Your car: The next frontier for personal IT

One day, your car may become the ultimate mobile machine for getting work done.

It's not just phones and watches that promise to help you be more productive on the go. Ford and Nissan, among others, are developing tools that one day could turn your car into the ultimate mobile machine for getting work done.

Fellow ITWorld blogger Dan Tynan has details about handful of apps that can work with FordSYNC AppLink that's built into 2014 model EcoSport SUVs and Ford Fiestas. They're essentially smartphone apps that work with your car, and include Spotify, CitySeeker,, AnswerWiki, and Tom Tom navigation, among others.

With them, you can do what you can normally do on a smartphone: search for a hotel room, create playlists and listen to music, find a nearby gas station, and so on. As he points out, all this is still in its infancy. You can't actually make a hotel reservation with, for example. Ford claims, though, that with the next generation of AppLink, AppLink 2.0, that will change.

Nissan, meanwhile, is taking a different tack when it comes to automotive technology. It's developing a smartwatch that will monitor your car and your health for you as well. The watch reports on myriad pieces of information about your car, including its gas efficiency, average speed, and telematics and performance data. It also monitors your biometric data using a heart rate monitor. Eventually, Nissan says, it will be able to capture enough biometric data so that it can warn you when you're fatigued.

At the moment, none of this has anything to do with personal productivity. In the future it will, though. Expect developers and car makers to create productivity apps for your car. Microsoft Office on the go? Why not? And why not checking the health of your network as well?

Ford is making a serious push to get developers to write apps for cars. It has created the OpenXC API open source platform to make it easier for developers to write car apps. The OpenXC Web site explains it this way:

Every new car is full of computers and electronics, and there is growing interest in connecting the output from those systems to third-party applications and the web. Many companies are already offering tools to hook into the driver's interface, but for the most part they have limited availability for hobbyists and developers. What if the system was designed from the ground up to be open source and to give insight into the vehicle itself? With proper hardware isolation to ensure you can't "brick" your $20,000 investment in a car, OpenXC imagines when your car is as easy to program as your smartphone.

Ford has been holding workshops around the country for people who want to develop using OpenXC, including last month in San Francisco's tech-heavy South of Market neighborhood.

You can expect other car makers to follow. And given there's money to be made, developers will follow as well. Eventually, the apps will include productivity apps as well as information and entertainment ones. And from then on, your car will be a productivity machine, not just one for getting you from one place to another.

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