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Connected cars: The roles of app developers and car manufacturers are changing

Following the first part of this three-part series, where we looked at the disconnect between developers and car manufacturers, we’re going to take a closer look at how the roles of these two industries are changing in this post, as well as discuss the large number of opportunities for these two very different but co-dependent groups to come together.

The worlds of developers and manufacturers are indeed growing closer together. It is becoming increasingly acknowledged that carmakers need to connect with the developer community and allow developers access to their connected vehicles — and personalized vehicle data — if they are to offer the services that their customers are coming to expect.

Due to these increasing customer demands on their connected vehicles, as well as their expectations of a smooth transition between home, office and on-the-move interactions, carmakers are harnessing the talents of developers of third-party services in exchange for crucial vehicle data that these third parties need to run their applications. It is a win-win situation: developers get their hands on the car data that they need to run their mobility businesses and carmakers are then able to offer these same services to their customers — in doing so, adding further revenue streams to their own business and keeping up with their competition.

This coming together of carmakers and development teams is enabling the seamless transitions that users have become used to in other aspects of their connected lives to be achieved in their cars as well.

Below are some concrete examples of how developers and carmakers have adapted and collaborated in order to work together to bring connected services to drivers and car users.

Startup accelerators

Startup accelerators are a great way for young app development companies to get help, advice, contacts and potentially contracts for their connected car app or service.

Typically, startup accelerators support early stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship and financing, and this is nearly always for a fixed period of time. Alongside a host of other small businesses, the accelerator experience is a process of intense, immersive education aimed at accelerating the lifecycle of young innovative companies by compressing what can be many years’ worth of learning by doing into just a few months. Usually, teams that have been chosen to take part are invited to a public pitching event or demo day where they will be seen by key investors or individuals in the industry.

Whereas an incubator may support a startup for between one and five years, a small company working with a startup accelerator is likely to be involved only for a matter of months. Although competition to become part of a startup accelerator can be fierce, the intense mentorship and exposure to industry players that successful applicants receive makes it an ideal place for apps and services working in the connected car industry to get the crucial connections and support they need to hit the ground running.

Incubators

Incubators are generally large companies or nonprofits that aim to help startups improve and develop by offering them services they might need, but currently can’t afford or simply don’t have yet. Incubators tend to support companies — either early, middle- or late-stage startups — for a number of years, rather than just for an intense period of time. Whether these services are practical things, like office space for the team or the chance to undertake training in softer skills, like mentoring and leadership to enable the successful running of a small company, incubators can be a catalyst to launching connected car apps and services into a more mainstream market.

One of the major ways in which incubators can push smaller firms into the spotlight is by providing them with key connections within major car companies or inviting them to events where they can increase their network. It is via such means that smaller businesses can be seen by the right people in the industry and potentially build relationships with them and eventually land contracts.

Hackathons

Everybody knows that hackathons are a lot of fun, as well as a great way to improve skills and learn new ones. Hackathons can also be an opportunity for developers and designers to work with technology not commonly available to them. In the case of hackathons for connected car development, developers can often be given access to car or charging emulators that they can test and run their apps on. But one of the main advantages to taking part in hackathons for connected car app development is the crucial connections with the car manufacturers it offers developers. This is particularly true for third-party services that wish to work directly with car data.

Hackathons can be a great way for teams to propose ideas to leading carmakers, build prototypes and win places in pilot schemes that get their work in front of key industry people. It is a crucial bridging of the gap between the two worlds — carmakers want to be at the cutting edge of development, while early stage startups want to get themselves seen by big players in the industry. Hackathons are often how many early stage startups get their ideas in front of the people who have the power to implement them in real cars for real users.

We’ve reached the end of part two of this series looking at the relationship between carmakers and developers. In part three, we’re going to be outlining the challenges still left in this delicately balanced ecosystem.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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