Cars and Clouds – the rise of the smartphone on wheels?

Car

Connected Cars and the LTE World Summit, Amsterdam – Sharing increasingly common ground, the two worlds of LTE and the Connected Car also met at a conference and exhibition venue last week in Amsterdam under the broad and inclusive banner of the LTE World Summit. The internal combustion engine has been one of the defining transformative technologies of the last century – and mobile communications and apps have already dramatically changed the lives of the six billion or so humans currently connected on our planet’s surface. The merging of these two worlds looks set to drive yet another wave of unpredictable innovation.

Both cars and mobile phones are usually seen by their users as intensely personal possessions that often reflect lifestyle choices and personalities. The use of both too can also have significant, unexpected – and sometimes unwanted – effects on wider societies and the environment …

While a huge wave of work is already well advanced from all the different players in the sector – the CSPs, car manufacturers and their suppliers, telecoms manufacturers, apps and digital service developers and the internet and infotainment communities – each naturally tends to see things from their own particular angle. In this context, it was interesting to see these different players debate issues like security and the implications of hacked cars.

New technologies inevitably bring new vulnerabilities and the car will be no different – except that a hacked car will potentially be a lot more dangerous than a hacked mobile. Complementary discussions touched on driverless cars, already legal in three US states and currently being tested in a number of countries around Europe, plus the growing use of autonomous intelligence within various car systems such as braking and collision protection to take over from the driver.

The debate also broadened out from there to encompass how smart cars would fit into the wider ‘smart city’ urban environment to simplify parking, avoid traffic jams, anticipate dangerous driving conditions and increase fuel efficiency in a dangerously oil-dependent world. Also flagged were the dangers of driver distraction, as more and more functionalities, controls and displays were crammed into a setting that once just held a few gauges and knobs.

With such a variety of different entities involved in the Connected Car concept, now including governments and legislators as well, the thorny issue is obviously who is going to take responsibility for which part of the food chain. Many of the participants have spent millions of dollars and many years building their own brand names in their respective industries – with some in the automotive sector stretching back well over a century – and anything that might impact on those brand values as a result of a third party partner’s actions naturally give cause for concern. Similar issues arise around customer ownership and the need to provide support over the whole lifetime of the car for different owners, despite the inevitable changes in technologies and commercial relationships.

One solution – already being rolled out in many other industry areas as well – is to move many of these functions into the Cloud. Magnus Lundgren, vice-president of the Connected Cloud for Ericsson, explained that Ericsson had  restructured itself to focus its resources onto this specific vertical market. “While Ericsson has already been deeply involved in this marketplace through links with car manufacturers like Volvo and providing support for AT&T’s Drive, a modular and global automotive services support platform, we’ve also been drawing on our wide experience in managed services to provide the kind of consistent and trusted continuity that the automotive sector in particular requires.”

 

Lundgren adds, “If you need to provide support for a product that needs long term care and maintenance, often by different parties; involves multiple sub-systems, each with their own different rates of evolution or failure; and, in particular, will be owned by multiple users during its life in possibly different countries, then the  idea of abstracting data and many other functions makes perfect sense. You not only protect the customer’s investment, but you also make it much easier for all the other players involved – garages, CSPs, manufacturers, providers of infotainment systems and services and so on – to work together in the most efficient and cost-effective ways possible – both now and into the longer term future.”

 

“This cloud approach also supports the introduction of entirely new services,” he concludes. “One good example of this is Roam Delivery, a service recently demonstrated by Volvo that, through the secure use of digital keys allows drivers to have their shopping or food delivered directly to the boot of their parked car by a third party, with a smartphone app tracking all the activity involved. That’s the kind of collaborative innovation that this strategy can inspire for the wider Connected Car market.”

 

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