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Internet of Cars within the Internet of Everything

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article image Edoardo Merli

The Internet of Everything envisions an optimised confluence of People, Things, Data and Processes, all intelligently connected to and part of the Internet. The goal is to achieve human-to-human, human-to-machine and machine-to-machine interactions that enhance all our activities and enrich our lives.

Since the internet came into being, users have had a strong desire to keep their connections ‘always on’ and to connect a whole gamut of appliances for a broad range of uses. Hence early on, there were attempts to connect the TV, the refrigerator, and, in a clear sign of the apocalypse, even the toaster.

Born of this desire, came the idea for the Smart Connected Home. Since time at home is a significant portion of our lives, making the home smart and connected made sense. But the home is more than just a place to sleep and serves different functions to different people. Hence not every function of the home could find itself a good reason to get connected.

The Car on the other hand just might prove to be an even more compelling platform to realise the complete concept of the Internet of Everything. Indeed, within the car, people, things, data and processes can interact seamlessly within their own ecosystem, as well as with other cars and even the external cloud, via the Internet.

The Car as a Technology Hub

Today’s car is already packed with electronics and, in fact, has among the highest densities of electronic components of all consumer machines. As a supplier of many of the silicon technologies inside the car, STMicroelectronics already sees it as a Technology Hub. A plethora of technologies powers the car today and these technologies fall into three domains: Safety and security, infotainment and telematics, and powertrain/fuel economy.

Apart from the more traditional solutions such as airbags, stability control, and anti-lock braking systems, safety and security issues are increasingly addressed by newer technologies such as autonomous breaking, active safety (camera and sensor based) and night vision. Infotainment and telematics are addressed by technologies that enable smart traffic management, positioning & location-based services, car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication and in the future, perhaps autonomous driving. The powertrain/fuel economy domain is addressed by technologies in engine control, shift-by-wire, stop/start, engine downsizing, vehicle electrification and street predictability.

All these technologies within the car are already interconnected and centrally controlled. Some are even connectivity features in their own right such as positioning and car-to-infrastructure. The car as a Technology Hub has already begun to fulfil the Internet of Everything concept with people, things and processes interacting seamlessly. Collect, manage, and analyse data, then connect everything to the Internet, and you’ve got the full picture. The Internet of Cars becomes a full platform within the Internet of Everything. Safety and security, and infotainment and telematics are richly enhanced with the benefit of connectivity and data transfer. Powertrain/fuel economy may not produce significant benefits from operating in the connected world.

Safety and Security

Safety is without doubt the number one concern for car users. Similar to the internet concept of harnessing the strength of the connected crowd, cars when connected together can help each other to be safer. Armed with smart sensors to detect the environment around the car, connectivity to be online, and satellite positioning to establish relative location, cars can inform each other of traffic and road conditions and other concerns ahead.

Already today, telematics applications can automatically execute emergency assistance calls in the event of accidents. Vehicle maintenance, the preventive route to car safety, is already being greatly enhanced. Remote diagnosis of the vehicle and data logging can keep track of and highlight the need for maintenance work. Telematics also enables anti-theft features as a stolen car can be tracked and its whereabouts reported to the authorities.

At a macro level, the Internet of Cars can enable intelligent traffic forecast and management through a unified communication network for vehicles that is leading to safer roads, less congestion and lower emissions caused by cars sitting in traffic jams.

All these ‘connected’ safety features, together with traditional passive safety technologies such as airbags, braking, and stability control is creating an integrated approach bringing car safety to a whole new level.

Like anything ‘connected’, security is of course, a concern. Critical parts of the vehicle, including the electronic control unit for the engine and other safety systems, need to be protected against malicious attacks. Likewise for the large amounts of data the connected car will generate.

Driver behaviour and habits data can be tracked, recorded, and transferred to insurance companies for analysis. Such precise data tracking can allow insurance companies to offer highly tailored policies based on the pay-as-you-drive or pay-how-you-drive models. At the expense of some personal data, this indirectly promotes more economical and safer driving practices.

Infotainment and Telematics

Getting lost is one of the most frustrating driving experiences ever and the proliferation of navigation systems has reduced the frequency of its occurrence. While GPS is an established technology in car navigation, the capability to receive signals from multiple satellite systems (Galileo, Glonass, Beidou), to collect information from a number of different sensors in the vehicle’s network (speed, acceleration, wheel angle), and to utilise that information will improve accuracy and response time in determining vehicle position and expand the utility of this function beyond basic navigation into safety-related applications.

Most of us utilise connected technologies, enabled mostly by our smartphones or tablets in our daily life. The information that is streamed to us, the music we listen to, the communication channels we have established or our social media networks that have become a significant part of us - we interact fluidly with these throughout the day. When we get into our cars for an hour or two, the interaction should continue in the same fluid manner. We would not want to adjust to a whole new set of connected characteristics while we are in the car.

Hence the ability to ‘handover’ the personal connectivity of a smartphone or tablet to the car to mimic the same feel and user interface is an important goal. Players who control the main operating systems for smartphones and tablets are forming alliances and shaping standards to accelerate the seamless pairing of the smartphone to the car and create a single connected experience.

While familiarity is preferred, the attention-demanding requirements of driving will require that certain user interfaces be redesigned. The driver’s focus cannot be taken away from the road and too many activation controls via finger presses and swipes would be risky. Applications that demand visual attention will have to be curbed on the car platform. As a result the ideal user interface will be both hands- and eyes-free. Voice-activated commands will play an increasingly bigger role inside the car.

Just like the smartphone platform, the car platform will also face issues related to business model ownership, more so in areas that are very car specific and not yet tested and standardised via the more mature smartphone platform. Car makers and traditional stakeholders will face new players entering the market bringing new and disruptive models for the automotive industry of today. Content providers, service and software platform providers, consumer appliances makers, and telecommunication network providers will come together creating a new era for the automotive industry.

A Confluence of Diverse but Complementary Technologies

Just like the Internet of Everything, the Internet of Cars is a huge complicated beast in need of an organisation to define its key standards and functionalities. It will eventually find its own equilibrium based on technologies that give it function, value, and practicality.

Technology players such as STMicroelectronics that want to make a difference in the Internet of Cars will need to offer the technology building blocks that make up the many different parts of the car as well as the expertise to make them work seamlessly together. They also need to recognise that they can’t operate in a vacuum and need to build a technology ecosystem with other players.

The key technology building blocks within the Internet of Everything comprise of positioning devices, processors as the brain, low-power connectivity for data transfer, and sensors as well as various analogue and digital interfaces to complete the product design. These are technologies that ST has already built into a strong portfolio.

ST also enjoys a market-leading position in automotive-wide technologies such as powertrain, infotainment, positioning, telematics, body, safety, advanced driver assistance systems and sensors. Combined with in-house design expertise and a highly efficient automotive-grade manufacturing machine, STMicroelectronics Pty Ltd is very well placed to refine and expand its technology offering to system makers, car manufacturers, and other stakeholders within the ecosystem to successfully implement the Internet of Cars.

By Edoardo Merli, Marketing & Application Director, Automotive Product Group, Greater China and South Asia Region, STMicroelectronics

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