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In the past year, many car manufacturers, including BMW, Ford, and Toyota, have made it possible for a car to make use of a smart phone’s Internet connection, enabling the car to use Web radio services like Pandora. But no carmaker has yet developed a security app like Intel’s.

Dominique Bonte, an analyst who specializes in connected-car technology at ABI Research, says Intel’s approach is promising. If it finds favor with multiple manufacturers, it would be easier for software developers to write applications that could be used on many different vehicles, just as different Android phone models can use the same apps. However, he notes, drivers shouldn’t count on their car always being able to contact them. “There are big gaps in mobile coverage across the U.S., especially the high-bandwidth coverage needed for video,” he says.

A recent survey by ABI showed that safety and security features were the most popular connected-car technologies among consumers, suggesting that Intel might be on to something with its proof-of-concept security app. But Bonte thinks that, as car manufacturers make it easier to build apps for their vehicles, less serious apps will also take off. “We found entertainment to be the fastest growing category,” he says. He predicts that the market for in-car apps will mimic the market for phone apps, and will be similarly dominated by music and games.

One big challenge for such technology is that driver attention is constrained, says Bonte. “Car manufacturers are investing a lot in speech technology and are also starting to look at ideas like heads-up displays [which layer information onto the windshield] and gesture recognition,” he says. Such technologies could potentially address the driver attention problem.

Lortz says finding ways to introduce computer interfaces into cars, where they haven’t traditionally appeared, is something Intel’s researchers are focusing on. One example is their attempt to make it easy for drivers to securely link an app with a vehicle. Lortz and his colleagues’ solution is to have a car display a bar code on its dashboard. When a smart phone reads the code, it is instructed to download the app and authenticate with that vehicle only. Phones with short-range wireless data transfer technology—like that used by Google Wallet—can do the same when tapped on a car’s dashboad.

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Credit: Intel

Tagged: Computing, Intel, apps, smart phones, car technology

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