A couple of weeks ago, Alcatel-Lucent announced the ng Connect program, a multi-industry initiative dedicated to the deployment of wireless broadband based on Long Term Evolution (LTE) and other high-bandwidth technologies.
Translation: Imagine a world where you can access high-speed Internet from just about anywhere. The park. The beach. The local bike trail. All without wires or cables. Just one big ubiquitous wireless network.
But here's the kicker: The second paragraph of the announcement, which includes a quote from QNX CEO Dan Dodge, focuses on how wireless broadband will transform tomorrow's automobile. Not netbooks, not cellphones, not portable music players, but the car. You know, that thing nobody is buying.
Has Alcatel-Lucent been smoking something? Or are they on to something? Maybe I'm biased, but I'm leaning towards door number two.
Let's step back a bit. The car, despite falling on temporary hard times, is the one thing that almost everyone in the world either has or wants. So, no question, the market will recover in one form or another. At the same time, automakers today are more desperate than ever to differentiate their vehicles from those of the competition. Adding cool applications -- navigation, multimedia, etc. -- is one way they hope to achieve that.
Just one problem: The car needs to run a lot of software to support these applications -- software that can become obsolete long before the car is ready for the junk heap. So automakers need a way to update software and content easily, without forcing customers to schlep their cars back to the dealership. Automakers also need to host as many applications as posible in the "cloud" -- that way, cars can access new applications on the fly, without need for software upgrades. Better yet, subscription-based cloud applications can provide automakers with a source of ongoing revenue. And revenue, if you haven't noticed, is the one thing that automakers need more than anything else.
A technology like LTE can make all this possible. So, maybe Alcatel-Lucent isn't so crazy to promote the broadband-enabled car. After all, the car is the one big thing that, until now, hasn't been transformed by the Internet.
Now, if only someone could figure out how to wirelessly power my car's block heater, that would really be something...