Just how connected is the connected car and for what purpose?

by Keith O'Byrne for blog, IOT

We had a busy Mobile World Congress in Barcelona recently, where auto makers like BMW, Volvo, Nissan and Ford had such a prominent presence that you could be forgiven for thinking the next big technology trend is actually called the Internet of Cars, as covered by Susan Fourtané. It really is a reflection of the evolution going on in the automotive industry right now that such prestigious auto manufacturers are showcasing their wares at the world’s leading mobile technology event. Effectively, this is a coming of age for the ultimate mobile device.

Car driving on freeway at sunset, motion blur

From Asavie’s perspective, connected cars and in particular electric cars have a whole lot of interesting connectivity challenges to be solved and they’re at scale. So we thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at some of the implications connected cars have from data exhausts to electric vehicle charging stations.


Two-way street

Big picture first: with connected cars, increasingly you’ve got a bi-directional data flow scenario where the driver is not only consuming information, whether through the in-car infotainment system or a navigation app, but you’ve also got the car itself sending telemetry data back to the dealer or directly to the manufacturer. Lots of people are looking at cars (such as SAP and their Connected Vehicles Initiative) as interesting places to gather analytics from the data exhaust, the real sweet spot for IoT, because the data becomes useful in large volumes where you can slice it many different ways to better anticipate and correct problems and deliver high customer satisfaction scores and better targeting of resources to customer satisfaction.

Tesla, for instance, monitors a vast array of data points like knowing every time you turn on the windshield wipers. Some manufacturers such as Ford don’t bother to instrument that, but Tesla knows when it’s raining where its drivers are, because the wipers have been activated. Multiply that by the number of Teslas in a particular area, and that data suddenly becomes interesting to someone, with potential to monetize it. Similarly autonomous driving car initiatives from Google and Comma are capturing unparalleled levels of data in order to optimize the driving experience.

The key to remember is that the value of this data is time-dependent in many cases. You can download batches of data from, say, a Volvo when it’s back at the dealer for a once-yearly service, but a lot of the information is far less relevant because it’s no longer in real time.

There are multiple connectivity challenges where sensor-heavy cars are concerned: for one thing, they move around, so they’re potentially travelling in and out of hotspot coverage – assuming you’d want a car broadcasting over public Wi-Fi to begin with. Traditional cellular connections are potentially tricky if you have to manage handover from one network to another as you cross borders. Also, the connectivity has to work both ways: if the manufacturer needs to push a software update to car over the air, is there sufficient bandwidth, and who pays?

Start me up

An obvious place to manage connectivity that’s less time-sensitive is at the electrical vehicle charging (EVC) station when the car battery is getting topped up, an area that Asavie has experience of, having recently implemented a nation-wide EVC project.

On one level, it was a classic ‘maker’ project. They used a BeagleBone Black, which we’re starting to see crop up more and more in industrial deployments because they’re so good. The spec called for 120 roadside charging stations that could carry out some simple industrial automation tasks – the main one being to let car owners purchase power. Unlike consuming electricity while you’re at home, the trick to buying it on the side of the road is making sure it’s billed to your account and not to someone else’s.

The billing system was in the cloud, with a simple AWS setup to control the charging stations. In beta testing the original prototyping was conducted over Wi-Fi, however, once the deployment went outdoors, this wouldn’t work. It had to be bi-directional and capable of handling greater transaction loads than the lab environment offered. Furthermore, the charging stations were not to have public IP addresses. Asavie PassBridge IoT connectivity platform provided the connectivity to enable bi-directional communication across SIMs. Asavie PassBridge ensures the connectivity is over the internet but not public. Whatever you’re connecting for your IoT project, you shouldn’t need to worry about the security of your connection – and when you’re talking about serious stuff like a moving car, it helps to have everything locked down. Our ambition is to have Asavie connected cars, recharging at  Asavie connected charging stations – so stay tuned.

If you would like to hear more from Keith, you can hear him speak at the IoT World event this summer. We have an exclusive offer for our friends and partners of 30% off all tickets. Click here to request your discount.

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