Samsung is developing a small black box device that will plug into your car under the dashboard and instantly turn it into a smart, connected car.
Speaking at its annual Developer Conference in San Francisco, the director of the company's Connected Car program, Val Zinchenko, showcased a rectangular black box roughly three inches long that he said contained GPS, Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hotspot and motion sensors.
The program is in private beta and will go out to public beta later this year, he said. On screen, a smartphone app showed what the black box would enable: a rundown of your driving including how many hard accelerations and brakings you undertook that day, how many times you went over the speed limit, and so on.
A video highlighting future features showed your smartphone locking and unlocking your car, pressing the car's horn, and opening the trunk so a delivery guy can put something you've bought into it.
"There are 900 million cars, but only 100 million of them are connected," said Zinchenko. "By 2020, there will be 1.4 billion on the road but one billion of them will not have connectivity. Yet."
Arguing that cars represent "one of the largest hardware platforms in the world," Zinchenko said the new device would have "government-grade security" by using Samsung's Tizen and KNOX software systems.
But the bigger question of course is: why do car owners actually want a connected car?
The main advantage of the device, according to Zinchenko, is that it might enable you to get smaller insurance quotes – because the company would be able to see how safely you drive. That's going to be a very, very hard sell to consumers.
The other main advantage? As per the video, you can open your trunk and someone can drop off something you have bought online straight into it. "I could save myself a trip to the toy store," Zinchenko says about a theoretical present he's bought for his son. "I get someone to drop off the gift in my trunk."
Again, that's a use case that creates more concern than excitement. What if the person doesn't close the trunk after? How would someone find your car? Why your car anyway? And is going to a toy store for your child really that big of a hassle?
"Whatever you can imagine doing with a smartphone app, you can do with a smart car app," Zinchenko says enthusiastically.
Of course, you can already lock and unlock your car and press the horn using key fobs. The connected car has a similar problem to the connected home: why exactly do I want it? Why pay for something that increases the likelihood of security problems when the advantages are, at best, tangential? And will it be any better than Samsung's smart TVs? ®