The idea of connected cars integrating with smart homes has been tossed around countless times. In fact, it’s no longer just an idea; it’s a reality. Will it succeed? Who knows? But until we have an answer, here’s everything you need to know about connected cars.
What’s In It For Us?
The convergence of connected car and smart home ecosystems was one of the hottest topics at CES2016. Experts believe that future innovations will focus on giving consumers a seamless user-experience. And for that to happen, markets will have to merge. What benefits will this bring to consumers? What groundwork is already in place? Let’s take a look.
BMW + SmartThings and IFTTT
In 2013, BMW introduced their connected car platform, ConnectedDrive Services. Earlier this year, they announced that ConnectedDrive Services will partner with SmartThings. The integration allows SmartThings users to access their home devices directly from their BMW’s (model 2013 and later) in-car display. You can do things like control devices, activate Routines, and receive alerts about what’s going on in your home. Your car’s location can also tell your SmartThings-controlled garage door to open when you are near.
BMW is also working on another project that will enhance their partnership with smart homes. The project, the BMW Connected app, has a long way to go, but is already in motion. The app integrates your car’s navigation system with your calendar and live traffic updates. It lets you call your contacts directly from the display and can even send location information to your contacts. The service runs on Microsoft Azure, which gives it the ability to learn. For example, if you go to work on weekdays at 8 am, it can put your workplace’s location on top of suggested locations in your navigator. Soon, BMW plans to add more features to the app. They might also migrate the ConnectedDrive Services app to the Connected app to lessen the clutter on your smartphone.
Another way BMW has integrated their connected car platform with the smart home is through IFTTT. IFTTT is an app that you can use to create rules for your smart home devices and apps. Rules are in the “If… then…” format. Sample BMW rules are “If BMW arrives home, turn on Hue lights” and “If you arrive home, signal Garageio to open your garage door”.
Ford + Alexa and Wink
Ford SYNC Connect is Ford’s version of connected cars. It allows users to lock/unlock, start, or locate their cars using a smartphone. Ford is working on expanding SYNC Connect’s capabilities by integrating it with the popular voice assistant, Alexa.
The integration works two-ways. When you’re home, you can tell Alexa (through Amazon Echo) to start/stop your car’s engine or lock/unlock its doors. You can also ask her details about your car, like tire pressure readings, fuel levels, charge status (for electric cars), mileage summary, or its current location. Inside the car, a voice-recognition button mounted on the steering wheel gives you access to Alexa. You can ask her for traffic and weather reports, make her play music, create a shopping list, and even access Alexa-connected devices you have at home. For instance, you can ask her to turn your lights on before you arrive home or to arm your security system as you leave for the day.
One more Ford SYNC integration is with Wink. This integration allows you to access and control your Wink devices directly from your car’s display or with voice control using Ford SYNC’s built-in voice recognition. It allows you to do things like turn lights on, lock and unlock your doors, or open the garage door. Anything you can control with your Wink app, you can control from your car.
Volkswagen + LG
Volkswagen and LG’s approach is different. Instead of integrating 2 existing platforms together, they’ve committed to building a connected car platform that will integrate with a smart home platform. However, their goals are similar to other integrations. For one, they want the connected car platform to be able to control and monitor smart home devices. They also want it to be able to deliver notifications to the driver in a safe manner. And finally, they want to develop a next-generation entertainment system.
Tesla + Your Smartphone + Car Apps
Tesla is the forerunner of connected car technology with their Model S and its uniquely large 17″ touchscreen display. It controls common functions like navigation, climate check, light control, and window control but it also has a complete web browser, infotainment features, and voice control. The display can also be loaded with apps from third-party developers. An example is Eve Connect.
Eve Connect is an app created by EVE that lets you integrate different smart home devices with your car via IFTTT. It corresponds automated actions with car-related events like leaving and arriving home. You can also get real-time notifications from your smart home device on your dashboard also through IFTTT and Eve Connect (e.g. Receive Scout Alarm alerts on the Tesla S touchscreen display).
Automatic + IFTTT
Car makers are not the only ones who can integrate cars with smart homes. There are also devices that you can plug into your car’s OBD2 that will speak to your phone via Bluetooth. These devices can make your current car connected. One example is Automatic.
Automatic connects to your car’s OBD2 (most car models built after 1996) and collects data like fuel levels, mileage, MPG, location, and advanced diagnostic of your car. It can give you analytics based on the data it retrieves, alert you if there’s anything that needs to be repaired, or help you locate where you parked your car.
Automatic converged with the smart home when they released an IFTTT channel. The channel is limited. Most of the recipes created for Automatic that are relevant to the smart home use Automatic’s location service (If Automatic is home, turn on/off smart home device).
Vinli, Mojio, and Zubie are other examples of devices you can use to make your current car connected.
Risks Of Connected Cars
Let’s not forget to address the elephant in the room—are connected cars safe? The safety debate started when car makers began manufacturing connected cars, but fuel was added to the fire when two hackers successfully hacked and controlled a Jeep using their laptop from miles away. But there’s good news: It took these two expert hackers over a year to develop a hack code for just one car brand, and they’ve been sharing their research with Chrysler to help the car company improve security. But is car hacking the only risk?
There are lots of things you shouldn’t do while driving: text, talk on the phone, play PokemonGO, take selfies, etc. And perhaps we should add adjust your home’s lighting from your car’s display panel. There are safer ways a car can control your home that doesn’t involve using its display while driving. The use of location-based rules is the most common way, and it has proven to be effective.
One day, hackers will be able to find ways of monetizing data coming from your connected car, and when that happens, it’s privacy issue hell day.
Third-Party Devices Connecting To Your OBD Port
Remember Automatic and the other third-party devices you can use to connect your car? Well, there are added risks in using them. Two years before the Jeep-exploit, the same hackers were able to take control over a Ford Escape and Toyota Prius. Admittedly, they had to be inside the cars, wiring a laptop to the OBD2 port. The question is, could other hackers possibly do the same or worse? The sad answer is yes, it is possible.
Another Way In For Thieves
Almost all connected cars are connected to a smartphone app. These apps have the ability to start your car, lock or unlock doors, or locate where you’ve parked your car. Slight risk? I’d say so.
Future Of Connected Cars & Smart Homes
As these two platforms converge, more and more features are expected to be added- features that we once thought would only exist in sci-fi movies. As exciting as that is, car makers must recognize what’s at stake. They aren’t only putting their reputations on the line, but the lives of customers as well.