Connected Car Commerce: Our Perspectives on The Past, Present & Future

The economy of car apps has risen from a meager market in 2007, to $68 billion in 2013.

In most countries, drivers and passengers carry their digital lives into their vehicles by carrying their personal phones or devices with them. Increasingly, more applications can now share the device screen with the car's dashboard, but exclusive automotive applications are still missing. What might change to make the car experience an integral part of your digital lifestyle? Apps that run in the car’s head unit may begin to emerge. Vision Mobile 2014 says that the number of cars that can interact with car-apps are a small minority.

The successful deployment of an in-car electronics strategy will require collaboration between numerous stakeholders, including OEMs, suppliers, service providers, developers, and government. We need to have a look at the costs of R&D and integration vs. benefits to consumers & key stakeholders to bring this Internet-of-Things wave into the vehicle. The capabilities of applications that can be built are quite mind-boggling, but where is the money going to come from to fund what can be a seemingly never-ending cycle innovation, with no guarantee of consumer adoption and profitable monetization? Remember the text-to-speech companies that were selling custom in-car hardware to allow you to read email hands-free? Exactly!

Let’s get more practical. Does the car come with NFC? Maybe. Can I tap my phone on the car to open the door? Coming soon! Can I pay for products and services in the car using my phone? Yes, well…maybe if you have a secure element in your NFC phone that has been provisioned to work with your carrier’s proprietary wallet (revised, yes, Softcard is no more, but the OS platforms still hold the keys - pun unintended), which is accepted in the embedded POS in your car’s dashboard, and you have also provisioned the connectivity of the car with a data contract from a carrier.

If it’s not NFC, it could be some other enabling technology that will help to make your car a payment device that pays for tolls (we already use wireless tags for that), for drive-thru takeaways, and for shopping online; the possibilities are endless. This is not sci-fi, in some places such an infrastructure is already beginning to come into play.

Visa Inc., Pizza Hut, and Accenture have announced that they are working together to develop a proof-of-concept connected car to test mobile and online purchases on the go. The connected car is expected to feature Visa Checkout (Visa’s online payment service), cellular connectivity, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and work in tandem with beacon technology deployed at Pizza Hut restaurants to alert staff when the customer has arrived and is ready to pick up the order. The integration of these technologies is being managed by Accenture. Visa demonstrated this connected car commerce at this year’s Mobile World Congress.

NXP Semiconductors has come up with a proof-of-concept connected car that makes use of long-range RFID tags and NFC to help drivers access and pay for services. The concept car, designed by Rinspeed, would also let the driver unlock doors and set mirror positions, radio stations, temperature, and seat settings by placing their smartphone in an NFC and wireless charging pad at the front of the vehicle.