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Wearable Tech: Will the Next Big Thing Come to Cars Too?

13C1370_87Wearable tech and connected cars were two of the hottest trends at International CES last week, and combining the two could spark some cool innovations. I saw examples of this from Mercedes-Benz at CES and from Hyundai at this week’s Detroit Auto Show, with Hyundai providing a glimpse of where the mash-up could take us.

Mercedes-Benz showed a concept at CES that will allow its cars to communicate with smartwatches from Pebble Technology through the automaker’s Digital DriveStyle app for Apple devices. While away from the car, owners can use the watch to keep tabs on a vehicle’s location and fuel level, access Google local search to send a destination to the in-dash navigation system, and display social network feeds from Facebook and Twitter.

While in the car with a Pebble paired to the Digital DriveStyle app, an owner can program the watch’s three buttons to activate favorite features such as accessing preferred media, showing traffic conditions, or activating Apple’s Siri Eye’s Free voice assistant. The Pebble could also use vehicle-to-vehicle communication to warn a driver in real time about hazards such as accidents, road construction, or stalled vehicles by vibrating the watch.

Mercedes-Benz hasn’t said when the Pebble concept will be available or whether it will lead to actual products or apps. But the automaker added that partnerships like the one with Pebble—while noting the location of its recently upgraded Silicon Valley research lab—could give Mercedes-Benz access to some of the latest hardware and APIs from the heart of the tech world.

Of course, the most high-profile piece of wearable tech is Google Glass. Hyundai announced at CES that will launch its Blue Link Glassware application in conjunction with the all-new 2015 Genesis sedan, which debuted at the Detroit Auto Show this week and will be available this spring.

By connecting to Hyundai’s Blue Link cloud-based telematics system, the app will allow Genesis owners to communicate with their vehicle via Google Glass to remotely lock or unlock the doors, start the engine, and send a destination to the onboard navigation system—no matter where they are, without having to pull out a portable device. Owners can also receive push notifications when routine maintenance is due and schedule service by making a call using Google Glass.

But one of the most promising aspects of the Hyundai Glass app is that it will be able to access data from other parts of a car owner’s digital life to potentially simplify the day’s tasks and save time. Barry Ratzlaff, Hyundai’s executive director for Blue Link, gave an example of how the app can be tied into a car owner’s calendar to set in motion a series of alerts and offer predictive features.

Say you get a calendar alert that you have an appointment in an hour. You could then send the destination to your car’s navigation system using the Glass app via voice, Ratzlaff pointed out. “And it could tell you not only how much time you need to get there, but also what time you need to leave,” he said. “And if it’s cold out, it will tell you that too and ask you if you want to remotely start your car so that it’s warmed up beforehand.”

While the Glass App features have not been finalized, I came away from the demo at the Detroit Auto Show impressed not only by the app’s capabilities, but also Hyundai’s candor that the automaker doesn’t really know where the wearable connected car tech trend is headed. And that it wanted to jump in headfirst.

“We frankly don’t where this is going,” added Ratzlaff. “But we feel wearables will be a big trend and we wanted to be a part of it. And it’s a great way to leveraging these small screens to extend the connected experience outside of the vehicle.”

Originally published by PCMag.com

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1 comments
Insurance Hunter
Insurance Hunter

All of these new apps and technology are cool and the connected car is definitely where the industry is going, but how much of an impact will it have on improving distracted driving? Will it make it better or worse?