Automotive > Infotainment & Telematics Blog

Automotive Connectivity – Will Wi-Fi Muscle Out Bluetooth & USB, or Can They All Get Along?

by Edward Sanchez | Jul 20, 2017

Bluetooth Wi-Fi USB
Not all technologies portrayed in sci-fi movies play out exactly as expected. We still don’t have flying cars that fold up into briefcases, as portrayed by the ‘60s animated classic “The Jetsons,” nor the skyways predicted in “Back to the Future Part II.” However, the evolution of the personal communicator, presciently imagined in its nascent form in “Star Trek” as a flip-top walkie-talkie, has taken off in ways that few could have imagined.

Just as Gen-Xers witnessed the internet and World Wide Web go from the realm of academics and tech geeks to the de facto communication and commerce platform of modern life, Millennials have seen the smartphone go from “new shiny thing” with the introduction of the Apple iPhone in 2007 to indispensable and addicting do-anything gadget. Thanks to the explosion of the app economy and the collective creativity of software developers, it’s difficult to imagine our lives today without the dozens of apps at our fingertips facilitating everything from restaurant reservations, coffee ordering, catching up with friends and family thousands of miles away, and reading and viewing breaking news in real-time.

Just as fellow motorists may curse the ubiquity and all-engrossing hypnotism of the infernal smartphone, the device’s dominance has also had an outsized impact on the development of in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) and connectivity standards, to the chagrin of many in the automotive community.

Unsurprisingly, Bluetooth and USB are the twin 800-lb gorillas in this space. The two standards have dominated by their sheer ubiquity, versatility, and ease-of-use. The advent of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have only strengthened the grip of these two standards. But lest you think success has bred complacency for these two giants of connectivity, nothing could be further from the truth. Ongoing innovation in both of the standards is bringing higher power, longer, stronger signals, and greater bandwidth than ever before with Bluetooth 4.0 and now 5.0, and USB 3.0 and Type-C.

Wi-Fi, a staple in wireless home and office connectivity for the last 15 years, is now emerging as an intriguing newcomer in the automotive space. However, its potential utility in the automotive realm extends far beyond that of simply a mobile hot-spot, a use popularized by General Motors’ successful marketing of its OnStar 4G LTE service. Thanks to its generous data bandwidth capacity and versatility in receiving and conveying signals both within and beyond the vehicle, the technology promises to have a potentially revolutionary impact on device connectivity, in-vehicle infotainment, vehicle service updates, and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication and connectivity.

However, the cautionary tale remains of consumer awareness and utilization. The history of technology is littered with cases of unused or under-utilized features that were ultimately dropped or superseded by more savvily marketed, if technically inferior solutions. Wi-Fi is likely to avoid that fate thanks to wide consumer recognition, as well as powerful, versatile, and wide-ranging potential uses. Will Wi-Fi become the new big man on the IVI campus, knocking off the established players, or will there be a new technological ‘Age of Aquarius’ of harmony and understanding between these technologies?

To find out more about the exciting developments taking place in this space, check out Strategy Analytics’ 2017 Wired and Wireless Connectivity report, available to subscribers of SA’s Automotive Infotainment and Telematics service. More details on Strategy Analytics’ automotive offerings can be found on
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