Wednesday, April 10, 2013

GM Announces 4G WiFi In Vehicles Starting 2014:

The 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was chock full of announcements and events.  Cloud technology proved to be more integral to the standard mobile product.  WiFi moved in industry discussions from alternative platform to legitimate profit-potential.  And some dude recapped the past year where he worked exclusively from his mobile.

To me, though, one announcement stood out from these:

General Motors revealed it plans to install 4G wireless modems in vehicles of all its brands, beginning in 2014 with Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and its Opex/Vauxhill brand in Europe.  This means that starting next year, American consumers will be able to buys cars that double as internet hotspots, ones GM pledges will apply to any brand of smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device.

"You'll be able to get in the back seat with your iPad, go to your hotspot, and do anything that you could do on any other hotspot," Greg Ross of GM's Connected Consumer Group says in an interview with Design News. "You could do voice calls or you could surf the Internet and watch Netflix in the backseat.", (to which a nation of parents trying to keep their kids quiet in the back seat rejoices, I guess....?)

Now there are bound to be a couple hitches; one of which is potentially pretty costly.  As any of us who voraciously replace our internet devices every year know, software improves rather quickly (we have Moore's Law to thank for that, although some would dispute its endurance). Automobiles, however, are designed for over a decade of use.  It follows that by the time you're a long-term owner of one of GM's vehicles, you may find its technology a little outdated with what is offered on the new generation of brands.

Personally, I don't think that's going to be too much of an issue in the long run.  The breakthrough here is your car being a wi-fi hotspot:  that basic feature is enough to keep an owner happy for a very very long time, regardless of future innovations.  Yet, it remains to be seen how sweet a deal this move makes for potential customers.  GM repeats the specific mention of streaming Netflix in their press release, and I'm not so sure entertainment is the biggest draw here.  Passengers already have quite a lot to entertain them in a car; it's not as if I can't watch a movie on a DVD or hook up my iPod to my vehicle's stereo system because I've been able to do that for almost a decade now.  This move is about fulfilling the wish of the customer who wants to use instant internet access to be productive in transit.  How much do we as a society prioritize that?  GM- and the rest of the industry- will soon find out.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

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