Build Newsletter: Connected Car Dominates #MWC16

February 25, 2016 Gregory Chase

sfeatured-buildAs Mobile World Congress wraps up, it is no surprise to us at Pivotal that the automotive industry grabbed the lionshare of attention. Having had the privilege of working with many of the car companies there to transform to digital innovators (check out some of our under-the-hood stories with Ford, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and how our data science team is pushing this area forward), it is clear to us that auto manufacturers are banking on transforming the car into a mobile PC and OS to reshape the consumer experience, and reshuffle market share.

After MWC, the world has a good look at how significant these changes are, and how fast it’s happening. Most of the changes are things we have come to expect from any app platform—they are building an app store for it, connecting it to the cloud, capturing petabytes of data from it, and running data science algorithms on it. Using existing ports and new technologies, the “car-puter” offers 255 million more places for developers to run software in the U.S. and over 1 billion places worldwide. It’s kind of a is a big deal. So it makes sense the tech and car industries are overlapping more and more, and the automotive and telecom industries joined up at MWC to talk about overcoming the remaining barriers of connectivity, standards, and security.

To that point, this week’s BUILD Newsletter covers all things automotive from #MWC16 in Barcelona:

Samsung made a splash, entering an already crowded market with their Connect Auto dongle. The device plugs into the OBD II port, like in our “now famous” connected car demo from 2014. With it, data streams over 4G LTE to provide real-time GPS, travel logs, usage-based insurance, and more. Importantly, they seem to have taken an ecosystem approach.

On the far end of the R&D spectrum, BMW showcased their Vehicular Crowd Cell, which turns cars into digital communications networks, boosting existing cell signals for mobile connectivity. But, this also seems like a channel to allow cars to communicate with each other to avoid collisions.

In the retail car buying experience, Fiat Chrysler showcased its use of the Google Project Tango technology to help consumers explore cars. While a prototype, the app allows consumers to look around the outside and inside of a virtual car and configure it on the fly. This can certainly have an impact on all the showroom floors out there in the world of dealerships.

In car-related ad-tech, xAd was there to sell location based ads. At first, this may sound trite, but they power ads in 70,000 mobile apps, reach 300 million global users, and have data on 100 million locations. With their tech, advertisers can zero in on very specific car buying behaviors—like people who have walked into a car dealership in the last 90 days.

For developers wondering which automotive platform to build for first, Ford may have captured the most attention in this race to date. Ford’s SYNC 3 is coming into its own as a true platform, and here is what is included—an 8-inch touch screen, the SYNC AppLink app store, support for voice commands like, “I need gas,” integration with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and new apps like MyBoxMan (earn money for delivering packages) and HearMeOut (voice-recording entry point to all social media). Their CEO also said they will triple investments in new technologies that lead to self-driving cars, and their news release on Automotive World highlighted the driver-assist technology that is now available. Lastly, Ford launched FordPay for mobile payments last month. This is part of the greater FordPass platform, which we were hired to help make a reality.

Volvo showcased a mobile app that you use to unlock the doors and start your car, which didn’t sound that compelling at first. However, they foresee the technology extending to rental cars and even a car-sharing economy.

Lastly, Nissan presented the new LEAF with a new version of their infotainment system.

If you are wondering how to build a connected car system from open source software, here is an overview and a bunch of code to get you started.

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