The global connected car market will be worth an estimated $43,451 million by 2023, with benefits and opportunities for car manufacturers, operators, entertainment providers, town and city planners, the emergency services, insurance companies, the environment, and – of course – drivers and passengers! The market encompasses a broad range of innovations and industry sectors, so where is it heading, and what are the challenges?
When many people think ‘connected car’ they’ll imagine autonomous vehicles gliding through futuristic smart cities. And they’re not wrong: Google’s Waymo has been trialling self-driving vehicles for a while, and BMW debuted its first level 3 autonomous car, the Vision iNext, in November. Amazon meanwhile has unveiled AWS DeepRacer, a fully autonomous 1/18th-scale race car designed to help teach developers about machine learning.
However, widespread roll-out of autonomous cars is still a while off yet. The vehicles will require 5G connectivity, as current 4G networks don’t provide the necessary bandwidth. When a vehicle is responding to its environment, the reactionary manoeuvres and operations have to be in real-time, so ultra-low latency connectivity is crucial. Infrastructure will also have to be robust enough to handle the extraordinary amounts of data traversing networks.
Imagine: a car senses its surroundings and can navigate a route via GPS; its fuel consumption is carefully monitored to ensure the maximum efficiency and minimal environmental damage; it can re-route in advance to make way for emergency services vehicles; ‘knows’ where there are empty parking spots; and can make split second decisions to avoid collision. Passengers can enjoy a huge range of connected services – streaming music, video-calling friends and family, and interacting with in-car smart assistants. All the while, the temperature, lighting and seat positions will adjust automatically, providing the optimum experience and environment for the car’s passengers.
That’s the B2C side, and the kind of ideas and innovation the media have been getting most excited about. Yet it’s the other side of the market – the B2B – that will emerge first, and is causing palpable excitement here at BICS!
The B2B proposition
Embedded connectivity in vehicles – as opposed to consumer cars – will drive efficiencies in sectors like logistics and fleet management. Trucks, for example, can be monitored by fleet managers via embedded SIMs. Data on fuel consumption, route navigation, and the maintenance of the truck can be gathered and analysed to improve the performance, safety and eco-credentials of vehicles and businesses.
The challenge comes when these vehicles cross country borders – which, due to the nature of logistics and globalised business, is highly likely. Connectivity must be constant, reliable and seamless. Now, imagine how time-consuming it would be for manufacturers of these vehicles, or the business owners, to strike deals with MNOs in every region the vehicle could potentially pass through. Added to this is the need for back-up connectivity in every region, to ensure that managers can keep track of assets if one network fails.
Managing global connectivity
The solution is a global SIM, managed by a virtualised mobile core network, which enables the vehicle to connect to any network, anywhere in the world on 2G, 3G, 4G and in the future, 5G. The solution can be deployed quickly and easily, with one single commercial agreement between provider and customer, removing the need to and hassle of agreeing multiple agreements with multiple operators.
Centralised management of entire fleets can be done in the cloud, giving managers visibility into their IoT proposition. Any safety and security concerns can be identified immediately and addressed promptly – before issues have had a chance to turn into something more expensive and more dangerous.
As exciting as driverless, enhanced consumer cars are, I don’t think we’ll be seeing these kinds of vehicles on the road for some time yet. Instead, it’s the B2B market which will be the first to really take off. With global connectivity, roaming, and SIM-for-Things solutions, BICS is in the prime position to enable the growth and success of this market, acting as the bridge between global IoT players and MNOs. We already offer a huge range of solutions to facilitate global communication and connectivity, which will – in the near future – help to automate the automotive industry, and put business managers in the driving seat.