Garmin teaming up with Mercedes-Benz is just the start of its connected journey

Why there's more of a buzz for bringing wearables into the car

The vision for using wearables to truly enhance the car journey hasn't yet been fully realised. Ford set up a wearables lab a few years ago with the aim of doing this, and while we've seen other automotive companies enter the space since then, it's clearly been a challenge to bring together two industries that clearly work at very different paces.

Garmin is hoping it can play its part in changing that. A collaboration with Daimler AG is bringing the wearable maker's devices inside Mercedes-Benz vehicles to help monitor a driver's wellbeing and ultimately keep them calmer and safer on the road.

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The two have partnered up to create a branded version of the Vivoactive 3 smartwatch. Daimler is taking advantage of the heart rate and stress tracking abilities of the wearable and integrating it with its own adaptive comfort and infotainment systems built into Mercedes Benz vehicles.

The ultimate aim is to help reduce weariness or stress for the driver. The Vivoactive 3's data is sent to the Mercedes me app to harness that real-time biometric data to offer insights that can be displayed inside the car. Primarily, these will be to indicate how stressed or relaxed the driver is. Further down the line the integration could also fuel the ability to suggest potentially less stressful routes from the navigation system or pick out stimulating or soothing music to better suit the driver's mood.

Keep calm and drive

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This is one of a host of projects that Garmin and Daimler has been working on around the smarter role wearables can play inside the car. Discussions of integrating a wearable into a Mercedes-Benz vehicle started about a year and half ago, building on the Fit and Health project Daimler unveiled in 2017.

Garmin's most recent wearables that offer stress and heart rate tracking will also play nice with the Mercedes Benz setup

The automotive giant had the vision of being able to evaluate stress, and in searching out a wearable partner decided on Garmin. After going back and forth on designs and looking at Garmin devices that could make a fitting driving companion, the Vivoactive 3 was chosen to get the custom treatment. That special Vivoactive 3 will be offered through dealerships and will start working with vehicles in 2019.

Interestingly, that wearable integration does not only lie with the branded Vivoactive 3, as Kip Dondlinger, product manager and user experience manager for all things automotive at Garmin tells us. Garmin's most recent wearables that offer stress and heart rate tracking will play nice with the Mercedes Benz setup too. So the likes of the Fenix 5 Plus should work, for instance.

While bringing wearable and automotive worlds together might sound like a complex prospect, it was actually quite a straightforward one according to Dondlinger. "So we have APIs as part of our Garmin Connect app," he explained. "This allows an automative company to effortlessly tap into the data streams available through the watch. That's both real-time data streams as well as historic data, so over several days for instance."

A smarter wearable ride

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While the Daimler collaboration has very much been about stress data, Dondlinger says it forms part of a larger push by automotive companies to integrate different types of functionalities into wearables. So we're talking unlocking of cars, using wearables to start vehicles and delving deeper into heart rate and even sleep pattern data.

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"We had discussions with Daimler and others at a concept level about what you could do with stress data, sleep data and other types of biometric data," he said. "Even step data and other types of fitness data that could be part of the vehicle experience.

"So we are not talking the specifically the Mercedes solution here, but things like you haven’t done many steps today, maybe you should park further away from work and get a little bit of a walk in. There’s a variety of responses that the car and navigation can have to the data we are providing, and those responses depend on what the automotive OEM wants."

The benefit of having stored health and fitness data about users over a long period of time clearly has its advantages for creating smarter, more personalised insights for the driver too. "You could look at data over time, to see how various environments in the car or audio content in the car, amount of traffic you’re in, how that correlates with stress data over time," Dondlinger explains. "Longer term, I think we have the opportunity to look at what we learn about those correlations and can we make better suggestions to the driver, or what routes to take or other things they can do to monitor this data.

But what about the benefits to other people in the car? Dondlinger believes the most ripe opportunities right now lie with benefiting the driver, but there could be scope to look at how wearable integration can also include others inside the vehicle.

"We are only touching the surface with the idea of having wearables that can properly integrate in this space. I think as we implement some more obvious integrations, we will start discovering some of these other great opportunities."




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