We are an all-round mobile society. We are on the road, privately and professionally. Mobile ICT has made us accessible everywhere, and mobility thus taken to a new level. Smartphones are at times gadgets that are at the peak of the mobility scale. And smartphones are even more still, as they enable interaction and dialog, not just verbally. They are themselves part of communication.
It is therefore only consistent that today autos and smartphones swap data, communicate, and in this way offer the per se techy drivers purported added value by using Bluetooth to combine vehicle data with GPS data. Then the drivers can download more or less comprehensive analyses. It all has a touch of telemetric life about it. A sense of Grand Prix racing wafts through the cockpits of both the family and the company cars. Smartphones transform into cameras that combine the recorded videos with GPS data to create very special documentation of the routes traveled. The key: Programs that are abbreviated as Apps, so-called applications built to run on mobile operating systems such as iOS, Android, Blackberry or Windows Phone.
Smartphones are not exactly the latest trend – and the range of possible Apps for the various platforms is thus all the more diverse. And it’s the usual suspects who deliver them, those who love to use playful technical features as a marketing tool. There is hardly a carmaker worth his salt who does not offer at least one Service App with a list of repair workshops under contract – along with a pin identifying your current location on a map, of course. Needless to say, there are also countless car rental companies, car insurances, automobile clubs and second-hand car dealers included on the maps. Rarely will you encounter any truly innovative solutions here that do justice to the media used.
Things get exciting when purported outside creative minds are dedicated to these projects. Then the one or other user-generated content comes up trumps. However, if it is the users who update the content, then a certain amount of error can be expected, and the range then plays a major role in order to give everything enough momentum to move a good idea forward into an App that really adds value.
We have compiled a small showroom of auto Apps for you, offering more or less benefits and/or more or less entertainment on the road.
“Darling, so when will you get home? Have you already left the office?” – “No, just about to. I’ll send you a Glympse!” We’re not only mobile, but also willing to live in two or more places. We are mobile and flexible, and willing to make sacrifices. Weekend commuters and all the others who want to tell their love d ones where on the road exactly they are – they should all try out the “Glympse” App. It’s available free of charge for iOS and Android. Users can have their route followed by others – by App or by Webbrowser. To this end, you send an individual person or a group temporary authorization by Smartphone. Or a link can be sent by mail. If the recipient then clicks on the link in the mail, the Web application opens along with a map. One small dot is visible on it – which should, assuming there is no grid lock, be moving. That’s a lot of transparency. And you can also see the speed. Of course you want to get home quickly, but not by bagging a speeding ticket along the way. The danger of using Glympse is that you might be welcomed by the words: “Great that you’re here. But drive a little more carefully next time.” A little time spent practicing with it and you’ll know how to use the App. However, given the permanent GPS uplink it eats up battery power. And you’ll need stable networks to ensure it runs smoothly.
User-generated content sounds a bit like community and modern life. And there are in fact the one or other highly promising attempts in this regard among the mobility Apps. As mentioned above, such products first thrive if a certain number of users also provide information. Such a solution is now being fielded by an Israeli company – and it’s called “Waze”. The service, which users upload with info on traffic, became known at the latest last June. When Google went on a shopping spree and bought the company for about 750 million euros. Now, just before the IAA opens its doors, Google has announced that the Waze data will be integrated into Google Maps. The focus at Waze, which is available free of charge for iOS and Android, is on reporting traffic problems in real time. And initially the fact that Waze also has social networking functions is of secondary importance. The idea: A driver hits a grid lock or sees a danger on the road and inputs the info into his or her smartphone. And if things have come to a complete standstill, then the driver has time to concern himself with the input. If traffic is still flowing then for safety reasons and with a view to the insurance it’s better not to tap away on your display. In Germany, the service is not yet that well known and the depth of information thus still meager. The Google integration looks set to change things. The solution certainly looks smart, and if a passenger handles the uploading of the data that it’s all a cinch. If you do so while driving, then you run quite a few risks on behalf of your community.
The “Text’n Drive” App focuses on safety and is available in Germany for Android and Blackberry. This software means you’re hands-free and can thus keep your hands on the wheel. It reads e-mails and txt messages to you. The service is already available as freeware. The for-cash version enables users to dictate answers to the incoming comms. The Android version has a German localization feature, but this is not convincing. So anyone needing to be permanently reachable, even in writing by email or txt message, can ostensibly rely on this App for a surefire solution. Yet if something doesn’t quite go the way the person doing the dictating wants, then probably they’ll spontaneously grab the phone. And that doesn’t really sit pretty with the idea of “Hands Free Software”, or so the name of the studio that did the developing work. The for-cash version of Text’n Drive can be purchased from Google Play for about seven euros. Visually pretty Spartan, as too many frills would not doubt only distract the user from driving.
There are said to be people who lie awake at night and then watch the view of the world’s greatest railway lines from the driver’s cab on TV. And that could soon be a thing of the past, at the latest when they discover the “VideoRoad” App and record their own trips by car using a smartphone and the relevant GPS data – which they can then watch at will whenever they want. Anyone wishing to have their loved ones and friends participate in their trips can send the recordings out by email, Skype or Facebook. To make video recordings, the smartphone gets slotted in a bracket on the inside of the windscreen. Then, the straightforwardly designed App is run and the trip gets recorded automatically. The ad-financed App is available free of charge for Android and anyone not wanting ads has to buy the Pro version for the princely sum of 2.29 euros.
A start-up recently caused a real stir with an App that spontaneously organizes lifts in other people’s cars in real time: It’s called “Flinc”. Flinc was dreamed up and programmed by a group of students at Darmstadt University of the Applied Sciences. Today, it’s evolved into a corporation domiciled in Ludwigshafen. The idea: Anyone who has the one or other seat still free in their car before heading off on a trip uploads the trip to Flinc. Interested parties can use a GPS localizer to see whether there’s the right lift on offer. The enquiry they send reaches the driver by push news, email or SMS. He then confirms the enquiry and the lift is a done deal. And you can of course post enquiries for lifts, too. Flinc also makes certain supply and demand get “matched”. The special highlight: the boys and gals at Flinc offer companies the chance to post their own, branded page on Flinc and thus install business mobility management. Flinc is available free of charge for Android and iOS.
To avoid collisions and maintaining the right distance to the vehicle ahead of you high-end automobiles nowadays rely on discerning radar solutions. Yet any smartphone can handle a similar duty if it comes with a drive assistance App such as "iOnRoad". The program is available for Android and iOS and costs 3.99 and 4.49 euros accordingly, for which you get a discerningly designed App boasting countless functions. The program relies not just on the smartphone’s camera, but also on its GPS function – to warn the drive of dangers or simply to film the trip so that you have video proof in the event of an accident. In its main function as a collision signal, the smartphone uses the camera to cover traffic ahead and compute their speed while at the same time calculating your own speed. Both are then compared and the danger zone identified. If the distance grows too small, the driver is alerted acoustically and visually to the danger ahead. This really is an innovative approach on balance, although the person at the wheel would be well advised not to rely exclusively on this assistance. As mentioned, iOnRoad has nuermous other functions that render the one or other App unnecessary. For example, it features an integrated email and txt message audio-output reader and a car finder, assuming you have parked somewhere in a city you don’t know and simply cannot remember where the car is.
One brand-new App has been dreamed up and launched jointly by VW and Google. “Smiledrive” hooks up your smartphone by Bluetooth to the auto’s computer (and it needn’t even be a VW) to combine vehicle data with GPS and other data from the Internet. In this way, you can make extensive recordings on any trip you take. Not unlike Glympse, in this way those who stayed behind can take part in the trip virtually. Among other things, the recoding includes weather data, car speed, distance covered, and the time required. This data gathering is combined with playful elements such as we all know from the “Foursquare” localization system. For example, stickers are awarded for special events, meaning when you drive down an especially beautiful street, or a trip takes an especially long time. And if you come across another vehicle in which the Smiledrive App has likewise been activated you score a Punch. At the end of the trip everything gets totted up in a Smilescore. And you can also snap photos during the trip. Infos and images then get packaged as a so-called Smilecast that you can watch at a later date as many times as you like. All in all, Smiledrive is the perfect App for the dedicated social-media addict, who in addition to a passion for social networks also thrives on driving.
Bye bye jealousy: With the app „Glympse“ the partner or friend can track the way of its darling – also the speed. Photo © Glympse
“Darling, so when will you get home?”. Photo © Glympse
Reports traffic problems in real time: „Waze“. Photo © Christoph Lippok
Google has achieved Waze recently and will integrate the app in Google Maps. Photo © Waze
"Text’n Drive" reads e-mails and sms. Photo © Christoph Lippok
„VideoRoad“ screens the way for watching it afterwards. Photo © Christoph Lippok
“Flinc” lifts in other people’s cars in real time. Photo © Christoph Lippok
Warn the drive of dangers or simply to film the trip so that you have video proof in the event of an accident: “iOnRoad”. Photo © iOnRoad
„iOnRoad“ searches the place of the car – when the night before was a little bit too long. Photo © iOnRoad
„Smiledrive“ is a new app of VW. Photo © Smiledrive
And gives smilepoints for special events. Photo © Smiledrive
I’ll send you a Glympse
by Christoph Lippok | 9/9/2013
A sense of Grand Prix racing wafts through the cockpits, when we get connected, send automatically messages and get video-tracked by the new automobile apps. Photo © Deepak Bhagya on Flickr