When Victor Lortz’s phone buzzes, it may not be just an e-mail or text message. He gets updates from his car, too. Anytime something hits or shakes his parked Infiniti sedan with significant enough force, an app on his smart phone lets him know, and streams live video from the vehicle.
Lortz is a senior research scientist at chipmaker Intel’s research labs in Santa Clara, California. He’s working on a project that connects the electronics inside a car to the Internet, so that mobile apps can provide a car owner with updates on his vehicle when the two are apart.
The system developed by Lortz and colleagues at Intel involves installing a custom circuit board with Atom mobile processors (the type used in some notebook computers). That board interfaces with the car’s electronics, and connects the car to a cloud server over a mobile network.
Intel researchers have developed apps for Android and Apple phones to make use of this new connectivity; they can access data from the car and also send commands to it. The apps can be used for simple things, for example, opening the car door or starting the vehicle, as well as for more sophisticated tasks, like sending an alert and streaming video when the car’s motion sensors or alarm are triggered. The owner can view the live feed immediately, but the video is also archived in the cloud so it can be viewed later.
“The idea of being notified when something happens to your car has a lot of appeal,” says Lortz. “It’s something that’s just not possible today.”
Intel is also considering how a car with the system could share data on the car’s performance with the manufacturer. A person’s driving behavior could also, conceivably, be shared with insurers or local transportation authorities. “We’re looking at how you could collect that without compromising the privacy of the driver,” says Lortz.
When designing an embedded system choosing which tools to use often comes down to building a custom solution or buying off-the-shelf tools.