Machine-to-Machine Technology in the Car: A whole new way to drive
Although experiments with telephony in motor vehicles began as far back as 1946 (Western Electric and Bell Laboratories), it wasn’t until the introduction on OnStar services by General Motors in 1995 that vehicle connectivity emerged from the realm of science fiction to reality – providing for the first time: hands-free voice calling, automated emergency response, remote diagnostics and even control, stolen vehicle recover and related location-based services.
Since then, automakers everywhere have joined the fray. Whether strictly to enable emergency response or to develop new revenue streams, today’s consumer is hard pressed to find a car brand not offering some sort of connected services. In fact, automotive and transportation applications have been and remain M2M’s fastest growing vertical market – achieving in excess of 35% growth both in units and revenue with no foreseeable slowdown in the coming years.
As a result of all this connectivity in the car, all sorts of new business models are emerging which are likely to change the way we view car ownership and even driving itself in the coming years. Here is a short sampling of what’s being done today and what’s possible:
Usage-based insurance: No longer do insurers have to base our rates on guess work and complex algorithms– taking into account the type of vehicle, the age and gender of the driver and. Today, insurance companies can retrieve real life, real-time driving data to customize rates to the individual driver.
eToll/Mobile Payments: M2M tolling devices have been around for a while, but today, with the integration of M2M functionality into the vehicle itself, your car authenticates itself to the toll booth and your charges can appear on your monthly service bill. With this same technology and thinking, it won’t be long before your car pays for its own gas or electric charge itself, too.
Driver assist: It began with rear-view cameras and perimeter sensors to make parking easier, but today’s driver assist now incorporates self-parking and adaptive cruise control to avoid accidents even when you’re cut off in rush-hour traffic.
The recent acquisition of NXP’s Automotive On-board Platform (ATOP) expands Telit’s offering to serve the engineering needs of those developing these exciting new automotive applications.
ATOP is an integrated, certified component that has all the functionality needed to create standalone On-Board Units (OBUs) for road pricing, eCall, and other certified or authenticated services and applications. By integrating cellular and positioning technology with near-field communications, ATOP provides a comprehensive suite of communications tools – and a roadmap to include new “hot” technologies to enable new vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications in compatible form factors.
On the software side there is an open, multi-application development environment based on IBM’s J9 virtual machine, which can execute JAVA code – and with three embedded processors – there’s plenty of processing overhead for even the most demanding automotive applications.
Easy in-car integration is enabled by a broad range of interfaces, which include CAN and USB, multiple serial inter-processor buses, A/D and D/A converters, and analog in & outputs for audio signals. In addition ATOP can be employed as a front-end to more advanced, open-service telematics platforms.
Of course, as we have all come to learn, anything connected to the Internet is subject to attack. In situations involving payments and even personal safety, it is all the more important to protect the data in the vehicle as well as in transit. While traditional software solutions abound, there remain many potential vulnerabilities. Moreover, as connectivity in the vehicle continues to expand across technologies, the surface area for attack also expands, providing easy access to in-car networks as well as the Internet. That’ why ATOP employs embedded hardware security for rock-solid private key protection to provide the utmost in privacy and data integrity. Thanks to these on-board security resources, product developers and manufacturers can offer devices with embedded fraud prevention and tamper evidence without the extra effort of additional security precautions. These products can even be used in end-to-end transaction systems requiring Common Criteria level 5+.
A huge market with enormous potential
It is hard to exaggerate the potential of vehicle telematics: over 60 million were manufactured in 2012. Take up of telematics solutions is still very low, which means that there is a huge untapped market. This situation will change rapidly – and government legislation is a key driver. There is the ERA-Glonass initiative in Russia, Contran 245 in Brazil and e-Call in Europe, which should be mandatory in most countries by 2015.
As communications in and around the vehicle continue to proliferate, it won’t be long before the car becomes a sort of vehicular smart phone in and of itself – enabling all the functionality of the Internet right in the dashboard. Expect the car to schedule its own maintenance appointments – and remind you to go when you start up. Need to book a hotel room on your way? The car can do it for you. Sync with your calendar, and it could even order flowers or book a dinner reservation on your anniversary – before you get in trouble for forgetting.
We may also soon find that the combination of location awareness, vehicle-to-vehicle communications and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications (using roadway sensor networks), together with systems sensors monitoring everything from tire pressure to fluid levels to RPMs, makes cellular-based emergency calling obsolete.
About the author:
After serving for ten years as CMO of Telit, Dominik Hierl took the reins of the new Telit Automotive Solutions in March of 2014 – responsible for the successful integration of the ATOP division, purchased from NXP Semiconductors as well as expanding Telit’s reach into the Automotive OEM segment.
Prior to joining Telit, Hierl was VP Business Development at Siemens AG, Wireless Modules, responsible for the strategy and business development of Wireless Modules division and a member of the management board of the division. Prior to working with Siemens, Mr. Hierl worked in sales at Rohde & Schwarz. He holds degrees in Electrical Engineering and Industrial Engineering from Fachhochschule München.