Friday 28 December 2012

connected car, home (and bike) m2m finally becoming reality with e-cars?

A few things have come together over 2012 to make me think the connected car is finally becoming a reality (but then next year has been the year of mobile payments since 2006...)

Firstly, earlier this year my colleague Keith, himself looking at getting an all electric car and on the subject of an "emerging apps" project for a client, suggested that electric car apps, and electric cars are finally becoming "desirable", with the app providing the knowledge gap and easing the pain of adoption.
Nissan Leaf app allows the user to see charge, start aircon, etc remotely
Some of which is the info and even "geek chic" of having an app to see the level of charge the car as, and probably more importantly to constantly have in your pocket proof that you can see of how wonderful a human being you are by being so green. No doubt the urge to occasionally tweet and post about this from said mobile also happens...
Electric vehicle parking and charging point opposite two cafes in Berkeley Sq.
The charging point in Berkeley Square in London (pronounced like Barclay if you are from a country that misspells the word colour) in Mayfair is a great perk of going electric, for now at least: drive into central London using the preference lanes, without paying congestion, parking in premium locations with free top-up of juice and a caffeine jolt for you opposite.

Secondly, I recently paid a visit to one of the Scottish and Southern Electricity (SSE) offices in Scotland, or Scottish Hydro as it is known there, precisely the Waterloo Street office in Glasgow where there is a marketing suite at shop floor level. For those who do not know, SSE is the leader by a long way in the UK in hydro and wind power generation, and so SSE have the right to boast a little about these efforts with a very well put together marketing suite where customers can walk in and even try and electric vehicle.
A visit to a showroom like this makes you want to trade in your mobile with all-you-can-eat tariff for a  car
In this showroom are a couple of blah cars (I really cannot be bothered looking them up) but there was the adorable Renault Twizzy, which will soon be joined by other e-cars people actually want, all the way up the the amazing Fisker Karma. Next to them are electric scooters, and while I am aware of the universal and long-lived appeal of the Vespa, there was nothing that got me excited in any way, neither did the e-bikes there.

Having said that, you only have to look at the audi e-bike video, especially with its associated app to ease (and tease) the change.

More real world are bikes like the specialized turbo which have gone for an integrated computer rather than an app, but we all know that people really want either their phone docked here charging, or at least in their pocket to control the device and keep it locked from reasonable levels of temptation. It would not be hard at all to add Bluetooth or wi-fi to the existing computer (the one that controls the electrics, not the display unit!) and have some smartfone goodness to check the state of your battery before you go to bed without having to brave the dark and cold of the garage...
The specialized turbo makes e-bikes a must-have, but how do you check its charge remotely?
If you are not electrified so far, Garmin or some 3rd party apps like Torque can give you a feel or getting info from your car as covered in my app blog. Anyone who is a cyclist will already have a Garmin Edge500 or Edge800 to ensure all the glory detail is captured.
Connected car made easy with Android
The final step is controlling your house, which is now well on its way from companies like lightwave rf allowing you to control your spend and lighting and heating from your armchair; even if that armchair happens to be in your local cafe or your club. As silly as this may sound, I have been using it for a while and its actually very useful, from being able to turn the lights on from your phone when you have a coffee in one hand and your breakfast in another, you plonk yourself in the sofa in the dark and turn the lighting slowly up as the caffeine seeps in, what can I say, its the little things!
Controlling your lighting by room or mood or form a far is where it is going 
So where is this going and, more to the point - why is it all coming?

  1. Well, for one, the smartfone has come of age, which for the likes of Sonos and controlling, who managed to get the early adopters with a dedicated controller, this key extra hardware and cost has gone away. 
  2. This also means one device does all, you control your car and your bike and your music and your TV and your... from one device
  3. The pain of adoption is lower - the main thing stopping the e-car is: where do I charge, where do I park, how will I know when... the answer is: its all in an app!
  4. the measure of the benefit it tangible (and if you are socially inclined, shareable) which means in simple marketing terms, that its easier to get early adopters, who in themselves market to the me-too market who in turn will promote to the mass market...
So what are we waiting for? Well some things never change; just like with convential cars - I was drawn in by a Renault Twizzy and ended up configuring a Fisker Karma - I just need to settle somewhere in the middle.