Big Data – big solution or big problem?

Big Data presents a huge opportunity for automotive companies to meet the needs of their more demanding, educated customers. However, using and harnessing the data remains a challenge for OEMs, which have never had to put so much data to use before. In the first of a series of four Automotive World Megatrends webinars sponsored …

Big Data presents a huge opportunity for automotive companies to meet the needs of their more demanding, educated customers. However, using and harnessing the data remains a challenge for OEMs, which have never had to put so much data to use before.

In the first of a series of four Automotive World Megatrends webinars sponsored by GENIVI, a non-profit industry alliance committed to driving the broad adoption of an In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) open-source development platform, leading experts discussed the technologies and trends which are making the Internet of Cars a reality.

The panel consisted of Andreas Mai, Director Smart Connected Vehicles, Cisco; Sarwant Singh, Senior Partner, Frost & Sullivan; and Joe Speed, IoT Leader, IBM, who discussed the role that Big Data will play in the evolution of the connected car over the next decade and beyond, exploring the numerous challenges and opportunities for automotive OEMs and suppliers.

The collaboration between PSA and IBM enables the companies to process and analyse real-time data from the connected vehicle
Big Data presents many benefits to multiple parties, including drivers themselves.

Food for thought

Mai described Big Data as food for thought, inspiring OEMs to think outside the box of the usual use for data, and instead using data collected from the car in a more useful way – for monetisation. He said, “Everyone wants to see the money; the Internet of Cars unlocking US$1,400 in benefits per year, per vehicle.”

Aside from making money, however, Big Data presents many benefits to multiple parties, including drivers themselves. Mai explained, “Big Data has big benefits for vehicle users, allowing lower insurance premiums, lower operating costs, and ultimately creating savings.”

When considering what Big Data has the power to do, the reason for this is clear. “Less time stuck in traffic allows you to be more productive,” said Mai. “Society would obviously benefit from fewer crashes, and 80% of crash scenarios can be prevented by V2V communication.”

Mai also believes that Big Data has the opportunity to transform the OEM mobility value chain by allowing OEMs the opportunity to assess a vehicle error and possibly provide the driver with an over the air update to correct the problem rather than recalling a large amount of vehicles. He explained, “You can connect data from various parts of business structure so a detected fault will not turn into a mass recall.”

However, finding a place to store this data is currently a challenge for the industry, and transporting data from the car to the cloud is appearing as a viable option. But it would be naive to think that this method of collecting and sending data would not also bring with it a host of challenges.

Mai said, “The more connected cars are, the more data can be made use of and stored, but then congestion of airways becomes an issue. Offloading data and switching the ways a vehicle can connect to the cloud is mission critical.”

Frost & Sullivan’s Singh spoke about the viability of connected living as a huge market for the future, with more than 80 billion connected devices in existence by the end of the century. Singh commented on the vast amount of data that is now being generated and used, and suggested that the data that has been produced in the last 18-24 months compared with the last 10 years is staggering.

“Connected living is going to be a huge market in the future. There will be 80 billion connected devices and consumers will want seamless connected living everywhere they go,” said Singh.

According to Frost & Sullivan, there is currently US$122bn in global market opportunity for Big Data. Singh said, “Digital content is doubling every 18 months, and if you look at the car industry in North America and Europe it is estimated that 8.5 to 9 million cars in 2013 were connected. By the end of this decade 34 million cars will be connected.”

Singh also mentioned monetisation of Big Data, and how in 2013, only 2% of Big Data was monetised. However, Singh noted that the number of monetised Big Data is expected to grow from 10 megabytes to about 5 gigabytes in an average car by 2017-2018.

Car retailing opportunities

Singh also suggested that Big Data will mean a tremendous change in car retailing in the future: “This is the biggest opportunity for OEMs as 93% of customers have actually researched the car now. The business model is changing and no longer are the days where 60-80% of the leads would come in through calls or walk-ins. Today already 60-70% of leads are coming in through the digital network.”

IBM’s Speed described the car as part of the Internet of Things, albeit a shiny and expensive one compared to other connected devices such as smartphones and tablets. However, Speed mentioned that the connected car is a Big Data problem. He said, “In an average car, there is between 1 and 5 gigabytes an hour of data produced, and when you consider that there are around 60 million cars manufactured each year that is a lot of data.”

Speed suggested that rather than discarding the data, OEMs can do interesting things with it, but the difficult task is finding a way to manage and store the data. He said, “HTTP has no quality of service, is not reliable and not designed for wireless,” and therefore noted that there must be a better way to manage car data.

Speed spoke about MQTT (the Message Queuing Telemetry Transport), a messaging protocol which was developed by IBM. He said, “We have made the technology open source.”

Speed added, “Half a dozen manufacturers are already building MQTT into their cars and trucks because it is military grade secure. The platform can currently connect 21 million vehicles per rack.”

Tesla Model S
Tesla has announced the use of over-the-air updates for buyers of certain Model S vehicles to address problems with the vehicle

Warranty benefits

Using MQTT, companies can use predictive maintenance to tell customers that they have a part that needs servicing. “This can be used to engage the customer and keep tighter relationship.”

The technology can also be used for real time Big Data to improve driver experience. “Where this really becomes interesting is getting a macro view of what is happening in my area. In 14 microseconds we can have analysis to say that a road is icy and get warnings sent to other cars.”

Mai considers the biggest benefits of Big Data, however to be lower service and warranty costs, as well as driving benefits. He said, “Big Data allows for far more customer communication which can see the customer informed when a part in their car needs replacing. It will also enable location based services delivered directly in the vehicle.”

Singh also mentioned another Big Data benefit in the form of warranty and vehicle management. He said, “Some recent recalls could have been prevented or managed better, as the manufacturers could have used Big Data to predict that a failure was happening or just used it for a much better management of recalls.”

Singh also noted that Big Data is already happening today in other services, and suggests that the automotive industry can in fact learn from industries such as aviation, which uses remote diagnostics to remotely manage and predict maintenance on the aeroplanes. “This is something that can be adopted by the automotive industry to allow recalls to be better managed.”

Privacy concerns

Another challenge that Big Data brings is security of information, which Mai described as a hot topic across the industry. He said, “There are tremendous amounts of security risks and threats in the connected vehicle space.”

While a cloud-based service may protect vehicles from such threats, this will undoubtedly need to be supported by computer power, which Mai explained is currently missing from vehicles.

He said, “We are currently working in the Big Data space to allow us to extend from the big brother fear to develop more of a big mother. You need the right technology to do this and also to define the policies necessary to govern big data for all of us.

What comes with this is data responsibility and accountability, which Mai described as a data lifecycle. “Before Big Data starts becoming a mainstream option, it is key to establish where data is emitted and collected, what data aspects are personal and benefit society, and how we deal with the commercial ownership of the data.”

However, the question remains, are people going to be willing to take Big Data as far as it is able to go? Speed mentioned that a generation divide undoubtedly exists when it comes to privacy concerns, and that young people don’t seem to mind growing up in transparency in an alarming degree. “I’m noticing people my age are very much privacy conscious but as long as young people are getting something of value, it doesn’t seem to be a big concern for them. Some of the concern we try to put into protecting personally identifiable information is putting energy into the wrong parts of the problem.”

Mai added, “If we create a market place where everyone who buys a car decides what data to share, with whom and for what value, you will see a Big Data marketplace emerge. If you allow entities to monopolise this information, you will stifle all the innovation.”

Rachel Boagey