Cars get connected, and talkative

Upstart Augmentation Industries and Deutsche Telekom both want to take advantage of a myriad of onboard computers

Connected cars are big at this year's Cebit trade show, with driverless cars and products to communicate with the vehicle' onboard computers on display, but cooler apps are needed for the sector to really take off.

The first step on the connected car journey is getting cars hooked up to the Internet. While manufacturers have started integrating 4G mobile broadband, it will take a long time before a majority of cars have integrated mobile broadband connections.

For people who can't or don't want to use their smartphone as a hotspot, Vodafone Germany has launched an LTE and Wi-Fi hotspot that's powered by the car's cigarette lighter. The operator has started an endurance test in Berlin, where selected taxi drivers are using the product, Vodafone said.

The next step is to use the connection. At Cebit, Deutsche Telekom presented a retrofit kit for cars that transmits vehicle status information to the driver's smartphone as well as to his or her car dealer. An adapter is plugged into the on-board diagnostics system to access data such as mileage, battery voltage and brake status via Bluetooth to an app on the driver's smartphone.

The app also sends the data to servers hosted by Deutsche Telekom's T-Systems unit, which analyzes the information and transmits relevant results to dealers. They can, in turn, use the app's message function to send tailored offerings.

It isn't just big car manufacturers and telecom operators that are into this burgeoning sector. German Augmentation Industries participated in the Code_n startup contest at Cebit, where the company showed its Mobile Assisted Driving system, which aims to take advantage of data from on-board computers.

The company has also developed a unit that can be plugged into the on-board diagnostics system and collect information from the the 50 to 60 small computers that produce data. The information is sent to a back-end system or an app via Wi-Fi and the cellular connection on a smartphone or a mobile hotspot, CEO and founder Alexander Marten said.

The system would be a good fit for fleet management, used by leasing companies and logistics companies to keep track of cars, according to Marten. For the ordinary car owner it becomes easier to keep track of the car's status, thanks to the app's ability to translate complex error codes into something that's easy to understand, he said.

Next year Augmentation Industries is aiming to add the ability to make so-called eCalls, which are intended to bring rapid help to cars anywhere in the European Union after an accident.

The system comprises open APIs and an SDK that will allow developers to use data from the car in their apps. Just like popular apps have helped sell hundreds of millions of smartphones, Marten hopes developers will do the same for connected cars, he said.

The product will start shipping in June and cost between €60 (US$83) to €70. The app will be available for Android and iOS. The company is also hoping to someday put out a version with 3G as well, a product that today would be too expensive, according to its estimates.

These days every trade show also needs a demonstration of a driverless car. At the Cebit opening ceremony, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn demonstrated a prototype dubbed James 2025. The demonstration showed how the driver can take part in a video conference while travelling on a smart highway. The driver hands over control to the car by simultaneously pushing two buttons on the steering wheel.

Getting driverless cars on the road is a big technical and marketing challenge. A new survey commissioned by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the U.K. reveals that 56 percent of those polled don't want to relinquish the controls of their car, compared to just 20 percent of those who would.

Older people were the most skeptical -- only 13 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds backed the idea, compared to 31 percent of people aged 25 to 34.

Manufacturers also must convince car buyers they or partners aren't invading their privacy. Winterkorn expressed his concerns, saying that manufacturers need to be as responsible about the use of personal data as they are about driver and passenger safety.

Winterkorn called for self-regulation based on common standards on data privacy used by all manufacturers.

Send news tips and comments to

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags wirelessNetworkingtelecommunication3g4gcebitWLANs / Wi-FiVolkswagenVodafone GermanyAugmentation Industries

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >




Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?