Emerging Technologies

Network Awareness and its Untapped Potential for Connected Vehicles

The importance of connectivity in cars and the ecosystem required to support connected vehicles is being realized by leading car manufacturers and communication service providers (CSPs) globally. Connectivity is becoming a core offering of the car rather than being just a feature. With 100 million connected cars expected globally by 2025, the core challenge faced will be around receiving and sending large volumes of data successfully to and from the cloud platforms. As per the conservative estimates, IHS automotive states that an average car will produce 30 terabytes of data each day. With more  advanced applications being added to the cars that demands higher bandwidth, the data usage is only expected to go up significantly. Handling data flow at this scale with low latency and minimum packet loss will be instrumental in achieving business efficiency and superior customer experience promised by the connected vehicle technology. This can be achieved by bringing network awareness to the connected car cloud

Network awareness is defined as the ability to have higher visibility of the underlying network conditions. A network aware application has the ability to react to changing network conditions so that the end user experience is minimally impacted. In the context of connected cars, a network aware cloud would plan the communication with the car based on the availability and health of the  underlying network resources. This would ensure higher success rate in completing this high data communication between the cloud and the connected car without any data loss and latency. In the coming sections, I am going to touch upon the untapped potential of network awareness in connected vehicles from the perspective of Over-The-Air (OTA) updates and Security

Over-The-Air (OTA) is a technology to remotely update the firmware and software in the car, which helps in upgrading functionalities and implementing bug fixes remotely in the embedded software installed on its Electronic Control Units (ECUs). This has helped in achieving lower cost for the OEMs attributed to decrease in vehicle recalls, improved passenger safety from immediate update of critical components and superior customer experience through reduced dealer visits. With increase in the number of features in connected vehicles, the number of lines of software code in the ECU is increasing exponentially that leads to a higher margin of software bugs. OTA software update is the most practical approach to handle these situations, where frequent OTA software updates to connected cars are going to be the new norm. As per IHS Markit, more than 350 million vehicles will offer OTA by 2025 and most TCUs/ECUs will offer OTA by 2024. The criticality of OTA firmware and software update can be realized from the fact that faulty update on the ECU will make the vehicle undrivable. It is therefore important that the OTA firmware and software update campaign to a fleet of connected vehicles has a higher success rate. Including network awareness capability in OTA campaign management functionality of the connected car cloud would go a long way in achieving this objective:

  1. Network Health Insights – Including network health as a parameter in planning a high data OTA campaign to a fleet of connected cars will go a long way in increasing the success rate of the OTA campaign. Such high data campaigns should be avoided towards cars in a congested network where the chances of OTA update failing are very high. Connected car cloud can modify its OTA update campaign to be executed only towards fleets that are in an area of lower network congestion
  2. Optimized use of network resources – Equipped with network information like cell ID, connected car cloud can distribute the high data OTA updates to fleet of connected cars located in different cell IDs so that load on the network resources are evenly distributed leading to higher success rate of the OTA update campaign
  3. Avoid Roaming Costs – Network awareness enables the connected car cloud to understand if a connected car is roaming on a different network. This will allow the connected car cloud to avoid noncritical OTA updates for roaming cars, thus saving roaming connectivity costs. The OTA update for such cars can be reinitiated when the connected car cloud detects the car to be back in its home network
  4. Ease of troubleshooting – Network awareness will also bring efficiency in troubleshooting failed OTA updates due to network issues, which will lead to faster problem resolution and increased customer experience
  5. Draw predictive analytics – Network aware information over a period of time will enable the connected car cloud to draw predictions on network health which can be used as an important criterion in the OTA update campaign planning for higher rate of campaign success
  6. Network Subscription Insights – Access to network subscription information would make the connected car cloud to plan OTA update campaign based on the data subscription state and limits of the connected car fleet. This ensures that OTA update failures due to limited data bandwidth can be avoided and proactive actions can be taken to increase data bandwidth required for successful OTA update

As complexity increases, security considerations becomes more important. Connected car segment is no exception to that. With increase in the number of connected vehicles, there is also an increase in the number of security threats from malicious hackers. Hackers gaining access to connected car clouds is putting both physical security and data privacy of the users at risk. These events negatively impacts the brand reputation of the OEMs and also exposes them to serious legal infringements attributed to violation of user data privacy. Protecting the connected car cloud from malicious hackers therefore is becoming a high priority for OEMs. Network Awareness will enable the connected car cloud to have better control on the fleet of connected cars. This will ensure that the connected car cloud, user data and the wider connected car network are protected from cars that have been hacked:

  1. Temporary Connectivity Suspension – In an event a car is hacked, network awareness can empower the connected car cloud to disable the connectivity of that particular car remotely. This will ensure that the hacked car is disconnected from the wider connected car network, so that the hacker doesn’t get access to the wider connected car network. Once the security situation is addressed, the connected car cloud can resume the connectivity remotely
  2. Protection from obsolete fleets – While it is easier to connect a car to the connected car cloud, disconnecting obsolete fleets in the field is always a challenge. Obsolete fleets pose a high security threat for the connected car cloud and are easy targets for malicious hackers. Network awareness would allow the connected car cloud to address these security challenges by terminating the connectivity of such devices remotely

While I have touched upon only 2 facets, access to network awareness will open the door to a lot of new business opportunities for the automotive OEMs in the connected car segment. Network awareness will fuel the engine of business and operational efficiency through a variety of use cases achieved through better location accuracy of the device fleets, greater control of eUICC (E-SIM) based fleets and flexibility in managing network subscription. However these use cases are just scratching the surface of the  potential of network awareness. Network awareness will play a key role for the automotive OEMs to reduce cost, improve service performance and increase customer experience.

Author:

Tirthankar Guha
IoT Go to Market Manager
Ericsson

Tirthankar is the Go to Market Manager at Ericsson for the IoT Connectivity portfolio based in Montreal, Canada. He is responsible for driving the global Go to Market strategy for some of the key offerings within Ericsson’s IoT Connectivity portfolio towards Ericsson’s CSP Partners and Enterprise Customers across different industry verticals. Tirthankar has more than 18 years of experience in the telecom industry spanning across different market areas across the globe

He has completed his Bachelors in Computer Engineering from University of Calgary in Canada. He has also completed his Post Graduate in International Business from Indian Institute of Foreign Trade”, New Delhi

Published in Telematics Wire

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