The Connected Car 101: Introduction to the Smart Car

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been around in the tech world for a while, but is fast making itself known to consumers with the surge in new, connected technology products. The world is taking off in leaps and bounds from the foundation of smart phones and tablets to now include wearables – a new word that is a certain addition to the next Merriam & Webster’s – such as Google Glass and wearable smart watches.

The health and wellness industry has been taken by storm with products like FitBit that are on the forefront of the IoT. This wearable device collects dozens of data points throughout the day including the number of steps you take, how long you sleep and your heart rate. It then puts all the collected data in one place, allowing the user to analyze it. Another area seeing rapid change is the personal home. More houses than ever are becoming connected homes, or smart homes, with products like Nest, the world’s first learning thermostat that programs itself and helps consumers to save energy by easily analyzing their usage.

Furthering our connectedness, the car is now getting its turn in the developer spotlight with a full slate of new products for vehicles. Recently, at the Global Mobile Internet Conference held in China, smart cars and smart car accessories made a strong and notable showing, proving to be a popular draw.

What is a smart car?

Like wearables and smart homes, a smart car is all about data and how it can be used to improve everyday life. There is a wealth of data in your car’s onboard computer that, until now, was only used by auto technicians. With new smart car technology this data is being given a completely new life.

There are currently two ways to turn your newer car into a smart car: an app on your smart phone or using a small plug-in device along with an app. For instance, using your phone only you can simply download an app and turn your phone into a tracking device via GPS. But, you can gather more specific data about your vehicle and your driving using a small device that plugs into your car’s data port. These devices are changing the way manufacturers, government and consumers are viewing time spent in the car.

In fact, the government recently ran the Apps for Vehicles Challenge. Dash, winner of the Judge’s Prize, is a device that collects hundreds of data points from the vehicle sensors while at the same time gathering data from across the internet to make your car, and you as the driver, smarter and safer.

Social driving and the Connected Car

With a smart car, driving is no longer just maneuvering a machine. Connected or quantified car technology is bringing the world of social networking into the vehicle to create social driving. Social driving is not simply receiving Facebook updates while you’re on the road or playing your Pandora playlist. Social driving encompasses the whole driving experience from weather conditions, road and traffic conditions and even social data like the cheapest gas closest to your current location. Everything you need or want to know can all be served up in one app, while driving.

In addition, the competition is heating up between big name players like Google and Apple for space on the dashboard. Both companies have partnered with major automakers to integrate Android and iOS with existing manufacturer’s infotainment systems. Harman’s Aha Radio is a more open approach that supports both Android and iOS, freeing car makers from having to make the choice, and now comes as an option all 2015 Subaru models. Whatever the approach, drivers will reap the benefits of a connected car by having familiar and easy access to their media and data through the dashboard.

Data is king these days and advances in gathering data are moving at light speed. The challenge now is for consumers to catch up. Consumers are beginning to learn how to use all of this information about their world without becoming overloaded or overwhelmed, and being a competitive species, the more they learn the more they seem to like the ability to alter their own behavior and improve their data. FitBit data is making people healthier, Nest data is making our homes more energy efficient, and the connected car is simply the next step in the evolution of personal data.