The last few years have seen an unprecedented rise in popularity of smart home technology, and it’s really no big surprise. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to turn off their coffee pot from their smartphone or make sure their door is locked while they’re on vacation? Just five years ago, few would’ve anticipated 30 billion connected household devices would be in use by 2020.
Given this incredible boom in popularity, everyone’s looking for ways to jump on the smart home bandwagon—automakers included. In 2016, Americans drove a staggering 2.4 trillion miles. That makes our cars de-facto extensions of our homes, so it’s no surprise most of us feel we spend nearly as many waking hours behind the wheel as we do in our houses. Because we rely on our vehicles just as much as (or maybe even more than) our household goods, automakers are now looking for ways to capitalize on the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution.
What’s On the Market Today?
Given that the rise in IoT popularity has happened so quickly, connected car tech is keeping up with the pace pretty well. Several solutions are already on the market.
Many major automakers have already integrated personal assistant technologies into their vehicles. Amazon’s AI assistant, Alexa, has made her way into select models from Ford, Nissan and BMW. In 2018, Toyota—the world’s largest automaker—is expected to incorporate Alexa’s abilities into some of its models. This technology has the ability to control more than 1,000 different home devices through the Home Skills API, which means you may soon be able to order grocery deliveries from Whole Foods while preheating the oven…all from the comfort of your Prius.
Several other solutions from Apple and Android (among others) have already been integrated into some vehicle models. One thing is clear: These capabilities usher in a new era of connective technology, where you can accomplish many household tasks from your car, or even complete vehicle tasks like checking the maintenance schedule or warming up your car, all from the comfort of your home.
Luxury car brands have recently introduced dashboard-based smart home management tools to help integrate your home into your vehicle even more seamlessly. These in-car bells and whistles can not only open your garage door automatically when you’re within range, but they also enable you to see who’s home at any given moment, and even manage your smart home devices from behind the wheel.
Perhaps the most exciting part of these integrations is that they also give you the same mobile management capabilities for your car that you enjoy with your smart home appliances. Want to keep track of your car’s location? Check. Unlock your car doors (and avoid a call to the locksmith)? You got it. Turn on the air conditioning? Easy. With connected car technology, you can perform all of these functions right from your mobile device.
Where Are We Headed?
It’s predicted that 94 million connected cars will hit the market by 2021. In just a few short years, the majority of drivers may have cars capable of communicating with their homes.
Automakers and tech companies are forming partnerships like never before in the hopes of satiating the desire for home and auto automation. Volkswagen and LG recently partnered to bring together connected cars and smart homes (though their specific plans remain vague).
Honda has gone even a step further by creating its own smart home concept that actually produces more electricity than it uses. It does this in hopes of providing an electricity surplus with which homeowners can charge their electric vehicles. All of this is controlled by a central “brain” that distributes energy smartly throughout the home.
While this concept doesn’t necessarily allow a driver to control their smart home devices while driving their cars, it does represent a shift in thinking on the part of car manufacturers—they’re now trying to create a world where cars are simply an extension of the home, and both the home and the car get smarter when they work together.
The more connected our cars become, the more mobile our home-management abilities will become. But these connections aren’t just digital. Some automakers have even proposed physical connections between the home and the car, using a large window to turn your vehicle into a sort of extra room in your home. This physical connection could allow you to use your car’s entertainment systems, seating, lighting and more as an add-on to your living room.
Car Hacking: The Connected Car’s Achilles Heel
With every internet connection comes an unfortunate risk: hacking. And cars are not immune to this danger. In fact, an increase in connected cars could make existing cybersecurity concerns even more worrisome.
A recent Esurance poll found that 40 percent of readers didn’t think a hacker could remotely disable their car brakes. But just last year, a vulnerability was discovered that allowed savvy hackers to disable safety features like airbags, anti-lock brakes and door locks. In one case, they even successfully killed the engine while the car was in motion. And what’s worse, hackers can perform these exploits by taking advantage of a weakness in the internal communication network that most cars have, making car hacking a concern for nearly all car owners.
The more integrated our smart homes and connected cars become, the greater the risk that our personal information will be compromised. Any device that connects to the internet is a gateway for hackers to gain access to personal info, whether it’s a connected light bulb in your living room or a touch screen on your dashboard. One thing is clear: We all need to remain vigilant about cybersecurity, no matter where (or what) we connect.