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When Windscreens Become Computer Screens

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As our cars become ever more connected, in car entertainment will become the new frontier in our interactive online experience

What's the most expensive computer you have ever purchased? No, it wasn't that tricked out Macbook Pro from a few years ago that set you back over £2k. It was your car.

Your car is the most expensive computer you will ever own. What's fascinating is that on average you will replace your computer and your car nearly the same frequency - every 3-5 years. Hopefully you are not replacing both at the same time, though.

Last year, nearly 13 million new cars were sold and this year JD Power expects this number to be closer to 14 million. And while computer sales were over 414 million and smartphone sales were nearly 488 million, your car is more than just a super computer that can go from 0-60 in 6.7 seconds.

If you think about the time you spend in your car, it is one of the few parts of the day that your multitasking is limited but your time spent is substantial. The average US commuter spends nearly an hour each day commuting by car. In countries like the UK it is even higher - here we spend an hour and half on average in our cars.

Having spent time over the last couple of months in nearly a third of the top 20 worst commuter cities (Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, Toronto, Houston, and New York) -- I started thinking about how I could make better use of this time.

And with the forthcoming reality of self-driving cars, we will all be passengers with a substantial amount of free time on our hands, something these days each of us could use a lot more of.

There are some amazing ideas extending existing technologies and even some that recreate elements in the car that we are familiar with.

What we are seeing are connected cars with more than just traffic information and the ability press a button to make an emergency call, but customised infotainment that harnesses the power of connectivity and distinct personalisation.

One of my favourite examples is from GM and a design academy. They took the car window and the idea the window being a portal to the outside world, and the windows become digitally connected screens. A great video from GM - http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEDn1517Xno - shows the how these ideas could be realised. The concepts would allow you to play games, connect to your social network, or even learn about where you are and where you are going. I see this and know that the world is a better place for my children, because as a kid I remember the monotony of "I Spy" and trying to find license plates from all 50 US states. This is just amazing.

Earlier this year, I had a chance to spend some time with Tesla Motors. I was blown away by the technology that not just ran the car, but allowed the consumer (who is also a driver or passenger) to interact with a touch screen interface that is nearly the size of two iPads.

So as I see these types of interfaces and screens, I begin to think through what opportunities are available to connect with consumers?

How can the location-based data - where you are and more importantly where you are going -- factor into an advertising experience?

My GPS knows where I am, where I am going, and what time I'll get there. It also knows what I will pass along my route.

Several years ago I worked on an online banner campaign for a fast food restaurant that had the simple concept to allow consumers to enter their home address and their work address, and it would map out the most convenient location to swing by to try one of their featured value breakfast meals.

It was a good idea, but honestly it was cumbersome and lacked the situational relevance that a similar type of execution could achieve directly into my car's GPS/in-dash display. In fact, maybe my car knows what stores and restaurants I tend to stop at, so it can dynamically optimize what offers are presented to me via the display and the car radio.

Do we look at this as an online, mobile, out-of-home, radio, or some other type of media buy?

It's important to remember that as much as we want the latest technology with all the amazing design features, we still want to be comfortable and not overwhelmed so much we lose sight of the function. The design needs to be built with the consumer in mind, and not make us feel intimidated, overwhelmed, or plain stupid. This is true in how we engage technology from a marketing perspective

Great technology will become ubiquitous and fade into the background, just as some of the best "ads" people adore and share. The proper balance between tech and what is natural will be adapted and adopted. Automation will increase efficiency and give us more time to sit back and relax, work, or be entertained. And savvy marketers will be able to take advantage of the evolving mediums and connect with consumers wherever they are, even if it means sitting in stop and go traffic on the commute home.

This article was co-written with Ryan K Manchee, MediaMind's resident technology visionary and creative strategist for North and Latin America, providing agencies, marketers and our technology partners with a prescient and strategic perspective on the shifting media landscape. Follow him at @rmanchee