The rapid increase in the number and variety of Internet-enabled devices that can communicate with each other is constantly adding credibility to the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT). This incorporates everything from individual smartphones and portable electronic devices, to smart cities and healthcare.
But the question remains where the car fits into this picture. The automotive Internet of Things includes factories, the supply chain and retail network, explains Elliot Garbus, Vice President of Intel’s Internet of Things Solutions Group, and General Manager of the company’s Automotive Solutions division.
“Different automakers are in different places in their thinking. And there are challenges and opportunities that relate to the traditional model for connectivity. The focus has been on safety and convenience to date. From emergency calling to listening to Pandora or Spotify in your car, the opportunity is to start thinking about how to use information from the vehicle to transform the relationship with the customer, or to improve operational efficiency.
“Toyota just got hit with a recall for a software update for the chargers in the Prius. 1.9 million vehicles need to go back to the dealer for a software update. At the other end of the connected car scale, Tesla is doing almost continual software updates. There’s a very interesting opportunity in operational efficiency and cost avoidance. I’ve heard that it’s not unusual for it to cost an OEM between US$200-400 to call a car in to the dealer.”
Software updates avoid cost; they can also deliver a new level of customer convenience. “The car is really about a brand relationship with the customer. And brand loyalty is always lowest when you’ve got a problem,” says Garbus. “That can be as simple as a flat tyre. It’s time to start thinking about using connectivity to transform the customer relationship. If my car has a slow leak in the tyre, I would prefer to get a text, and with the push of a button have a tow truck at my vehicle changing the tyre. That would transform the relationship. There are opportunities for automakers and suppliers.”
Automotive within the IoT
For a car to be truly connected, and to really be part of an Internet of Things, it needs to be connected not just to other cars but to the wider infrastructure. Wake up in the morning, you’re informed of traffic and weather conditions, advised when to leave and which route to drive. At the end of the day, your car knows when you’re leaving work, selects your route, and adjusts the temperature in your house.
Achieving this involves improving the notion of context and intent. Get it right, and there are untold opportunities, says Garbus. “It’s about delighting customers, and engaging them in the unexpected.”
OEMs are beginning to see the benefits of controlling this. “Traditionally, much of this technology has been outsourced to a Tier 1 supplier. But I’m seeing a number of automakers bringing this technology in-house because the in-car experience is so critical,” he explains. “And the user experience opens up all kinds of opportunities. What are the partnerships? How do you leverage data? How can you build a system that evolves? So much of what we see in vehicles is almost the same design, re-engineered, because the suppliers have been changed. We need to evolve towards a truly platform-oriented approach.”
Garbus cites the transformation of the software-defined cockpit as a key megatrend driving Intel’s activities in the automotive industry. “This involves the need to bring together connected experiences, both inside and outside the car, into a seamless environment that integrates centre stack and instrument cluster – and a heads-up display is critically important to delivering a compelling, safer capability. Integrated and extending into that are advanced driver assistance systems, or ADAS. All of these screens create an opportunity for the appropriate level and place for visualisations, to help keep us safer. That in turn opens up interesting opportunities in mobile augmented reality.”
Another key megatrends is the impact of cost reductions in the core technologies required to accelerate the uptake of IoT-related technology. “I’m seeing investments being made to aggressively drive down the cost of sensors.” The cost of computing will continue to fall, as will the cost of connectivity, in terms of service, network bandwidth and silicon capability. Add to that the falling costs of data centre and Cloud infrastructure, and the economics of computing and analytics change considerably. “That in turn creates an overall megatrend around the collection and transformation of data into usable information.”
It is the integration of these car-specific systems and safety, says Garbus, that creates unique high value automotive experiences. “Moving forward,” he adds, “the vehicle becomes context aware, first for safety, and then on the path towards the autonomous vehicle.”
Crucially, concludes Garbus, the IoT itself is a megatrend. “And it’s happening now”.