App For That

21 04 2010

While we are all waiting with baited breath for apps to find their way onto our TVs, there’s another screen that just popped onto the radar. And it’s one that we look at more often than we think.

It’s called a dashboard.

Ford is proceeding with plans to offer dashboard apps on its Ford Sync starting with the 2011 model year. And while there are only three apps currently available (including Pandora, the broadcast radio killer), there is bound to be a gold rush ahead as developers scurry to put their little icons in front of your eyeballs.

Eyeballs moving at 70 mph.

I suppose it was inevitable, and to be honest, I do not loathe this latest attempt to reduce our lives to handy little clickable widgets. Each one is like a Swiss Army knife of information, entertainment and more. They simplify. They streamline.

And (drumroll, please) they present ever more marketing opportunities.

Go ahead and crash that cymbal, because that is where this is all heading. I can see the day rapidly approaching in which we will have, for example, a Pizza Hut app on our dashboard. With one tap we could order dinner while moving down the road. That’s much safer, I suppose, than having to drive and dial.

If the car’s OS is also running a 3G cell phone connection, we’ll have always-on internet connectivity, making these apps more and more useful as they are developed. Pushing Pandora through the car stereo will be a snap. Real-time traffic conditions will be the norm. And current radar shots will help us steer clear of tornadoes and hail.

Naturally, this raises the question of exactly where all this tapping will occur in the car. In the name of safety, it must be on a centrally located console so that a passenger can do the bulk of the tapping. We really do not need to replace one road hazard with another. Furthermore, the apps would have to have some limitations, with the emphasis on simplicity.

But this is all doable. I see the greatest opportunity in reaching out to motorists while they are rolling down the road. Forget billboards, for they clutter the landscape. Far better to simply push the adverts onto the dashboard LCD, and better yet, through location-based apps. Yep, just like Gowalla and 4square. While the driver must have ultimate on-off privileges, GPS tracking will allow marketers to push extremely relevant information to us at the exact right time.

Like when we’re a half-mile from a Red Robin.

Critics will no doubt scoff at the intrusion of our so-called private vehicular space, but I respond by saying we have had broadcast radio for decades…and they do plenty of location-specific advertising. The only way to avoid commercial messaging today is to do what we have been doing for years: Just turn it off.

As for me, I am an information junkie. I probably won’t buy a Ford Sync, but I would happily purchase an after-market retrofit for my Hyundai. I want to pump my Pandora stations through my car speakers without having to fiddle with bridging to my iPhone. I want to be able to order pizza while heading from Amarillo to Canyon. And I really do want to stay out of the way of tornadoes.

It’s that time of year again, you know.

Dr “Driving Force” Gerlich




One response

21 04 2010

Thank you so much for your information.

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