This post is Part 2 of 3 in a series of reports on how new technologies in the auto industry may have an impact on alerts and warnings in the future.
In Part 1 of this series, we highlighted how cars are improving their ability to network. From Audi’s phone box to boost in-vehicle cell reception to the cars that are connecting wirelessly to the web, these connections provide pathways for data exchange. Today, let’s discuss more specifically how these in-vehicle networks can be used to enhance public response to alerts and warnings.
This August, the mobile app market hit a major milestone: 2 Million apps in the app marketplace across the four major app developers (Apple, Android, Blackberry, and Windows). Considering it only hit the 1 Million milestone in December, it has been dubbed “the fastest growing consumer segment in the history of commerce.” While some may argue that quantity vastly outweighs quality in the app marketplace, the variety does offer some new capabilities and unique challenges for the auto industry. First, the advantages:
The benefit of apps is that they can be updated using the existing mobile/Wi-Fi connection which makes it easier for vehicle capabilities to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technology. They allow drivers to literally have access to information at their fingertips without using a browser and typing in a web address. Imagine apps that could not only alert drivers during an incident, but provide them with instructions on what to do and where to go. This is technology that is available today. The limitations to using this technology are mostly human – using these apps while safely operating a vehicle. This is why, apps created for cars are generally operated using voice command instruction and text-to-speech.
Currently, there are a small number of versions available on car networks including Facebook, Twitter, and Pandora. However, as more vehicles connect to Wi-Fi, the demand for apps created with the driver in mind should increase. Companies, such as MirrorLink, allow users to connect to their smartphones through their car navigation screen and steering wheel controls and navigate the device using voice commands as well. Mercedes is also bringing Apple’s Siri voice-assisted technology along for the ride. Using an app, users can translate their iPhone screens onto their in-car navigation screens. Tomorrow, we’ll go into more detail on how the automobile industry is encouraging innovation in the vehicle app market and what the alerts and warnings community can learn from their shift in the way they do business.
There is no doubt that automobile navigation systems are getting more sophisticated with each new model that is introduced. Our mobile phones and car GPS units are now able to aggregate more data to enhance information for those who seek direction. In fact, car manufacturers are working on designing navigation systems with augmented reality in mind: the system will simulate putting arrows on the pavement outside, and flag cars ahead. By integrating alert and warning data into these systems, you can imagine a future where your navigation system will not only alert you as you approach an area where there is an active alert, but also redirect you. There are vehicle navigation systems that already recalculate directions based on real-time traffic data, so it is more about integrating alerts with the existing systems.
Sensors/Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Alerting
Sensors are being used in a variety of ways around the world, but for alerts and warnings, they are a way of removing human error and allowing technology to do the talking. For the auto industry, they see it as a way for cars to exchange information to avoid accidents, help with navigation and improve traffic flow using data standards. Some automakers are partnering with the Federal government and local and county officials to develop these standards. Key challenges to implementing this technology are the privacy issues associated with sharing this kind of data. This is very similar to the challenges social networks and credit card companies have faced with their consumers. However, once these issues are worked out sensors on vehicles could be a new source of information for emergency managers and help to avoid traffic accidents and redirect traffic during an incident. Ford is literally test driving this technology, but it could be several years before it is available.
In-vehicle networks are opening up a world of possibilities for potential apps to enhance alert and warning capabilities.
In the final part of our series, we’ll look at how the automobile industry is incentivizing third-party developers and what the alerts and warnings community can learn from their experience.
Ms. Sweeney is a senior consultant with SRA International Strategy and Performance Group who has worked in the alerts and warnings space for several years. As part of her work with the Department of Homeland Security, she has had the opportunity to engage federal, state, and local agencies; the private sector; and academic institutions to improve alerts and warnings. She is currently working to envision what alerts and warnings will look like in the next 5-10 years. Previously, Ms. Sweeney worked in marketing for a consumer products start-up and Fortune 500 company.