Are we reinventing the wheel of the connected car?

By Mark Davidson: Enterprise Acquisition Manager, Telefónica UK

When it comes to vehicle connectivity, the buzzwords just keep on coming. We’ve got telematics, IoT, infotainment and M2M. But with each new term, does the core of the product actually change? Or is it a case of reinventing the wheel (cars have wheels – get it?), when all we really mean is connectivity?

A recent Cisco survey showed  that mobile data traffic has grown 4,000-fold over the past 10 years – and almost 400-million-fold over the past 15 years.  Fourth-generation (4G) traffic exceeded third-generation (3G) traffic for the first time in 2015, and mobile network (cellular) connection speeds grew 20% [i]. That’s a lot of growth in a relatively short space of time.

As 4G networks evolve, I think if we were to take a look at the capability of even the most basic smartphone, it’s probably fair to say that the connectivity in the average family car is rather sparse in comparison. Modern cars need to support a whole host of communications between different devices: smartphones, tablets, sensors, cameras, infotainment systems, on-board diagnostics, and automated driver assistance systems. I recently had a conversation with a close family member who has worked in the motor vehicle industry for over 40 years, and in his words: “The days of my spanner and wrench are gone. It’s now my laptop and mouse!”.

In my own car, I usually have my sat-nav, my smartphone, my tablet and my laptop, and then there is the vehicle itself. The question for the networks, vehicle designers and manufacturers is: How can we bring together connectivity, devices, vehicle and user in one seamless package?

From a business perspective, the actual connectivity is only half the story. How it’s being used is an even more important question than what is in place. Vehicle connectivity plays a part in driver habits, managing usage, security and insurance requirements, to name just a few.

Later this month, I will be attending a conference dedicated to the opportunities and developments of the “connected car”. This will showcase the latest products and services, and I am keen to share what I garner from this conference. However, I am even more interested to see how the providers encapsulate the requirements of the end user, because, after all, it’s those users who will decide if vehicle connectivity is just buzzwords or something that truly enhances our driving experience. Until next time, you can find out more about what we offer in this space here.

[i] February 3, 2016: The Cisco® Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update