IBM wants to put your parked car to work

Fri, 2014-12-05 06:00 -- Doug Cooley

That car you just slipped into a parking space?  IBM wants to put it to work. 

Researchers at the IBM Research-Ireland lab contend that vehicle batteries, sensors and on-board computers can do more than help navigate roads, reports the ITS Review. They want to enlist these components “to participate in a delivery platform that seems nearly limitless for delivering services above and beyond transportation,” explains lab director Dr. Eleni Pratsini.

The idea of integrating parked cars into a local technology infrastructure began with the realization that cars spend 95% of their lives parked. IBM researchers then started looking at real world parking statistics. According to the The Irish Times, they gathered data from 365 smart meters in Dublin and found the city center was consistenly packed with cars most days and that the average parking time was 65 minutes. With large numbers of cars remaining at a specific location for extended periods of time, researchers saw the chance to leverage the parked car's electronic components for other purposes.

Cell phone connections, gas leak detections
What kind of services might parked cars actually help deliver? Here are a few:

  • Car batteries coupled with Bluetooth technology could help reduce the power consumption of mobile devices and smart phones by offloading network connectivity to a GSM module in a parked car. When the device user comes in range, the GSM module can manage the connection. Citywide coverage might even be possible depending on the network of participating cars and car battery levels.
  • Mobile device processing work could likewise be transferred to a parked car’s CPU when a mobile device comes in range of the parked car network.  
  • On-board vehicle sensors, primarily used for vehicle safety and automation applications now, could take on new roles. For instance, sensors could help locate a wandering dementia patient who was wearing a Bluetooth bracelet. Or detect and locate gas leaks.
  • Vehicle data storage designed for multimedia and info-tainment might make content available for sharing or caching.  For example, parked cars could create a WiFi backbone that deliver content stored in vehicles  -- information, maps and advertisements -- to a user’s mobile device.

IBM research teams will look to work with local government, transportation agencies and automotive industries in developing the parked car platform.