Since the launch of General Motors' OnStar service in 1996, a portion of new cars has shipped with embedded cellular connections, making these vehicles part of the Connected World. Now, vehicle manufacturers are preparing to significantly increase the prevalence of these connections in their new products, and — more importantly — employ high-speed broadband in place of the narrowband modems of the past.

The connected vehicle is now emerging as a unique computing environment, distinct from the office, home, and on-the-go not just because it's in motion, but also because of its significant constraints and its composition of user- and vehicle-driven elements. Connected cars create opportunities for:

  • Carmakers. Beyond the core telematics offerings like emergency calling and automatic accident notifications, automotive OEMs have begun to offer connected entertainment like Pandora and information services like Google search. But they've learned the hard lessons of OnStar, and, rather than attempting to drive revenue with these services, they are using connectivity to give more reasons for customers to choose and stick with the carmaker's brand.
  • Mobile operators. Now that carriers' future revenue growth is being driven by customers adding devices to their plan and bumping up the associated allocation of megabytes, cars fit nicely alongside smartphones, tablets, and other data-hungry devices.
  • Application developers. The dominant use model for applications in the car is yet to be proven — whether built-in, running purely on a personal device, or via a bridge between the two such as the Car Connectivity Consortium's MirrorLink technology. Irrespective of how they get used, applications will continue to be the innovative force that enables new experiences.

But the real engine (sorry) of the connected car experience is the transformation of the amalgam of vehicle and user data into usable and actionable information. That's why all manner of automotive outsiders, from infrastructure vendors to cloud specialists to analytics providers, are vying to position themselves as uniquely able to supply the mix of skills and tools needed to perform this alchemy. I invite our Forrester clients to read more in the new report "The Connected Car: Prepare For The Next Computing Environment."