Monday 5 October 2009

Unlock your car with your iPhone!

The Zipcar is a twist on the usual rental car arrangement (more like a car sharing hybrid model) where members pay $50 a year membership fee and then roughly $8 an hour for usage. Cars are left all over cities and once authorised, members can unlock and drive one wherever they need to go. Now members of Zipcar can use an iPhone application to find and book cars on the move. The application even allows the member to remotely sound the horn of a particular car they have booked in order to find it in a parking lot, and to unlock the car once they have swiped their membership card over the windscreen (windshield). About a quarter of Zipcar members apparently have an iPhone already so the market and overlap of the user base is quite good. It's an early sign of what we will see our future mobile phones able to do.

I already have a token in my pocket for my Lexus which unlocks the car when I approach it without the need to press any buttons and allows me to start the engine once inside without any key. The car already links automatically to my iPhone to allow hands-free operation. It will be interesting to see if the integration philosophy of the iPod hardware interface by car producers is repeated at an application level with smartphone platforms like iPhone, and how quickly. So in future, if I have my phone in my pocket, it may not matter if I don't carry the token anymore. Such developments do not need any further technology breakthroughs; rather it just needs the cooperation between organisations in different markets, e.g. phones and automobiles.

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