By on December 29, 2008

Google’s recent release of its Android operating system is keeping the telephones-do-everything trend alive and well. Google already supplies its Google Map data to third-party navigation developers, but Android’s open development strategy is fueling the car-phone fusion like never before. And as with all tech innovations (especially the open development kind) there are as many head scratchers as killer apps among the Android car programs previewed by the Headlight blog. One concept that makes a lot of sense is the KEI, which uses 128-bit encrypted connectivity to connect your car with your phone. KEI allows your Android-equipped phone to unlock or start your car wirelessly, with a wide range of diagnostic functions also possible down the road. Everyone loses a key at some point, so merging phone and key functions makes tons of sense. Which must be why Delphi has already previewed a similar app for the iPhone.

SugarTrip, another Android app, allows mobile users to share information about local parking and traffic conditions through the Google Maps navigation function. Of course, Sugar Trip is being marketed as a “green” application due to its congestion-fighting abilities, and (more specifically) the fact that green is hot right now, marketing-wise.

Which brings us to another, hugely useless “green app” for the guilt-wracked Android user. Known as Ecorio, this app calculates your fuel mileage and carbon output in real time, then allows you to (get this) purchase carbon offsets for your earth-destroying trip to Urban Outfitters right from your phone. I can see being motivated by paranoia to buy a key-replacing phone app, but the guilt amelioration business model just doesn’t grab me.

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5 Comments on “Google’s Paranoid Android Launches Killer Car Apps...”

  • avatar

    KEI and SugarTrip aren’t bad ideas at all. KEI has security concerns, true, but something like SugarTrip (that feeds route congestion information back) would allow for a flexible, distributed, up-to-date method for managing traffic.

    The problem in all this is that there’s a grand total of one Android handset available to consumers and it’s not exactly flying off the shelves. For something like this to work, it needs to be ubiquitous. If I were Google, I would be whoring out Android ICE integration to every manufacturer before Microsoft eats this market with SYNC.

  • avatar

    Would using SugarTrip to point out where speed traps are be an offense? Probably.

  • avatar

    @NickR: I don’t see why. There are GPS devices with speedtrap notifications built in and websites with databases of speedtraps the world over. The more power to me to fight the small town hick cop who tickets anyone rolling through his burg at .5 mph over the limit.

    On a separate note, SugarTrip would be good for someone visiting a city and needing to know where are the best places to park.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Here’s a prediction. Mobile phone / car integration is going to happen. Cars are ubiquitous, just like phones, and both fit together well.

    Your phone, in ten years or so, will tell your car to unlock the doors and allow you to start, it will tell the car how you like the interior lighting, climate, and your seating arrangement, it will store trip data and help you in traffic. Your entertainment data will be on the phone as well as your communication stuff. In addition to a load of other applications we’ll talk about when the time comes.

    Nokia knows this. Google knows that Nokia knows this. Apple is in it too, but I doubt they have the endurance. The race to the ubiquitous interface is on.

  • avatar

    Nokia knows this. Google knows that Nokia knows this. Apple is in it too, but I doubt they have the endurance. The race to the ubiquitous interface is on.

    The problem is the utter lack of standards in the mobile industry. You have Symbian (Nokia, which is an utter nightmare to code for, and not much better to use), BlackBerry (locked down), iPhone (locked down, dumbed down), Windows Mobile (How do you want to crash today?) and now Android (too early to tell).

    About the only standard, if you could call it that, is the Java MIDlet, which runs on Symbian and BlackBerry, and occasionally runs (but mostly crashes) on Windows. I’d really like to see this work, but until the respective platform makers sit down and accept that a) people don’t want phones that crash and b) people don’t want to be tied to a single platform, it isn’t going to happen.

    You need the consistent user experience of the iPhone or BlackBerry, with the openness of WM/Symbian. That’s, almost by definition, impossible.

    And once you address the platform makers, you have the carriers to deal with. Good luck with that.

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