The 2018 version of Counterpoint’s Internet of Things Tracker provides a set of bold statistics on the rapid growth of connected vehicles. 

  • The global connected car market is expected to grow 270% by 2022 with more than 125 million connected passenger cars having embedded connectivity to be shipped during 2018-2022.
  • In Europe, major economies including Germany, UK, France, and others are expected to reach nearly 100% connected car penetration by 2020.

This rapid increase has been driven by consumer demand for the benefits of connected vehicles. It is supported by an improving connectivity landscape and favorable regulation. For example, European eCall functionality is mandatory in all new vehicles sold after April 2018. 

This rise in connectivity has allowed innovators to think more broadly about the roles of vehicles in our lives. The best start with a human need and then consider how this need could be delivered through vehicles and the services and infrastructure with which they connect.  This has led to a wide range of cool services such as the Volvo and General Motors collaboration with Amazon to deliver parcels to your vehicle, or the Nomi humanoid within the HMI (Human Machine Interface) of Nio’s electric car that takes selfies as you drive.

Inevitably these conversations come back to the smart phones in our pockets and the role that apps play in the connected ecosystem. At Star, we work with OEMs and other mobility innovators to develop connected applications and platforms. For others interested in this space, we want to share some of the key insights and lessons we learned along the way.

Business outcomes & customer insight 

Connected applications provide a broad range of benefits to the user. Key among these is increased involvement and a more immersive car ownership experience. On the other hand, connected applications create stronger bridges not only between the customer and the car, but between the OEM and customer as well. Perhaps the biggest benefit of all is that connected applications provide a massive source of truth about customer behavior and everyday habits, from driving frequency to understanding their unmet needs and potential demand. Producers can use apps to communicate to their customers by launching new features, providing news, or involving their customers in research to create a better user experience. 

Design of applications to match the brand and interior

For 10 years we have been delivering design projects in automotive. We understand that application look and feel is crucial. But it’s not only about flawless user experience and a stunning UI, the companion app should be a natural extension of the car, providing holistic experience during driving, car service and app usage. Connected car apps can also be used for communicating brand identity, a new company mission and values and even rebranding. Finding the right balance within the application look and feel is an important and challenging endeavor.

connected vehicle service

Work within architecture constraints 

As with any other software product, making the right architectural choices early are critical. Car companion apps, being an IOT application by nature, face a list of challenges caused by the two-way interaction between the app and the real world object – a car. The standard approach of having a server between a user’s mobile phone and the connected car causes issues such as connectivity drops on both sides and communication delays. These issues should be addressed both technically and in the UX, to provide a car owner with a flawless and as close to real-time experience as possible. Another challenge is to think through the handling of all emergency and warning situations, where car owners should be clearly informed about what is happening and provided with a clear set of instructions for what to do in each situation.

Leverage third-party services

There has never been a better time for mobility innovation.  Wherever you look in the mobility value chain, there are interesting companies developing new services. In the process of developing companion applications, it’s important to take a look at what’s out there and determine if it’s a good fit for your offer. This could be core components such as maps and navigation, or additional services such as parking, charging or content.  It could even be interactions with infrastructure or other mobility options. Once you’ve identified compatible services, thorough commercial and technical due diligence is needed to make sure the service will deliver and at a price point that protects the value of the feature. 

Design for security 

A connected application is not only a secondary set of car keys, but is also potentially capturing sensitive information about your day-to-day itinerary. The OWASP community did a great job researching mobile and web application security issues and providing a list of clear guidelines for software development focusing on security. Typical areas the OWASP guidelines address are: access to the application; storing and manipulating sensitive data; data protection during transfer; protection against brute-force attack; and, hacking. An additional exercise we recommend during development of an application is the completion of “threat modelling”. This is the activity of brainstorming all possible negative cases to make sure that all risks are mitigated within the app architecture, and implemented security features and OWASP guidelines are followed. To read more of our thinking on cyber security for connected vehicles, check out this post.

As a final thought, the most interesting trend in the automotive industry at the moment, is the shift from a timeline driven by the vehicle build cycle to a continuous delivery mindset more common in software companies. This means wherever you are on your connected application journey, there is always an opportunity to improve and evolve through pushing new app releases. So whether you are just starting out, or already have a product in the market, we would love to connect, discuss ideas and look for ways to create the future of mobility together.