The car is about to go social

Yesterday, I saw this tweet from Gordon Snyder:

RT @michaelgass: The Next Social Network? Your Car http://snipr.com/al9an about 8 hours ago from TweetDeck

I was very intrigued as I read the AdAge article referenced in the tweet above. It’s exciting to see Ford working on going social. The ramifications of auto makers embracing social technology are big. The car going online and social is a big part of the realization of World 2.0.

In order for car makers to do it right, they definitely need to embrace the car as platform, as API. Closed, proprietary systems are going to be barriers and not fully embraced. Open systems which acknowledge that they aren’t the center of the universe, and that people continue to exist even when they aren’t sitting in their car, will win.

Dunkin' Donuts on TomTom GPSrWhat are the possibilities for a social car? Perhaps it’s better to think of it as an online car, because social networking will not be all that it can do.

The GPS navigation system is the first step in having some car/location “awareness”. GPS with real-time traffic updates is step two. Step three is to add more/better information about the location you are in, and your friends’ locations. Imagine driving into a town that you are not familiar with, being hungry, and your GPS/social car tells you that one of your friends recommends a quaint pub five blocks away. Or that you are driving in your hometown, and your car tells you that two of your friends are in the local coffee shop nearby. In a certain sense, what I am describing is a mashup of Yelp! and BrightKite, that works in your car. And to be truly user-friendly, such a system would have to work equally well when you are out of your car, and seamlessly integrate with your smartphone of choice.

It will be critical for any development of these systems to allow the user to have exactly what information she wants displayed, as well as to allow exactly what information is given to others. If you need alone-time, you need to be able to disable the broadcasting of your location, and turn off seeing the location information of others.

With this type of convergence, we are truly on our way to World 2.0.

Similarly, I wrote about why the shared branching networks need to get their ATM and branch locations into the TomTom GPS navigation system.

More recently, I saw this exact technology implemented on an iPhone by mFoundry at last year’s Finovate NYC conference held by NetBanker. It was quite impressive to press a button to get exact location and travel instructions, as well as phone number, for the nearest bank/credit union branches. The next step for financial institutions is to have this type of technology merge with social networks/reviews and to be conveniently displayed no matter whether you are inside your car or walking outside with your smartphone.

Of course the other important factor to address in the online/wired/social/whatever car is to make sure the driver is not distracted. Right now, too many people are looking down at their smartphones, texting, trying to look at GPS information, reading their emails, blogs and tweets, while driving. If we look at car as platform for this, perhaps what makes the most sense is to plug the smartphone into the car (perhaps wirelessly via bluetooth), and have browsed web page spoken out loud, in the way that GPS navigators do. Also handy would be voice-to-text conversion so that you could respond back without taking your eyes off the road.

It’s just nice that a corporate giant such as Ford is not asleep at the wheel, and is on the road to embracing the online social landscape that so many are adopting. In addition, Ford has had the foresight to invite social media evangelist @ScottMonty to head their social media team.

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5 Responses to “The car is about to go social”

  1. Scott Monty Says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, Morriss. Actually, the Ford SYNC system is very close to what you’re suggesting. Thanks to SIRIUS Satellite TraveLink, you can get real-time updates of traffic and gas prices, sports scores, movie times & locations, news and more.

    The social networking elements are months – not years – away from being a reality. And we recognize the importance of an open platform for making this happen. As we continue to develop the SYNC system, I’m confident that we’ll be able to activate enthusiasts to develop additional features.

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company

  2. Morriss Partee Says:

    @ScottMonty Sounds awesome. Feel free to add links to more info about this stuff! Glad that they have you on board to keep it real!

  3. Jeffry Pilcher Says:

    I want to be able to send tweets to people using the license plate numbers on their cars.

    To the driver of @KTH-369, you know why…

    😉

  4. Morriss Partee Says:

    @JPilcher HAHAHAHAHAHA that’s too funny! Great thought.

  5. louis dipitr Says:

    I agree with you on this “Of course the other important factor to address in the online/wired/social/whatever car is to make sure the driver is not distracted.”

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