Why Tesla and CarPlay Matter to Everyone

Tesla, along with Apple's recently announced CarPlay, are positioned to have a major influence for everyone planning to be driving a car in the foreseeable future. This is independent of whether or not you're driving a Tesla or a car equipped with CarPlay.

Stuck in the (Technology) Dark Ages

The auto industry has managed to remain uniquely positioned with respect to technology. Low to middle-end cars are the worst offenders, but in this class cost almost always comes first. Higher end cars are still behind, but not as far. You could argue that Ford has had their voice control service for a while now, other companies are on a similar trajectory, but the offerings are entirely underwhelming at best.

Here are a few key reasons the auto industry is able to have inferior technology and charge such a premium for it; these are inferences I'm making, not based on inside knowledge.

  1. Cost is king when people shop for new cars.
  2. The tech we're used to isn't designed for as rugged of conditions. Your iPad's operating temperature certainly doesn't cover -15 degrees, but your car's touch screen does. Vibration isn't likely as much of a concern.
  3. Design cycles are long for cars, there's a reason cars debut so long before they're ready to buy. The tech available in that car will lag what is thought to be current because it was designed a couple of years (?) beforehand.
  4. There is a vested interest by auto makers to prevent major software feature upgrades. These comforts, when outdated, can become driving forces behind another purchase.
  5. Proprietary barriers exist. Supporting only Apple or only Android is highly limiting and until now there was no official protocol to support. If they chose to support an unofficial protocol, there is no guarantee it would continue to work, which would result in very angry customers.

Driving Change

So where do Tesla and CarPlay come in? I think CarPlay is fairly obvious. It is the first major step at taking the brain of the technology out of the car and putting it into the phone. Phones are a lot easier to upgrade. As long as compatibility to the CarPlay protocol is maintained, this is a vast improvement over the current situation. The most obvious issue is that CarPlay is Apple/iOS only, and likely always will be. I suspect cars will eventually need to ship supporting CarPlay, Google's solution, and maybe even Microsoft's to remain competitive.

Inside Man

Tesla has the potential to disrupt from the other side, the inside. They're the first actual shot at being a successful and forward-looking auto maker. They have high tech at their very core, it is what they are built on. Tesla has embraced the smartphone revolution in a very serious way giving you a tremendous amount of control over your vehicle from within their app.

Progress in this industry will only come if it is successful enough that auto makers can't produce cars without competitive technology. The CarPlay features are low-cost to implement with the potential for high return. Tesla is sweeping the industry with their incredible design, tremendous safety, and aggressive adoption of new technology. I'm not declaring these two products as the long-term "winners," but I do firmly believe they'll serve as excellent propellant to move this industry out of the dark ages.

Some Things Cannot Be Faked (Hint: Samsung)

Samsung isn't exactly know for their design prowess or their honesty. They've been caught paying people to leave fake negative reviews on competitor's products, they've been caught rigging their devices to perform better on benchmarks than they do in real life, and they've been caught stealing design cues from Apple (though rarely nicely implemented).

Side note: everyone in tech steals things from everyone else. There are a limited number of layouts, gestures, and features. There will be overlap. Don't read into that one too much, I couldn't resist posting a link to that Tumblr page.

What does this all add up to? The first thing that comes to mind is desperation. It is a shame, they're doing some decent things. Their phones are selling in record numbers and they're the only Android device maker that's actually making any money. Then they go and do things like fake leather with fake stitching on their products and paying a boat load of money for celebrity endorsements who promptly return to their iPhones when the camera turns off.

Loyalty cannot be faked; it can be purchased in the short term, but it won't last. The simplest description I can come up with is that this is the difference between being passionate about products and being passionate about your reputation at all costs. They'll keep doing these things until the market votes for a company that doesn't, for example by buying a Moto X instead of an S5.

Reality Check: Disrupting the TV Industry

This isn't a summary of why the TV industry won't be disrupted. It will. This is simply a more realistic view of why click bait headlines don't accurately represent the disruption. The user experience side of this is the easy part. Once the content is available via progressive channels and technologies (akin to Netflix but without the delay from airing live) we'll finally have the disruption followed by the revitalization of the television industry we all long for so dearly.

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Path Launches Windows Phone App

Path is a simply wonderful social network. I connect with my close friends and family and we use the app to share more intimate moments that aren't appropriate for the public or large following of acquaintances. The app is beautifully designed on iOS, it is acceptable on Android, and now has finally launched for Windows.

Path has enjoyed noteworthy success, though is not, and will never be, the next Facebook or Twitter. The fact that it took them this long to launch on the Windows platform goes to show how much Windows is struggling in the smartphone realm. This isn't to say the platform isn't good, but it seems too be too little too late.

Your Phone is Divulging More Information Than You Think

It is no secret that the NSA is, or is at least capable of, tracking your every move. Many people also realize that advertisers have a lot more access to tracking you than you'd think (or like), but most people do not.

Your phone is constantly connected to cellular towers, scanning for WiFi, and in some cases searching for Bluetooth. To make wireless connections, a handshake of sorts has to take place. This handshake includes some indentifiers to tell the source who you are. This information isn't your name or email address, but a MAC address is unique enough to pretty easily trace you as an individual.

Combine that with using free WiFi to log into Facebook or Twitter, and you've just told an advertiser your name, email address, and MAC address. Any other hotspot you walk by or log into knows exactly who you are, what your internet browsing habits are, and even when you've been. This technology allows companies to know a lot about you.

"Locations have meanings," says Eloise Gratton, a privacy lawyer. Marketers can infer that a person has a certain disease from their Internet searches. A geolocation company can actually see the person visiting the doctor, "making the inference that the individual has this disease probably even more accurate," she says.

It doesn't stop here though. Once the data is collected, it is immensely valuable, why else would it be collected? The sale of the data is often more concerning than the collection of it.

Viasense Inc., another Toronto startup, is building detailed dossiers of people's lifestyles by merging location data with those from other sources, including marketing firms. The company follows between 3 million and 6 million devices each day in a 400-kilometer radius surrounding Toronto. It buys bulk phone-signal data from Canada's national cellphone carriers. Viasense's algorithms then break those users into lifestyle categories based on their daily travels, which it says it can track down to the square meter.

I added the emphasis myself to highlight how prevalent this is. We aren't talking about shady back-alley operations here, this data is bought and sold by major corporations including your cell phone provider that can pin point your exact location at any time any day since you signed up for the service.

This isn't to say that there is no potential benefit to being tracked. There are some regulations on what is bought and sold and to whom, though the laws tend to lag the technology. There is some upside to this data being available to advertisers. For ages we have considered ads to be annoyances. This largely stems from the fact that ads are generic and meant for large audiences. However, we're all consumers, we all buy things, so what if the ads we got were genuinely meaningful and saved us money on things we need or want? These highly specific targeted ads are only possible if the advertiser knows a creepy amount about you.

There is no substitute for being educated to understand what you're sharing and when.