In recent years, the term ‘the Internet of Things’ (IoT) has been one that has made its way from the specialist IT world into everyday conversation. IoT – in general terms – refers to the linking of a wide range of devices in a network that enables them to share and exchange data. Common examples for consumers’ households include the linking of lighting, heating, media and security systems through a control point or application. This application can often be one on a smartphone. Through this the linked device can provide a report on its status or be controlled remotely – for example, turning lighting or heating on or off remotely.
One area in which the IoT has made an increasingly noticeable inroad is within the automotive industry, with internet of things developers producing what have been termed ‘connected car solutions’. These solutions are both for consumers and for automotive manufacturers. The IoT benefits for both have been considerable.
The connected car
One core principle of IoT is that devices are able to connect to the internet and transmit data. To enable this, devices have software and sensors embedded within them. In this regard, automotive platforms – cars, vans, trucks etc. – are ideal. Sensors can monitor the status of the environment around the car or within the car itself. Generally, connected car IoT tools can be classed into the following categories:
- Mobility Management, to help the driver get to their destination in the quickest, easiest manner (for example providing up-to-date traffic and alternative route information, car parking space availability etc.);
- Vehicle Management, whereby IoT tools help improve maintenance and reduce costs (for example, monitoring vehicle conditions and providing that information to the driver in an easy way – so the driver doesn’t have to look under the car bonnet / car hood);
- Breakdown prevention, where tool can predict and connect to breakdown recovery services;
- Safety, where sensors alter the driver to conditions in the external environment surrounding the vehicle;
- Entertainment for both driver and passengers, linking the car to internet-based music and other media services;
- Driver assistance, involving in some cases aspects such as automatic parking or operational assistance;
- Well-being, including tools to detect fatigue, automatic alert adjustments, in order that the driver’s ability to function and their comfort is improved.
The entire aim of IoT systems is to improve the experience for the driver and passengers. It aims to reduce the burden and effort on the part of the driver. But fully integrating IoT goes beyond this. As can be seen from the list above, many of the categories involve exchanging information to a third-party – for example, to breakdown services or media platforms. This is an important aspect of IoT – the ability of specialist services to be provided to car and/or driver that would otherwise not be available.
Individual cars users are not the only market though. Operators of automotive fleets – logistics and delivery firms, for example – are making considerable use of IoT solutions. Fleet management tools include ones that enable vehicle location tracking, usage scheduling, driver and workload management (with live data feeds), leased vehicle management, maintenance scheduling and logistics optimization.
The automotive manufacturers
The importance of IoT is not just for consumers. IoT has become heavily involved within the automotive industry production and manufacturing process itself. There have been a large number of solutions that have been developed by and for automotive companies that have increased the efficiency of the manufacturing process. This has brought benefits, notably allowing a reduction in the costs of development and testing, easier compliance with industry regulations, and ultimately finding hidden trends and patterns in the manufacturing process.
For automotive manufactures, some of the most important IoT solutions tend to orientate around data analytics and testing. This can include automatic telematics from test platforms to gain greater and quicker insight into performance, feedback on specific parts or aspects of automotive platform wear-and-tear, and big-data-based analytics of performance, faults and accidents. IoT is enabling manufacturers to collect data from real-world usage of their vehicles in a manner that shows them with greater clarity how they are used and what areas may benefit from improvements in performance.
Added to the flow of information from vehicles themselves, IoT is used within the manufacturing process, for example to enable better stock control.
IoT to keep developing
The pace of IoT connected car development has been rapid and this will not change in the years ahead. Considerable investment is being made from both automotive and technology companies, and this will ensure that new tools continue to reach the market.