Last week, Las Vegas hosted the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Companies, consumers, and journalists gather to show off and test the newest tech gadgets. The tech runs the gamut from TVs, laptops, appliances, exercise equipment and more. Much like previous years, this year’s list of products was highly impressive. One of the gadgets I particularly liked was LG’s new TV nicknamed “Wallpaper”. This new 77” OLED TV with 4K HDR is slimmer than the iPhone 7, and attached to the wall via magnets. I don’t know about you, but I was impressed by this innovation.
As I was reading through the list of gadgets that were presented last week I saw Ford has partnered with Amazon to add Alexa to their cars. With Alexa riding shotgun you can drive down the road and ask Alexa to play an audiobook, provide directions, read a news report, or play music. The automobile industry has clearly started to jive with the Internet of Things (IoT) world. Some manufacturers are allowing owners to remote start their vehicles, lock and unlock doors, open and close windows, receive notifications if a door is opened, track a vehicle’s location, access the amount of fuel left in the tank and check tire pressure all from a smartphone app.
Apple had previously introduced CarPlay, an app that allows automobiles to connect with Apple Maps, iMessage, phone, and music service apps like Beats Radio, Spotify, and Podcasts. Through a lightning cable connection, the driver can control these phone features by communicating with Siri.
I started thinking about where this automobile IoT might take us. Can you imagine a future where you pull up to a drive thru and using stored credit card information with Amazon (Alexa), or Apple, to pay for coffee or take-out food? What about a gas station where the pumps communicate with the vehicle to pay for the fuel or a car wash where you are able to pay with your stored wallet as you enter the wash tunnel? As crazy as all this might seem, this is already possible today in the form of EZ Pass tolls.
If you’re unfamiliar with EZ Pass, this technology allows you to pay road tolls with a transponder that is tied to an electronic wallet funded by the payment type of your choice. In fact, Massachusetts recently did away with all cash tolls. Mass Pike drivers can now either pay by EZ pass, or are mailed a paper bill based on a photo taken of their license plates. This change was mostly to reduce traffic build up, but demonstrates how payments play a major factor in everyday convenience.
CES is a mecca of innovation every year, and it’s exciting to see how new devices and software will fit into our ever more connected lives. In a world where we are constantly creating new technology to reduce friction in our lives it doesn’t seem so far-fetched to envision the “mobile wallet” becoming even more mobile by becoming part of our automobiles. We are excited to keep a close eye on this technology in the coming months.