Telematics and cloud computing: Hey you, get onto my cloud!

Telematics and cloud computing: Hey you, get onto my cloud!

A mix of cloud computing, connected cars, and pocket apps is rapidlyproducing innovation that will change the way people experience driving.Telematics is linking cars to external systems that improve traffic flow andsafety, while brought-in mobile devices are being integrated with in-carsystems to offer messaging, e-mail, and social media capabilities. Stolenvehicle tracking is a case in point. This function will be standard in 2.1million European cars by 2015, according to technology market research firmFrost & Sullivan. (For more on stolen vehicle tracking in the LatinAmerican market, see ‘Telematics in Brazil: Is it for real this time?’.)

“Telematics is providing more and more online services and mobiledevices such as smartphones are being embedded within the system,” says NickMcQire, research director of Enterprise Mobility EMEA for International DataCorporation. “Developers are creating more connections all the time.” The nextgeneration of connected cars will interface with a range of devices, bothinside and outside the vehicle, offering a whole new range of services.

Machine-to-machine offerings

Machine-to-machine (M2M) offerings could be especially interesting. At the University of Michigan, Brian Noble and Jason Flinn are studying howsmartphones can help improve a car’s mileage through eco-routing. Together withFord engineers and Microsoft designers, they have created a fuel tracker appthat monitors mileage when driving. In a traffic jam, the app suggests analternative route. On a commute, it suggests a more fuel-efficient way home orto the office, routes with fewer stops, less traffic, or fewer hills. Fordpredicts that providing open access to app developers will encourage adevelopment model similar to that of Apple’s iPhone community. (For more ongreen driving, see ‘Green telematics: The eco-driving opportunity’.)

Another University of Michigan/Ford app is Caravan Track, which uses M2Mto keep multiple cars moving together. The cars are in constant communicationand display their progress on a map during the trip. The app uses data from thecar’s GPS system, text messaging, voice, and car controls. Drivers who are partof the caravan can track fuel levels and the speed of other vehicles. They arenotified if any car stops for fuel or food. (For more on M2M, see ‘Telematicsand M2M communications: The next step for the connected car’.)

Leveraging mobile services

Kerry Johnson, product manager at the Canadian company QNX SoftwareSystems, points out that while telematics has been used in tens of millions ofautomobiles, the use of mobile services offered on smartphones and other mobileconsumer devices is growing at an even greater pace. One drawback is that newmobile devices have difficulty connecting with older embedded telematicsystems. “Carmakers are looking for new ways to leverage the consumer mobileservice infrastructure and to bring Internet-based services into the vehicle,”Johnson says, “General Motor's OnStar Mobile App and BMW ConnectedDrive beingprime examples.”

Similar systems include Toyota’s Safety Connect, Lexus’s Enform, Ford’sSync, BMW’s Assist, and Mercedes Benz’s mbrace, which use cellular connectionsembedded in the vehicle to provide automated and call center-supported servicesto the driver. Johnson suggests that such systems can enhance connectivitybetween the head unit and the mobile phone, implement techniques that minimizedriver distraction, and deploy upgradeable platforms that can easily andreliably support new services. (For more on distracted driving, see ‘Driverdistraction: The battle over in-car apps’ and ‘Why telematics is the answer todistracted driving’.)

There have been reports about how hackers may be able to attack thesesystems, but researchers claim that car manufacturers recognize the problem. Ifthey do not already have solutions, they soon will. (For more on hacking, see‘Telematics and security: Protecting the connected car’.) Customer concernsabout security may become an issue over the next few years. But for now, theyseem to like the connectivity more.

Jeremy Slater is a regular contributor to TU.

For all the latest telematics trends, join the sector’s thought leadersat Telematics Detroit 2011 in Novi, MI on June 8 and 9.

For more on apps, join the industry’s key players at Content & Appfor Automotive Europe 2012 .


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