Smartphone integration in vehicles today is becoming about more than just the driver’s ability to use voice-controlled commands. It’s also becoming about more than just the driver’s ability to access smartphone apps from a car’s infotainment system while driving.

Without a doubt, it’s increasingly about leveraging these devices to create new value and convenience for all of us before and after we experience the drive.

During CES in January I had the chance to sit down and talk to a company called

Movimento, www.movimentogroup.com. Movimento is a pretty interesting company that specializes in vehicle lifecycle-management technology. More specifically, it offers an OTA (over-the-air) platform. I talked with the company about the many offerings that are coming and what we can expect to see in many vehicles in the very near future.

The company has already announced that it has teamed up with Abalta Technologies, www.abaltatech.com, to enable smartphone-based OTA vehicle software updates. Abalta’s goal with its platform is to help automakers, automotive electronic firms, and tier-1 suppliers “bridge the gap” between smartphones and vehicles’ infotainment systems. Interestingly, “bridging the gap” is exactly what Movimento and Abalta are doing by making it possible for vehicles without embedded connectivity to receive OTA software updates.

Abalta’s Smartlink technology supports secure phone-to-car connectivity through Wi-Fi, USB, and Bluetooth. When combined with Movimento’s in-vehicle client and server-side components, users can push updates to vehicles that solve immediate problems and pull data to understand and improve the vehicle experience.

The solution offers OEMs (original-equipment manufacturers) cost savings in that they can use multiple channels to push out an update. For instance, some updates can go through the vehicles’ embedded connections and others can go through consumers’ smartphones.

The solution opens up a new level of flexibility for OEMs and offers tremendous value for consumers, too.

Over-the-air updates are really very vital to future-proofing vehicle software.

Ben Hoffman, Movimento’s CEO, agrees with my assessment. He says: “It’s important for OEMs to have a way to update software—even on vehicles without embedded modems—so that they can continually improve vehicle functionality, issue security patches, and avoid recalls.”

Without this ability, vehicle systems remain pretty static throughout their lifetimes. But, in an era in which vehicles are increasingly defined by their software, a static system isn’t going to cut it—it’s simply not going to deliver what consumers want for the duration of the vehicle’s life on the road.

By leveraging smartphones to bridge the gap, more vehicles in more price ranges can offer the value of continuously improving a software system’s functionality and security.

Another example of how smartphone integration is creating new value for connected cars before and after the drive is Ford’s SYNC connect technology.

Debuting in the U.S. and Canada in the spring as part of the new Ford Escape, Ford SYNC Connect leverages 4G/LTE to make the smartphone a powerful tool for interacting with connected vehicles.

For instance, using AT&T’s LTE network, Ford owners will be able to use their smartphones to lock and unlock doors remotely; to start the vehicle remotely; to check their vehicle’s fuel level, battery level, and tire pressure reading; to locate their parked vehicle using built-in GPS (global positioning system); and more.

Ford says its goal with SYNC Connect is to provide features and services that make vehicles an even more seamless part of consumers’ connected lives.

At the end of the day, the trend is less about integrating the smartphone into the car and more about adding functionality to the car and to the smartphone that make a consumer’s life more connected. It’s almost taking the idea of vehicle connectivity to a higher level.

Yes, we want to be able to use Bluetooth and voice commands to make an important call so we don’t have to touch our phones while we’re driving, but our smartphones are increasingly adding new value, such as OTA updates to vehicle software and the ability to remotely control our vehicles before and after the drive.

These are just two examples of how technology providers and OEMs working in the connected-car space are thinking a little bit outside of the box to give customers an even better experience.

It’s really a great discussion because when we add ways for all of us to leverage our smartphones to make our vehicles more “connected” before and after a drive, the smartphone becomes more than just a tool for distracting us behind the wheel.

Perhaps it’s a step toward a future during which our smartphones, our vehicles, and our homes will be interconnected in a way that’s hard to even imagine today.

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