SXSW and the Networked Car

by Net Future Institute on April 19, 2012

One of the more obvious big marketing spenders at SXSW was Chevy, which showcased its 4G LTE concept car in addition to an entire fleet of cars to shuttle show attendees around Austin.

The networked car, announced earlier at CES, showed up this time for impressive live demos while parked on the street just outside the convention center.

The car has a touch screen monitor in the center of the dashboard with tablets mounted on the backs of each of the two front seats.

Running live over Verizon’s 4G LTE network, the dashboard OnStar system let us contact a car several blocks away for a live video Skype session. The driver can stream YouTube videos, sending different programming to each of the two back seat tablets.

The idea, according to Samer Zakhem, the OnStar design engineer on site, is to allow the driver to seamlessly interact with anything accessible on the network via the OnStar system.

For example, the driver could check whether they turned on their home security system, left a garage door open or download files from their home computer through the car system, presuming those features were on the network.

The speed of the car-based system was impressive as we launched streaming movies and searched the Web.

It will be interesting to see the data costs for movies being streamed to the kids in the back seat while the driver listens to live streaming music.

But then again, Zakhem points out, the 4G network needs to be ubiquitous and the networked concept car was created to test and evolve what the actual final product and service should be.

The company also promoted its Catch a Chevy shuttle service with a fleet of Cruze sedans, Volts, Camaros, Corvettes and Malibu Ecos, which people could test drive from the convention center or flag down like a taxi for a ride to their next destination, since SXSW events are scattered all around Austin.

The brand got some but not total cooperation from the city. Police sent an unmarked police car to nicely block the street in front of all the Chevys as people got in and out. Unfortunately for Chevy, the unmarked car was a Ford Mustang.

Getting even more attention and action for Chevy was their booth just pass the cars and inside the convention center. It was the Volt Recharge Lounge where attendees could re-charge smartphones and laptops.

With blatant wall-to-wall mobile usage at the show, Chevy’s real brand power was also shown in the electricity provided to very large numbers of people.





Chuck Martin is author of The Third Screen; Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile, The Smartphone Handbook, CEO of Mobile Future Institute, Director of the Center for Media Research at MediaPost Communications and a highly sought-after mobile marketing speaker.


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