Mobile 2 Go Blog: Visions of Knight Rider

Published in CSP Daily News

More miles to go before "talking car" evolution aligns with c-store marketing potential

By  Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator

[Editor's Note: In anticipation of the annual NACS technology and PCATS conference called The Tech Event, May 6-10 in Dallas, CSP technology writer Angel Abcede is starting a series of columns called, "Mobile 2 Go," on mobile and cellphone ties to the c-store space. Also, see tech coverage in the May issue of CSPmagazine.]

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- What does a question about trending technology bring mind for Scott Hartman? Think Knight Rider.

David Hasslehoff's tricked out Firebird Trans Am from the 80's TV show was essentially a "smart car," having automated intelligence and the ability to speak. Hartman, president and CEO of York, Pa.-based Rutter's Farm Stores is an admitted techie, interested in any way technology can apply to his c-stores. That means he's usually a step or two ahead of most when it comes to envisioning the future.

Today, retailers are focusing on smartphones and devising ways to connect with customers via texts and digital communications. Hartman is already all over that, having been one of the first to initiate a smartphone app among convenience store operators.

What he sees in the not-too-distant future is talking cars, so-called "smart cars" that can tell motorists about gas prices and specials inside the stores as they're driving by. It's a logical step. GPS, the Internet, cellular technologies are all commonplace and combined can bring to life Hasslehoff's "KITT" (Knight Industries Two Thousand) companion.

But apparently, quite a bit stands in the way of the days of talking cars. Andrew Ashby, automotive business development manager at Plextek Consulting, Essex, England, writes that an infrastructure has to be in place to allow for cars to talk to outside devices and even to other cars.

Here's a few things that need to be in place:

  • The software necessary to allow the car to communicate with other devices. The solution must also fit into both legacy and future automobile specs.
  • An infrastructure of devices that can communicate with the car.
  • Security protocols to protect personal information.
  • A business case to open investor wallets.

Ashby says several research and development efforts are underway in London and Europe and believes the momentum is building, but the end results won't come online for a couple of years minimum.

So where does that leave Hartman and his KITT dreams?

If only cars could talk.

A convenience-technology writer for more than 20 years, CSP senior editor Angel Abcede is starting an ongoing series of columns called, "Mobile 2 Go," on how mobile technology applies to convenience retail. You can reach him at aabcede@cspnet.com.

By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Content Development Coordinator
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