoT to impact our society and our wallets is even greater than the hype.

So, how does IoT impact the mobile worker? Well, look no further than the rapidly developing IoC or “The Internet of Cars”.

The Connected Car: The 1960’s to Today

While the IoC is a relatively new concept, connecting our cars to the internet is not. Since the mid 1960’s, the auto industry has been experimenting with new ways to enhance the driving experience through better connection to information.

As early as 1966, General Motors created the Drivers Aid, Information and Routing or DAIR technology – an early version of OnStar technology which attempted to provide drivers with all the information they would need on the road directly through their GM vehicle. DAIR could send emergency messages from cars to service centers, release automatic messages on road conditions, detect signs and road hazards with an exterior detector, and even provide a system that guided drivers along a specified route without a map.

It didn’t work that well – requiring magnets buried beneath the road every 3-5 miles and roadside communication modules – leading to an early demise. However, the idea for the connected car was seeded, and ever since then, technology has rapidly been catching up.

In 1996, as soon as military Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies were made available to civilians, GM released OnStar and along with it the first truly connected cars. A phone was embedded in every vehicle which communicated wirelessly to a telematics service. Then, in the 2000’s the rise of smartphones enabled the rise of “infotainment applications” for vehicles. For the first time, software companies could make applications for a driver’s “brought-in phone” rather than having to work with automakers to embed them directly into the vehicle, thus enabling new and varied connected capabilities. This was the first technology that could not only connect cars to information, but could also connect cars to their user’s out-of-vehicle life.

Today, the connected car is on the verge of another leap in innovation as our technology once again catches up to the needs of the consumer and the ideas of innovators coming from both automakers and Silicon Valley. At the crux of this next stage of connected car technology is the Internet of Things. Our cars and our phones won’t just be connected to outside data and information, but will connect to each other as well as to all manner of wearables, smart-home devices, sensors embedded in the vehicle itself, and even to our infrastructure, which will communicate with our vehicles through V2X integration.

The IoC and the Future

What can you expect out of your vehicle in the next few years? How will the IoC change the way you drive and do business?

Look no further than the recent investment of $500 million in Lyft by General Motors on top of their investment in 4g connectivity or the launch of FordPass and a suite of new Ford programs focused on the connected car. Automakers are racing to unveil new digital services and autonomous driving features. Whether it is a race they can win against forces outside of the traditional auto-industry, like Google and Apple, remains to be seen.

As the competitive ROI decreases on standard vehicle components, the value of digital capabilities rises, and the autonomous car looms on the horizon. Automakers are trying to position themselves as not just automakers, but as technology companies providing mobility services. This transition is toppling the “walled garden” of embedded vehicle software and moving towards a more open-source vehicle where the door will be open to new software and technologies entering our vehicles as automakers partner with developers, businesses, and even other automakers.

Fleet managers and mobile workers stand to benefit from this transition to more open-source vehicles. Businesses are already using a variety of different technology services to drive efficiency in their business, cut costs, and make their lives easier, and the IoC will further advance these capabilities. For fleet managers, the IoC will mean a more direct connection to vehicles, enabling them to more effectively monitor their fleet and drivers’ health, safety, and efficiency. For mobile workers, it will mean their vehicle is more directly connected to them and the exterior world, providing drivers with key info for a safe and timely drive, and helping to drive productivity through time-saving applications.

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