By Michael Curry, Vice President of Product Management, IBM

One of the hottest trends in tech these days is a connected device: but this time, it’s not your smartphone.

It’s your car.

In fact, by 2020, 90 percent of the vehicles on the road will be wired, while the connected car market will hit $600 billion — making it the single largest market for connected devices and services.

So what will these wired cars look like? Well, for starters, they’ll be much, much more than just infotainment machines that play music and video on demand. Think of them as smart devices on wheels. Machines that analyze loads of big data.

Because connected cars will be able to:

–Talk to other cars. When your car breaks down on the side of the highway, it will automatically alert other cars around you to slow down, contact the police to send a squad car and a tow truck, and, if needed, notify traffic control systems to reroute cars to avert a traffic jam.

–Be your personal assistant. Rather than just a mapping system, cars will be smart about helping your plan your life. While you’re sipping your morning coffee in the kitchen, your car will tap into your home network or cloud, check your calendar, weather forecasts, and traffic updates to figure out the best route to take to work or to get your chores done — and even tell you what time you should leave. Then, using alerts from traffic systems and other cars, it will update that route along the way.

–Schedule its own repairs. Sensors will detect whether parts, such as your brakes or lights, are wearing out and automatically book an appointment with your garage, even checking if the parts are available in the shop so you won’t be stuck waiting.

–Act as remote controls. As you drive up to your house, your car will be able to unlock the front door, turn up the thermostat, or let you check the webcams inside.

We spend a lot of time in our cars. It just makes sense that they’re next in line for a major tech overhaul. As the car gets linked up with smartmobile devices, social networks, and transportation systems made up of sensors on streets, traffic lights, and signs, the connected car will be a hub and rolling transmitter of information.

A combination of technologies are needed to underpin this change, but it all starts with the cloud.

While cars are increasingly packed with sophisticated processing power (because an average luxury car has 100 million lines of software code), much of the data created by connected cars will be processed in the cloud. This will provide the ability to perform big data analytics against a variety of data sources, such as weather, vehicle history, and component failure data. It will also allow information flowing from multiple cars to be analyzed together, to help communicate information between cars, and to recognize and warn cars about events such as traffic patterns, spot weather conditions, or road hazards.

Just like the smartphone, the cloud is what will make wired vehicles so powerful by dishing up nearly endless storage, hefty processing capabilities, and an ever changing line-up of apps. Wireless, meantime, is the circuitry that connects everything together: not only standard mobile networks, of course, but also short-range radio networks, Wi-Fi and other next-gen networks. That leads to innovation in software and hardware infrastructure, as well as apps.


Speaking of big data, tools to analyze all this data on the fly are also critical. As new cars are equipped with hundreds of sensors, we’ll need new ways of making sense of the mountains of information being pulled together. Analytics is critical to getting the value out of all of that information, and to reacting to it in real time.