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The Internet of Things and the automotive industry: A paradigm shift

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Since the advent of the smartphone we have seen a world that has brought us greater integration. It has created an environment where we increasingly seek instant gratification and thus consumer habits have changed dramatically. This increased connectivity is starting to proliferate to many other aspects of our lives via the Internet of Things (IoT).

One such area where the opportunities appear vast for this new facet of consumption is the automotive industry. Historically, cars were commodities that once the car was purchased, contact between supplier and consumer would, barring servicing or any problems, end. And other than bolt on accessories, you bought a car with finite specifications and attributes and that would generally be unchanged until the purchase of a new one.

With connectivity playing an increasingly important role in the shaping of driver experience, this paradigm will be completely transformed. As the IoT becomes a progressively more important enabler of consumption, manufacturers will want to monetise the opportunities that come to the fore. For instance, subscriptions are now available for everything from navigation systems to concierge services. Whilst such services may be the domain of only ‘lighthouse’ customers at the moment, this is likely to change over the next three to four years as more business models begin to follow this route and more cars are delivered with a form of in-car connectivity.

What the future holds

Much like how mobile device providers release regular software updates to improve the functionality of their products via over-the-air (OTA) technology, car manufacturers will be able to do the same. Tesla exemplifies how this technology is being used now. In its new vehicles, batteries are limited in their charge capacity. However, customers are able to use an update with OTA technology to upgrade battery capability if they so choose. It is not difficult to see how OTA technology may be extended to other parts of a vehicle’s functionality. For example, it is not unusual for car manufacturers to fit the same engine with different software specifications to different car models. In theory, consumers would be able use an OTA update to change power outputs of their engines throughout the ownership of their car. This represents a changing dynamic between consumer and manufacturer from passive to active.

The evolution of connectivity within the automotive sphere does throw up certain issues. The ability to future-proof cars will be essential meaning a greater need for software capacity going forward. This will be especially important as the technology surrounding driverless cars keeps evolving– 90 per cent of self-drive technology is software-based, highlighting just how important this facet is. As a result, new platforms are emerging that further help car manufacturers develop, manage and operate in-vehicle applications from the cloud. Such platforms will, therefore, enable new services to be delivered such as content delivery, vehicle diagnostics and cabin personalization for drivers, regardless of the vehicle they are driving.

A fundamental area that will be of particular significance for OTA updates will be navigation systems. With networks in constant flux the need for providers to ensure GPS systems are up to date and correct will be essential – otherwise the consequences could be catastrophic. One solution for this is working with experts in automotive software, OTA updates and the cloud to keep vehicles fresh.  Creating a robust update service of compatible software where data is added as a stratum above the existing navigation mainframe structure will help solve these problems.  This will further help release OEMs from having to worry about adding additional specifications to their products.

Increased vulnerability

With increased vehicle connectivity comes additional vulnerability and susceptibility to breaches of security. Going forward, providers must ensure that consumers are protected from a number of different threats, whether that is the installation of viruses, injection of malicious code, degraded or denied functionality and or personal data becoming compromised.

Protecting users from this will require more than just a single answer. As attackers have become more sophisticated in the tactics and implementation of attacks, so too will the systems that need to thwart them. This should not only include protection for hardware platforms but also OS access control, hypervisor usage to protect key systems, application sandboxing and network protection. In addition to this, ensuring that all of these components are updated regularly, and hassle free manner, via OTA updates will only help with the protection of users.

The evolution – success and failure

Undoubtedly the car manufacturing landscape is set to drastically change. Not only will the relationship between manufacturer and consumer evolve, but the way in which we perceive cars will also acutely alter. Consumer choices will be increasingly based on the abilities of the software and thus the functionality of the car. The influence of IoT will only grow and only those companies, who adapt best and continue to innovate, will succeed.


Andrew Till

Andrew Till

Andrew Till is the Vice President for Technology, Partnerships & New Solutions for HARMAN Connected Services. In this role Andrew looks at new emerging technologies, developing industry market trends, develops key industry partnerships and ecosystem initiatives and works directly with many of the company’s customers helping them deliver compelling offerings to market.

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