The big trend on everyone’s agenda at the moment is big data, but in the world of machine-to-machine communications (M2M) it’s the small data that matters.
M2M communications is helping automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) better understand their vehicles’ performance and driving behavior. This enables OEMs to develop and evolve relationships by having informed conversations with their customers (dealers, suppliers and consumers) and deliver new, innovative value added services.
By using an embedded SIM card that transmits data wirelessly via a secure mobile network, M2M can collect important granular pieces of information from a vehicle which be put to a wide variety of useful purposes. David Levine, Global Head of Automotive Business Development, Vodafone explains the potential applications for M2M and the opportunities its adoption presents to automotive software and hardware engineers.
The industry drivers
In terms of the machine-to-machine industry as a whole, the automotive sector is by far the biggest, eclipsing its use in utilities, consumer goods and manufacturing. Some analysts predict that the sector will generate up to $199 billion in revenue in 2020. Adoption is being driven largely by EU regulations supporting the implementation of eCall. By 2015, all new cars will be required to have M2M technology that allows their car to automatically notify the nearest emergency center when the driver has been in a crash.
Figure 1: eCall is one of the major driver for automotive M2M
There are two options for implementing this mobile technology; firstly the tethered phone option. This would enable the eCall system to operate from the SIM that is inside of the consumer's mobile phone which would be 'tethered’ to the vehicle via Bluetooth or USB connection. The other is the embedded SIM, where the card is fitted inside the vehicle and connects automatically when an impact is detected.
The EU Commission strongly recommends the latter option since the tethered approach only works if the driver remembers to connect their phone (typically via USB, WiFi or Bluetooth) and their battery is charged. The driver also has to ensure the phone is with him or her at all times. An embedded SIM removes this uncertainty and will lead to more consistent responses. Many people within the industry are predicting that the EU Commission will soon make the embedded SIM mandatory.
ECall technology has the potential to be as influential on road safety as seatbelts and airbags. However, it comes at an upfront cost to OEMs who have to install new mobile connectivity in their vehicles. As a result, OEMs will be particularly keen to realize new revenue opportunities that this new found connectivity will present.
Cars can produce a vast amount of useful information, but the difficulty has always been extracting that information and turning it into something meaningful. With M2M, the biggest opportunity lies in its ability to establish a two way communication between the car and service provider. Previously, only a one way connection existed: e.g. sending traffic information to a vehicle via RDS-TMC.
The tracking of driver behavior has the potential to be one of the biggest growth areas for M2M deployment, provided the driver is happy to give their permission for the data to be collected. One possible application could be offering usage-based insurance models that can charge in relation to individual driving habits. The SIM card can send information to insurers about the driver’s speed and driving behavior. Safer drivers can benefit from paying lower premiums.
Information about how a car is being driven is also useful to rental car companies and owners of vehicle fleets. Users of the cars can be charged more or less based, for example, on how they look after the car and whether they conserve petrol. This has the potential to extend the life of the vehicle and reduce the loss of value over time.
The second hand car market will also be affected. Soon it will be possible to test the truth of the classic salesman’s line about a car that has had ‘one careful owner’. Historical data on acceleration and speed will quickly identify when it has been in the hands of a boy racer. All of these innovations have the power to positively affect the way people drive, reduce speeds, extend the life of cars and create a more considerate approach to fuel consumption.
Relationship with the consumer
Normally, when a car leaves the showroom floor the dealer will only see the vehicle again when it is in need of a service or repairs. M2M can help establish a stronger relationship between the driver and the dealership. The connected car allow dealers to add a range of services and interactions that will enhance the connection they have with the consumer, enabling them to differentiate their offerings from their competitors.
For example, automotive manufacturers can co-operate with partners to deliver infotainment services such as video, music and applications via the mobile network directly to the car. Consumers will soon come to expect additional services such as vehicle theft tracking, breakdown services and remote unlocking if they have misplaced their keys as part of a sales package.
The dealership could also use diagnostic information sent from the car to identify engine problems remotely and warn driver when there is a fault, prompting them to come in for a service. This evolved relationship is beneficial for everyone in the value chain. The car dealers and OEMs are able to create new streams of revenue and the consumer is able to benefit from tailored additional services.The public sector will also be looking to see how M2M-enabled cars can help them improve the services they provide. Once the roads are filled with connected cars, the data they generate will be able to provide a wide range of anonymized traffic information that will help them better understand their motorway networks.
Real-time, detailed traffic information based on vehicle speeds and braking data will enable drivers to stay up to speed with the current state of the roads and help civil authorities take action when needed, diverting traffic quickly to alternative routes to ease congestion.
Road-level information relayed from the cars will also enable better support during adverse weather conditions. ABS and vehicle stabilization information will help identify patches of black ice on the roads. Gritting trucks can then be deployed more accurately and effectively, saving the tax payer money and ensuring maximum safety.
Vehicle suspension data collected from cars will also be able to help authorities detect faults in the road before they develop into potholes. This means that they can be dealt with quickly before they are large enough to cause damage to vehicles and endanger lives. Roads should also close less often and for shorter periods of time, minimizing disruption and cost.
The technology already exists to make these services a reality and over the next few years, as OEMs produce the next generation of cars, we will increasingly see M2M services become a key part of their offerings. OEMs will also begin to use the data gained from previous M2M-enabled models to enhance the performance of the next rage of cars.
M2M has the power to revolutionize the automotive industry, changing everything from driver behavior to the way cars are bought, sold and produced. Once all cars are M2M connected the possibilities are endless, presenting an exciting opportunity for software and hardware engineers in the automotive world.
David Levine is the Global Head of Automotive Business Development and Strategy within Vodafone's Machine – to – Machine (M2M) organization. He leads a team of highly-experienced individuals responsible for setting and delivering on Vodafone's global strategy in the ConnectedCar space and brings a myriad of experience from the automotive and emerging technology worlds. David has a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Manchester and an MBA from the Manchester Business School
Prior to Vodafone, David was the European Head of Automotive Business Development at traffic-information company INRIX (formerly ITIS) and was the Managing Director of the German traffic business ITIS Deutschland. David joined ITIS from Hewlett-Packard where he spent 7 years in a variety of mobile technology positions; laterally as part of the CTO organization running a joint-venture with Nokia in Europe.
This article was previously published on EETimes Europe.