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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

All The Networks In Our Cars

“G.E. is forecasting that by 2020 there will be one billion connected electric meters, 100 million connected light bulbs and 152 million connected cars globally.”

I don’t disagree with Mr. Imelt and company, I actually think they are vastly underestimating the totals of various connected devices.  I would argue far more cars will be connected to the Internet, in far more ways, especially by 2020.  To be realistic, nearly every car and truck already on the road is already on the Internet. If the driver or any passenger holds and smartphone, and most do, then the car is on the Internet. If there is any way to connect a phone and the car’s audio system, then that car is effectively already connected to a network.

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The smartphone in the car leads to the application on the smartphone tracking the location of the car in order to provide accurate directions. But big data loves more data so while you are using Google Maps, Google Maps is selling someone else information about all the people using Google Maps, with local trends highlighted. While you are signed in to Gas Buddy what is to prevent Gas Buddy from selling your location to a firm that wants to direct a personalized ad to people in the same place where you are right now?

It is already done, all the time, trust me. Data is being bought and sold every second of the day.

But returning to the connected car, many newer cars have a mobile phone and data connection built-in. OnStar is a big player in the connected-car market. OnStar does require a subscription for the premium features but some features remain on for as long as you own the car. The OnStar button still works to make phone calls and call for Roadside Assistance, even though you might no longer pay the monthly fee.

OnBoard GPS navigation systems need to be updated and most of the newer systems can connect to the Internet, using a mobile phone connection. GPS gives the location and hours of local businesses all along the way.

Now we get to satellite communication systems, a feature becoming more and more common in all car models. You may not subscribe to Sirius XM Radio, or maybe you do, either way if the system is installed in your car, it is communicating. Every so often Sirius XM offers free weekend or holiday listening. Try it some time, but also realize that satellite system is still there active in your car, another link to other global networks, just in case you or someone else needs it.

I am fully aware of the current limitations of all the comm systems mentioned above. But think about them collectively, what if the satellite service provider has a data exchange deal going on with mobile phone company which has a deal going on with OnStar which has a deal going on with the GPS equipment providers?  What if all these firms are getting excellent cooperation from the automobile manufacturers?

My car sends a monthly report to the firm that built it. I’ve seen copies of this report. It is mostly concerned with engine performance and sensor operations. It does indicate miles driven, top speed attained, key RPM data, engine temperature figures and other important data.  I’m not sure if it breaks all this data down by date and time but I would not be surprised if it did.

Next you have all the local police departments scanning the license plates of cars simply driving around their town. They have sophisticated cameras and read the license and tell the officer if the driver has any outstanding citations. This data is also kept in police databases for a period of time, supposedly in an effort to prevent terrorism? In any event this also puts your car up on some network, if not directly on the Internet.

All the channels mentioned about offer the potential for new applications, but also offer the opportunity for data mining businesses and government officials to invade your privacy.

You can’t prevent the collection of your data, it happens too smoothly for you to even notice.