When it comes to M2M, the automotive industry has been leading the pack in managing multiple requirements from multiple sources. The manufacturer, the insurance agency, the fleet owner and of course the driver have a lot of disparate needs.
Getting a handle on what is needed brings us to Airbiquity, who has a role in supporting solutions in various degrees for BMW, Ford, GM’s OnStar and Nissan. I had the chance to interview Leo McCloskey, VP of marketing, at Airbiquity, to discover what is driving the company’s success. If you have ever wondered about how M2M is impacting telematics, Leo is a great resource to find out (as you will see in this interview).
CF: Airbiquity provides policy control for telematics services via the cloud and you have pointed out an expansion of cars enabled with network services. What is your expectation for the information flow?
LM: Well, there are multiple information flows, each with its own security profile. For example, there will be embedded radios in vehicles that enable the product to report its operational performance to the manufacturer. This requires data flows to and from the vehicle systems, which requires a more exacting level of security. After all, a compromised vehicle is a serious risk to road safety for everyone. Automotive manufacturers already see tremendous benefits in warranty and supplier management. As vehicle remote controls become more standard, services like remote door lock/unlock, interior conditioning, and ‘find my car’ will integrate themselves into our behavior. Moreover, as vehicles become ever more computerized, over-the-air (OTA) vehicle system updates will be possible, reducing the number of trips to authorized service locations.
There will also be brought in connections, which in today’s language means integrating the driver’s smart mobile device. This is also important for road safety, but primarily as a means of mitigating distractions while driving. In this scenario, the data flows will be through the device and carrier services of the driver, with the goal of integrating the device into the vehicle in a manner that enables the driver to enjoy the communications and infotainment services through vehicle resources, such as steering column, voice, and touch controls of the vehicle. The idea is to take advantage of the memory muscle movements, such as controlling sound and reaching for controls in the vehicle, that become ingrained in our vehicle behavior.
The last type of data flow will be vehicle-to-vehicle (V2) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I). These data flows are truly in the machine-to-machine world, where the vehicle receives information about its surroundings, including other vehicles, traffic signals, road works, and accidents, that would affect the vehicular journey.
All of these data flows will be part of the connected vehicle. Each has its own profile and, in some cases, protocol. Managing the multiple data flows in connected vehicles to create a well-managed yet clutter-free information driving experience will be essential to customer satisfaction. Airbiquity’s cloud-based policies are positioned to be just this management platform for the lifecycle of the connected vehicle.
CF: How does that compare to the home network? Does the car need more information?
LM: Given the above, there is no more information that the car might need. As you round the corner and enter your neighborhood, any of the connections noted above could inform your connected home that you are nearby, which may trigger home controls like lighting and temperature adjustments, opening the garage door, or turning the oven on to preheat. The key distinction with the vehicle is its capabilities to be a very dangerous connected device. At a couple of tons of computerized electro-mechanical wizardry, the connected vehicle enables a number of services that can be tailored to each driver, yet also represents a potentially lethal experience in a world of ungoverned information flows.
CF: Will the use of Wi-Fi in the car become a requirement, or does LTE represent the primary connection for all end points in the car?
LM: These are two different types of connections. Wi-Fi, as it relates to the vehicle, would enable connectivity with and among a number of nearby connected devices. It might be the best way to seamlessly connect all devices with the vehicle. LTE represents a broadband connection to the vehicle, not a means of integrating a number of connections. The data flow requirements for the connected product do not warrant the bandwidth or latency characteristics of LTE. In reality a 2G connection is sufficient for the connected product. The brought-in connected device will be the LTE path, but at the discretion of each driver and their data connection. This fits the user profile of high-bandwidth for infotainment services, but also signals the need to govern its behavior.
The latest music or YouTube video should not be able to interfere with the task of driving, which triggers a lifecycle governance requirement for the connected vehicle. The profile of V2V and V2I requires a very low latency connection. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) has received spectrum in the 5.9Ghz range that has these properties, and is planning to use this Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) connection. There are some who say LTE could meet this requirement, but the ubiquity required for V2V in the next 5-10 years does not match the buildout or price points of LTE.
CF: You are at the heart of GM's On Star, Ford's Sync and Nissan LEAF. How do you expect the battery in the electronic cars to impact the requirements for your system?
LM: While we enjoy a technology supplier relationship with OnStar, it is a bit of stretch to say that Airbiquity is at the heart of OnStar. Airbiquity’s intellectual property for enabling data flows through a voice cellular network is a critical enabler, it is true, but OnStar has built its own systems for operating its platform. In the case of Ford SYNC and Nissan LEAF, Airbiquity’s role is a service provider where we operate a connected vehicle platform that enables the services desired by each automotive brand. In the world of electric vehicles, the battery is the key component whose operational performance is of keen interest to the automaker. This does have ramifications beyond the electric vehicle, however. The CAFE standards agreed by the automotive industry and the DoT target an average fuel economy of 54.5 MPG for new vehicles by the year 2025. The only way to get to such a number is to incorporate batteries into every type of vehicle, so that when you slow down and stop for traffic lights, the internal combustion engine (ICE) will cease operation and the enhanced vehicle battery will operate the vehicle for that period. The internal combustion engine is inherently inefficient at low speeds, so removing it from this part of the vehicle operation will dramatically improve overall fuel economy. With this scenario in mind, Airbiquity has pursued opportunities in the electric vehicle market. Moreover, the electric vehicle is really the first full-time connected vehicle, as it has a GPRS embedded SIM. Understanding the data flows from these early use cases enables Airbiquity to better plan for the world of fully-connected vehicles that is quickly approaching.
CF: Are other vertical markets appropriate?
LM: The global platform that Airbiquity operates has applicability to other M2M markets. The company, however, has made a strategic decision to be very deep in the automotive market, rather than operate broadly but more shallowly across other M2M markets. Airbiquity intends to continue to be a leader in the connected vehicle markets globally.
CF: Thank you for your time, Leo. I look forward to hearing more about your continued success.
Want to learn more about M2M technologies? Then be sure to check out the M2M Evolution Conference, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. The M2M Evolution Conference is for industry professionals interested in capitalizing on a rapidly growing segment of the telecom industry. The M2M Evolution Conference embraces the any-to-any strategy of the Internet today. Co-sponsored by TMC Partner Crossfire Media, it showcases the solutions, and examines the data strategies and technological requirements that enterprises and carriers need to capitalize on a market segment that is estimated to grow to $300 Billion in the year ahead. For more information on registering for the M2M Evolution Conference click here.
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Edited by Stefanie Mosca