Automotive Smartphone Integration

How Automotive Smartphone Integration Became an Essential Component for Cars

For many people, smartphones have become the most widely used piece of technology so it is normal that automakers would have found ways to incorporate it into their vehicles. The need for smartphone integration became obvious once it was made clear exactly what smartphones were capable of. Very few people would be willing to invest in an expensive navigation system when they could simply download an app on their phones and use that.

How It Started

The idea of having some way to communicate with the car was first brought up in various TV shows and movies, but it wasn't until the mid 90s when this became possible thanks to the development of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) with on-board computers, as well as the continuous improvements in vehicle telematics.

OnStar became the first system to offer navigation services, as well as tracking a stolen vehicle, detecting if the airbags went off in an accident or simply unlocking a locked car. However, it still relies on a built-in cell phone system instead of the driver's own smartphone. It was obvious that the car would need to be able to connect with the phone through the most widely used wireless communications platform – Bluetooth.

BMW was the first company to do this in 2002, with Chrysler being the first automaker to offer Bluetooth connectivity in North America. It would not take long until this service became commonplace due to its practicality and popularity. A phone which is synced up to a car is not only capable of acting as a navigation system, but can also provide updates regarding news, weather, traffic etc., perform vehicle diagnostics, stream music online, accept voice commands and many more.

How to Sync Up the Phone and Car

Just because smartphone integration is common nowadays does not mean that any phone can be connected to any car. There needs to be a degree of compatibility between the two. First and foremost, the vehicle needs to have Bluetooth capabilities which, though common, is not included with all cars. However, it is possible to install aftermarket Bluetooth add-ons for cars that do not have this feature factory-installed. The problem is that these add-ons will not come with the versatility and functionality of a Bluetooth system designed especially for a certain vehicle. Either way, automakers clearly see the potential and necessity for this integration in the future and that is why certain companies such as Ford and GM have begun opening their in-car platforms to third party developers in order to create new apps.