So far, many theories about connected cars have to do with the cars while they are driving on the road. IBM researchers are seeing parked connected cars as “powerful data platforms” to detect gas leaks, watch out for robbers and help find the right parking spot. In the future car sensors could even find lost pets.
“There is a huge number of cars worldwide packed full of sensors and computational power,” Robert Shorten of IBM Research – Ireland said, “Their location when parked is more certain than when moving and they have power supplies, so they are perfect to play an infrastructure role and to complement the needs of citizens in a city.”
Parked cars could be data platforms and part of the Internet of Things.
Gas leaks are costly and dangerous as the people in Porter Ranch, California know who live near a Southern California Gas Company’s storage center that is leaking. If every car had an active gas sensor on board authorities would known of leaks instantly. Gas sensors are one of four connected-car applications IBM is currently testing in Dublin.
Connected cars have cameras, motion sensors and other data-gathering devices. And by 2020, it’s estimated that nine out of 10 cars will have Internet connectivity.
Sensors in parked cars could supplemen thome security systems. If you have a motion detector on the car, it could be switched on at night to detect movement in the neighborhood. When someone’s house alarm goes off, then the camera in the car can switch on and start recording the scene.
Parked cars might also be able to help find parking spaces. And not just any space — a deployment of sensory-enabled and interconnected cars could help find a space that’s best the vehicle. Some spaces are better for small cars and some are better for special-needs people, such as the elderly. Some will be close to the supermarket or to a hospital.
Connected cars could also find lost dogs and other things. If Fido was wearing a passive, no-power-required radio identification device on his collar when he wandered off, car-based detection sensors in the appropriate neighborhood could be used to track him down.
Although many of the reasons parked cars can be such a problem in cities —their size, their ubiquity — is also what makes them uniquely qualified to be put to work.
“An advantage cars have over something like a mobile phone is that it’s big, so you can mount bigger devices in a car,” Shorten says. “You can do a lot more crowd-sourcing applications in a car than you can using the mobile phone.”
Cars also have their own, off-the-grid power source. There are so many of them, that if a sensor fails on one car, it’s no big deal. Cars are also generally replaced every eight to nine years, so onboard technology is kept more current. And many of the reasons that parked cars can help in cities also apply to developing countries, where infrastructure challenges might be greater. Cars are everywhere, and so is their potential.