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21 Jan

App-solutely Possible

The largest piece of mobile electronics that we own—the car—is getting connected--a concept which isn’t new, but is now getting a big push because the smartphone is paving the way. The adoption of apps may now make this a mainstream reality sooner than anticipated.

Out at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), there was a whirlwind of activity with an unprecedented eight car makers and over 100 automotive tech companies who not only had command of the show floor, but also the attention of the media.

One of the big stories and a key push at the show was automakers recognizing the next step in the evolution of in-car computing as they announced they would open up their closed ecosystems and begin reaching out to Web developers to design in-vehicle applications.

With an app-driven infotainment system, consumers could update or change their car’s head unit frequently.

Both General Motors (with MyLink) and Ford (with AppLink) said during CES that they will provide software development kits so designers create new apps for infotainment.

Driving everything is the explosive growth of the smartphone. According to some industry research, there are already more than 1 billion smartphone users, a number that could double by 2015.

“Opening the car to developers gives consumers a direct voice and hand in the creation of apps that can help our products remain relevant, up to date and valuable to our customers,” said Hau Thai-Tang, vice president of engineering, Ford Global Product Development.

GM said it plans to offer a catalog of app options from which customers can choose for their vehicle's infotainment system, beginning with 2014 models.

Four possible apps include those from iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Slacker Radio and the Weather Channel.

And, of course, Ford and GM aren’t the only ones interested in third-party app development.

The Connected Car Consortium (CCC), which now has over 80 percent of the world’s automakers as part of its organization, created a global standard for smartphone and in-vehicle connectivity called MirrorLink.

MirrorLink, which replicates a smartphone screen on an in-vehicle infotainment system’s screen, can be customized to fit the look and design of each car. It allows mobile developers to design mobile apps that work in an infotainment system without having to learn an entirely new platform.

In fact, the CCC is moving things forward by hosting the world’s first MirrorLink DevCon, February 26, 2013, a day-long program that will bring mobile app developers together with members of the connected car universe. It is to be held at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Also on the scene is Livio Connect which creates a “car mode” for app developers At CES, Livio introduced freemium pricing for app developers at CES in an effort to expand beyond music apps for 2013 and the future.

Last modified on Monday, 21 January 2013 15:03
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