The Smart Car Revolution
Ever since the introduction of the smartphone, modern communications technology has become increasingly ubiquitous in our everyday lives. From socializing with friends and family to way-finding, shopping, entertainment and business, mobile technology has become irreversibly entwined with our lives.
Going hand-in-hand with the smartphone revolution, we’re seeing the beginnings of a complete paradigm shift in the automotive world. With the introduction of both semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles, the car is being repurposed from a simple transportation device to an extension of our digital self. As cars become increasingly connected and augmented with digital interfaces, the potential for introducing new software and services inside the vehicle is increased.
Business Insider Intelligence expects connected car shipments to rise from 33 million in 2017 to over 77 million by 2025. There are projected to be around 14 million semi- or fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) on the roads in the US by 2025. As such, cars will be an important entry point for linking to data, smart devices and the consumer benefits they yield. This presents the auto industry with unprecedented possibilities in turning automobiles into technology hubs that can manage the driver’s digital assets in a holistic fashion.
Major car manufacturers have begun to capitalize on the car-as-a-platform way of thinking, and are taking steps to open up their ecosystem to 3rd party software developers: Google Maps and other navigation tools, like Waze, have begun to replace built-in GPS systems. Apps such as GasBuddy show the driver where he or she can find the cheapest fuel in their area, and music apps such as Spotify and Google Play remove the need for traditional radio.Whereas in the past the time-to-market for new in-vehicle features was counted in years, there is a strong push to shorten this time to months.
Connected cars offer immediate technological enhancements without pushing users beyond their comfort zone. Car manufacturers are increasingly utilizing the Internet of Things to enable connection, utilize data and facilitate consumer demands. Payments are one way connected cars can offer on-the-go convenience by leveraging that connectivity with purchasing power.
One emerging area of global interest is the move away from traditional payment methods such as cash or cards, and towards intelligent environments where payment transactions move between entities in a seamless manner. Connected mobile nodes such as phones, wearables, or even automobiles have the ability to move nomadically between various smart spaces and manage monetary transactions in a transparent and user-friendly way.
Boogie Software has a long history in helping large international customers with digital banking transformation. As experts of digital banking and payments, becoming a part of the smart car revolution felt very natural to us. Specifically, we chose to explore the possibility of utilizing the smart connected car as a hub for consumer payments - effectively turning the car into a digital wallet.
Use cases for digital payments originating from the car are many. As we utilize our cars every day, we often find ourselves in a situation where financial transactions have to be made: stopping for gasoline or charging an electric car, ordering take-out food in a drive-through restaurant, or paying for road tolls on the highway, to mention a few. Similarly, in-car services such as purchasing a new navigation app, renting a movie to keep the back seat quiet, or even purchasing performance enhancements directly from the car manufacturer are future use cases that require a way to carry out payments.
For all these use cases and more, we have been developing a ground-breaking service we call Pulita (derived from a Finnish colloquialism meaning ‘to pay’).
How does it work?
Pulita runs on the new Android Automotive OS, and we have developed a native implementation for this novel platform. We have also collaborated with Bittium to create an implementation for their Bittium Automotive Reference Design platform. The screenshots shown later in this post show Pulita running on Bittium's platform.
Technically speaking, Pulita is a host of front- and back-end components enabling any type of merchant to make their goods or services, either physical or digital, available to drivers in a smart, context-aware manner through the Pulita client software running in the car’s IVI (In-Vehicle Infotainment) system.
Pulita is a context-aware system, meaning that it utilizes information from the physical environment to provide meaningful data to the driver. As automobiles are, by nature, nomadic nodes roaming freely in a physical space of unconstrained size, the need of context-awareness is obvious. If an electric car is driving along a road in Manhattan, there really is no point in telling the driver that a service station in Pittsburgh has launched a deal on gasoline.
Pulita utilizes the built-in GPS of a car, along with other context-relevant data, to only display relevant service points found in the environment to the driver. This makes the entire experience relevant and distraction free.
As an example, let’s consider the following scenario:
John is driving home from work in his new Pulita-equipped car. As he navigates the familiar route through the city, the Pulita client running on the touchscreen in his dashboard constantly updates to display a list of nearby service providers - restaurants, service stations, auto repair shops, and so forth (figure 1). This list is available for John at a glance, and he can tap on the list to indicate that he wants to receive navigation instructions to any one of the available options.
Figure 1. Pulita widget displaying nearby locations on the vehicle’s IVI screen
John notices that the car is running somewhat low on gasoline, and decides to stop for a fill-up. Glancing down at his IVI screen, John sees a service station listed in the ‘services nearby’ list. He taps on the widget to open the Pulita app in fullscreen mode, and selects to navigate to the service station (figure 2). After John selects the nearest service station from the list, the car’s default navigator takes over and provides turn-by-turn directions to the location.
Figure 2. Pulita app showing navigation options to nearby service points
As John makes the final turn and arrives at the service station, the Pulita system detects that he has now arrived at his destination and the default navigator is switched off and replaced by the Pulita app again. John is now greeted with the service stations’ home view, where he can browse available services and select the one he is interested in purchasing (figure 3).
Figure 3. Pulita app showing the home screen of a service station
John needs gasoline, so he selects the fuel option. The service station has several fuel pumps, so the Pulita app uses Bluetooth-based last-mile positioning to determine which fuel pumps John is closest to and only offers those as options (figure 4), thus providing yet another level of context-awareness to the driver.
Figure 4. Pulita uses last-mile positioning to display purchasing options based on physical location
John selects a free pump and the maximum amount to be charged. He also selects a payment method from the list of credit cards he has previously added to Pulita, and confirms his purchase (figure 5). The payment has now been made, and John can step out of his vehicle to operate the fuel pump. A receipt of his purchase is displayed on the IVI screen, and a copy is also sent directly to his email.
Figure 5. Pulita offers a flexible way of handling different types of payments
Pulita offers a fully functional web store for merchants interested in selling their goods through the Pulita system. A business owner can register as a Pulita merchant and use the provided web interface to create one or several stores with a physical location and a selection of goods or services available for purchase. This option is perfect for smaller businesses who do not necessarily yet have an online shop or complex software to manage their inventory and payments. Registering as a Pulita merchant will provide these businesses with an easy integration with their existing point-of-sale system and can help drive business by enabling customers to make purchases through a novel and exciting new interface - without having to leave the comfort of their own cars.
For larger businesses and chains Pulita provides an enterprise option where our experts will create custom components to enable a smooth integration with existing systems. The enterprise option is perfect for e.g. service station chains that have possibly hundreds of stations nationwide and complex sales and inventory systems already in place. For these businesses Pulita offers a novel addition to existing purchasing methods without requiring the driver to leave their vehicle or perform complex actions with their mobile device.
For businesses that already have an online store or sell digital products such as apps from their own service, Pulita offers a light-weight integration option called Pulita Pay. In this option, the merchant does not need to create a store to the Pulita system or do any sort of deep integration. Pulita Pay is a simple payment API that allows a merchant to accept payments from drivers with existing Pulita accounts.
Pulita Pay is perfect for e.g. selling digital goods to drivers. In this sense Pulita Pay is similar to payment platforms such as PayPal, but targeted to vehicle drivers. After a driver selects a digital product to purchase and clicks ‘Pay’, a Pulita Pay modal is launched on the IVI screen and the driver can select to use any of their registered payment methods to complete the purchase (figure 6).
Figure 6. Pulita Pay enables merchants to easily accept payments from Pulita users
Are you a car manufacturer interested in integrating a novel payment service to your vehicle line-up? Or a business interested in selling your products to drivers through the Pulita system?
Contact us to arrange a demo and we can discuss opportunities and benefits in becoming an early adopter!
For inquiries, please contact
Mr. Miikka Pakkanen
COO, Boogie Software Oy
Tel. +358 40 501 2991