The making of a social car, part II

The making of a social car, part II

When it comes to making the connected car more social, Facebook’s David Pio sees strong prospects for using Facebook as an identity service that informs and enriches the in-car experience.

Signing in socially

For starters, social networks could provide a way of authenticating a driver and personalizing his or her experience in the car. According to Pio, personalization is a key engagement factor that results in users spending more time, using more features and coming back to an app.

Already, visitors to popular websites are offered the opportunity to sign in with Facebook or Twitter. For consumers, these login options are a lot easier than having to fill in a registration form. "Social login is a much quicker, easier way to access accounts on the web. It's a natural fit, much quicker than being forced to remember a user name and password," says Michael Olson, product marketing manager for Janrain, a provider of a user management platform for companies, which includes analytics and provides for social logins.

In addition to convenience for the end user, there's also magic in getting users to sign in via a social network: Doing so gives the website permission to access all the information that network has about the person. This includes preferences, activities and connections. And all this information can be used to customize the content and make personal recommendations.

Facebook and Twitter are "big databases in the cloud of contact information, behavioral information and preferences," says Roger Lanctot of Strategy Analytics. In the case of Facebook, there's also a location element, such as when a Facebook user has checked in to a particular location.

Ultimately, Lanctot sees Twitter or Facebook working in the background with other in-car apps and using those cloud databases to inform in-car services. For example, when a driver enters an address into navigation and then searches for restaurants, she could get a list of restaurants recommended by her friends. If friends have enabled location tracking, she might even be able to see places along the route where her friends are at that moment, Lanctot says.

Patrick Salyer, CEO of Gigya, another provider of social login services, suggests that drivers could sign into their cars and immediately be offered relevant information informed by social networks. "For example, using Gigya's technology, we could tie a driver's location data to her social data – interests, favorite foods, etc. – to help deliver hyper-targeted, local deals to her," he says.

Other social networks

While Twitter and Facebook get all the attention, Google recently launched its own social login service. Google+ Sign On connects to all the Google services that a person uses, so it can provide the same kind of informed recommendations.

Google has also implemented over-the-air installs of apps. This feature lets websites offer consumers who have signed into the site with Google+ the ability to download an app from the website to an Android phone, instead of having to go to Google Play.

Facebook and Google+ could also provide discovery services for more apps and content. While today OEMs are more concerned about limiting drivers' ability to use apps, due to concerns about distraction, the proliferation of in-car Wi-Fi and back-seat screens will drive consumer demand for additional infotainment options.

"Facebook Apps is a service that surfaces good apps based on social signals," Pio told the audience at the Telematics Update conference in San Diego. Those signals include what your Facebook friends like and use, as well as inferences based on your activities on the site. 

As Google+ Sign On connects with all the Google services a person has, it could potentially send content recommendations such as YouTube videos, as well as personalize results for searches done while in the car. (For more on what's next for apps and services, see Telematics: What's next for apps and services, part I and Telematics: What's next for apps and services, part II.)

Social login aggregators

Although their service offerings are different, both Gigya and Janrain let businesses offer website and mobile visitors the option of signing in with their social media account of choice. Each acts as an aggregator of social logins so that, instead of a car manufacturer having to do a separate custom integration with each social network, the manufacturer could do one integration with Gigya or Janrain.

While Facebook is the dominant social network, Gigya and Janrain say that OEMs that want to provide the breadth and depth of choice available to consumers on other devices should not overlook other sources of social identity.Janrain has, for example, found that 34% of logins using its service come from Google properties, for example, with Yahoo and AOL also preferred by site visitors.

Says Gigya's Salyer: "Many cars are already web-enabled for more than just GPS functions and have their own operating systems that directly connect to mobile phones to sync music, contacts and other elements from users' phones. So why not include social as part of that experience? Adding social login and making it a central experience for drivers would not be difficult. It's more a matter of timing, of making sure the market is ready for that technology at this point."

Reconnecting to the car

Ultimately, bringing social networks into the car can make the experience less isolating and more pleasurable, according to Pio. He pointed out that, while older generations really loved their cars, young people have a stronger emotional connection with their phones.

"The phone is emotionally empowering, not because of the applications and the productivity, but because it's your connection to people, places and things. Put that back in the car, and you bring the love back into the automotive experience."

Read The making of a social car, part I.

Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics Detroit 2013 on June 5-6,Content & Apps for Automotive Europe 2013 on June 18-19 in Munich, V2V & V2I for Auto Safety USA 2013 on July 9-10 in Novi, MI, Insurance Telematics USA 2013 on September 4-5 in Chicago,Telematics Russia 2013 in September in Moscow, Telematics LATAM 2013 in September in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Telematics Japan 2013 on October 8-10 in Tokyo and Telematics Munich 2013 on November 11-12.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013The Automotive HMI Report 2013Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.

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