A new era for the automotive industry – welcome to the Internet of Things, by Julian Horne

The idea of connecting vehicles on or to the road is nothing new.  As far back as the 1960’s, GM launched its Driver Aid, Information and Routing system.  Not without significant flaws, the system perhaps set our technology developers on the course they are on today.  The DAIR system relied on sensors being imbedded in the roadway system itself, as this was a time before GPS was available for civilian use.  Naturally, this would have involved massive investment to make at least significant areas of roadway DAIR `compatible`, otherwise there was very little point.  Nonetheless, a seed was planted.

In the 1990’s, with the advent of accessible GPS and smart phones, a great opportunity displayed itself to capture the consumer in the infotainment market.  This was probably a more successful time for the software developer than the vehicle manufacturer, as smart phone apps became the order of the day.  Control of the customer and ability for the manufacturer to capture data diminished, in technology terms.

One needs to consider the value of the IoT for the automotive industry.  Why does investment in this market make sense?  It’s all about data, and more importantly, creating value from that data.  Data is communicated, aggregated and analysed to and from the owners of the vehicle network, in IoT terms.  The value is in the looking for the human decisions and preferences – and how they lead to human behaviour, and increased loyalty to your brand.

Cars are considered to be a major element of how the IoT will develop in coming years, with an estimate of 1 in 5 cars having some sort of wireless connection by 2020.  Let’s take safety first.  Vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle infrastructure (V2I) thinking has been around for a while.  More recently, this idea has expanded and gravitated to vehicle to everything(V2X).  V2X embraces the IoT in a big way.  V2X is being tried worldwide by a number of leading manufaturers in a number of different ways.

Perhaps the most interesting area for development to the consumer is the infotainment sector.  It is the most revenue rich for the industry too.  The fight for market share has already begun, and its tough to tell whether the software developers or the vehicle manufacturers will win.  The balance of power will continue to shift.  Take Google’s Android Auto or Apple’s CarPlay.  Both manufacturer and software provider are competing to own the customer experience and the customer data.  An IoT system will aggregate and analyse data, which is a complex undertaking.  It requires collaboration between multiple stakeholders.

Google claim the driverless car will be a real possibility by 2020.  This will provide a very different in-vehicle experience for the passenger, and a space where we choose to work or relax.  So therefore, our connectivity, software and memory requirements will change dramatically as individuals.  And we haven’t even considered what our driverless vehicle will need:  GPS, radar, lider, sonar and lasers.  Only this week, one of Google’s test cars was involved in a collision in the USA, so we still have a way to go!

For the IoT to really take off, in any market, trust and security are key.  The IoT in automotive terms will require the input and capabilities of a number of players.  Software creators and providers, supply chains, designers, manufacturers – the list goes on.  Who is going to be responsible for the security of our data with so many different elements involved?  And who reaps the benefits of aggregating and collating that data, and what will the value of that data be to the market.  The software providers could be considered as the party to ease the bottleneck, as they, and most likely they alone, hold the key to delivering the IoT platform itself.

The benfits of IoT are there for all to see.  But of course, with every bright idea there is often a dark cloud looming overhead.  Where, taking a smartphone as an example, you may upgrade your technology each year or two, that is certainly not the case with the majority of consumers and their vehicles.  Cars currently run on a 5-7 year average replacement in a family home.  How, then, are manufacturers going to keep their consumers happy?  Technology will become obsolete far quicker.  To this end, manufacturers are exploring new ways to reduce overall product cost and also shorten the time to market for new products.

Is the vehicle manufacturer in fact going to be the tech company of the future, and will software and data be the key to new revenue models in the automotive sector?  The answer lies in the IoT.


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