Big Data and Connected Car Tech

Why Big Data is a Big Deal to the Connected Car Industry

by Dmytro Ternovyi
With the road wide open for connected vehicles, it is becoming clear that big data will be along for the ride. And we don’t mean in the back seat. In this article, we are going to take a look at how the connected car big data partnership will benefit consumers, and how big data might actually drive growth in this new market. As we examine the symbiotic relationship between big data and connected car technology, let us begin with a quick look at connected car and Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

Connected Car in a Nutshell

Anyone who tries to explain exactly what connected car means will quickly find themselves trying to nail down a moving target. Not only has the concept of Internet-enabled automobiles redefined the purpose of both car and SUV, but now trucks and buses, as well. Before connected cars even need their tires replaced, it seems that trucks and buses will be following along with their own IoT systems. Alright, so everything that moves on the road, short of a farm horse, will soon be connected to the Internet. What can we expect now?  Quite a lot, actually. Internet connectivity primarily benefits two vehicle systems: telematics and infotainment. While both are part of the moving target — even carmakers do not agree where one ends and the other begins, we can make some safe generalizations. “Telematics” combines telecommunications with informatics. That is, it involves wirelessly sending and receiving data to and from vehicle systems that do not include entertainment systems. Telematics refers to Information and control data streams affecting vehicle speed, braking, engine performance, collision detection and emergency calling, vehicle diagnostics, vehicle entry protection, and GPS data. Infotainment, on the other hand, refers to non-critical systems that are devoted to providing entertainment. These systems include GPS navigation, WiFi connectivity and embedded WiFi hotspots, hands-free calling and call-receiving, SMS texting, music and video streaming, and Bluetooth connectivity. This all begs two questions that you may be asking:
  1. Who is on the other end of all that data being sent to and from the vehicle?
  2. How is the data used, both inside the vehicle and at the other end of the wireless connection?
The answers to those questions can be found in the second technology we will be discussing — big data.

Big Data: The Real Driver?

Big data, itself, is an evolving concept. It means both the collection of large volumes of unstructured information, and some also use the term to refer to the collective process of gathering and analyzing that data, also known as data analytics. For the purpose of our discussion, we shall defer to the latter. Big data in the connected car industry is like a supercharger under the hood. It enables  automakers and application developers to create powerful information-driven products for vehicles. By accessing information from multiple sources and analyzing relevant parts of it, connected car systems and 3rd party service providers can provide auto owners with a wide range of features and services that would not otherwise be available. Further, big data helps developers to greatly enhance existing products or services. Here are some specific examples of how big data is and will impact connected car technology.

Advanced Traffic Monitoring

Municipalities currently utilize mostly hardware solutions for monitoring traffic. While these solutions can be sufficient for analyzing localized traffic and deciding where to add traffic lights, they fall short in providing a citywide picture of traffic patterns. By reporting their locations, connected cars could provide real-time data to cities to help civil engineers decide where changes to roads and traffic lights need to be made. Even if GPS data from vehicles is aggregated and information stripped out that could identify the driver, such information from a sufficient number of vehicles could be extremely valuable as city planners work to improve traffic congestion. The end result would not be limited to better street designs, but would also mean more efficient commutes for drivers.

Vehicle Improvement

Vehicle manufacturers are to a great disadvantage, if you think about it. They spend millions of dollars to develop a vehicle that will performs to their expectations, but have few ways to know if they succeed. Not until an inordinate number of vehicles require service for the same problem might an automaker become aware of a design defect. Worse, still, some defects become apparent only when they make news headlines. Big data can turn the table and tremendously improve automakers’ awareness of how their  products perform after the sale. Connected cars contain a huge number of IoT-enabled sensors that monitor engine performance parameters, braking and steering systems, and other data points. By accessing and analyzing this data, automakers have a large data set they can use to evaluate product performance. By aggregating data from a large sample of vehicles, manufacturers can identify design issues that need addressing on the next build, or that may require in-shop service to correct before tragedy strikes. Even if no serious problems appear in the sample, engineers still learn something that can help make the next model more efficient, safer, and more reliable.

Improved Fleet Management

In an earlier article, 5 Ways Connected Car Technology is Impacting Fleet Management, we discussed how IoT technology is helping fleet managers improve fleet efficiency and safety. We also touched upon autonomous vehicle technology and how it may affect fleets in the not-too-distant future. But what about big data — does it offer benefits to fleet management beyond those of IoT technology alone? We are glad you asked. Fleet managers need more than information on average speed, fuel costs, accident information, idle times, and loading and unloading times for their vehicles. They also need actionable data they can use to make better decisions. That is where big data analytics really shines for the fleet management industry. Through intelligent analysis of big data that affects the supply chain, managers can not just better manage the fleet, they can better manage their business. Although fleet managers may be initially reluctant to embrace the concept of big data, once they see that it offers them an accurate, real-time picture of the entire process —  from the beginning of the supply chain to the customer’s loading dock—they are likely to adopt it. Through integrating big-data driven applications into their business processes, managers can spot problems that are only now affecting their supply chain, but which will soon affect their fleet schedules. As more and more companies make big data a part of their processes, fleet managers and their clients will learn to use shared data sets, and, perhaps, explore how blockchain and e-procurement solutions can bridge their resources even further.

Advanced Driver Notifications

Although drivers are used to receiving accident alerts on their GPS systems, the power of big data can offer them so much more. As connected cars become become more and more connected, drivers will have the ability to specify what type of alerts they wish to receive, and to configure those alerts according to their present needs. For example, rather than merely being alerted to an accident a mile up the road, connected infotainment systems have the potential to alert drivers to the potential for an accident in their pathway. If heavy traffic congestion through a certain intersection on Mondays results in frequent accidents during the morning drive, the connected system could alert the driver to that and suggest an alternate route for the Monday commute. Further, assume that there will be construction along the driver’s way home from work beginning June 1st and continuing through December 5th.  Big data has the power to pull in that information from external sources and to notify the driver.

Insurance

Insurance companies are taking a long hard look at what connected car data analytics can do for them, and for their customers. Several companies are already exploring how they might, with the driver’s consent, monitor driver behavior and to set premiums accordingly. While that can be accomplished through IoT and connected car technology without big data, developers will certainly wish to bring big data into the process. It is one thing for a driver to develop a pattern of sudden accelerations while driving to work, but what if they are trying to avoid aggressive drivers who frequent the route during that particular time frame? IoT, alone, will not capture this relevant data. Big data, however, has the power to identify and report that most of the drivers in the vicinity of their customer are actually driving above the speed limit, causing their customer to have to accelerate more often than usual in order to avoid an accident. It is not enough for insurance companies to set premiums based on driving behaviors, they must also take into account external factors that could have an effect on those behaviors. Big data will allow them to do that.

Easier Maintenance

IoT-enabled telematics can allow a connected vehicle to report problems to the service center even without big data. Adding big data capability to such a feature could enable a service center to simultaneously be alerted to the presence of a pending component failure, and to to be alerted that their regular supply chain for that part will not be able to provide a replacement for a couple of weeks. Along with the alert, big-data systems could trace down alternative sources for the component, saving the mechanic and the driver time and frustration.

Targeted Marketing

Although most drivers would rather not hear and advertisements at all, most would welcome at least hearing ads that more specifically relate to products or services they actually need or use. Big data has the potential to empower advertising platforms that could deliver highly targeted, even personalized advertisements to drivers through their infotainment systems. A surprising percentage of drivers may actually opt-in to hear audio messages that promote businesses they patronize. Imagine, if you will, an advertisement message being played announcing a sale on beach wear as you approach a particular clothing outlet. Imagine, further, that big data directed the message to you because it detected the reservation you recently made for a hotel at the beach. Such is no longer the fodder of imagination, but totally within the reach of developers to bring to reality.

Predictive Analytics

You could divide big data into three categories:
  1. Raw data that has not been analyzed.
  2. Raw data that has been analyzed and informs users on current situations.
  3. Raw data that has been analyzed and informs users on the likelihood of future situations.
We have discussed the first two. The third offers even more-exciting opportunities for automakers, fleet managers, and consumer-drivers to benefit from big data. Predictive analytics, or data analytics, as it is known, is technology that uses highly complex algorithms and data analysis software to not only identify current patterns, but to predict future occurrences. A simple example might include a vehicle infotainment system automatically channeling Disney programming to the back seat console when the driver’s child is present. Vehicle IoT systems could detect the weight of a child in the seat, and big data could detect that the driver regularly plays Disney programming for their child at home. Through predictive analysis, the system could “predict” that the child might want to watch a Disney program in the car — perhaps continuing from where they left off watching inside the house. This example is both simple, but possible, and illustrates how predictive analysis could improve the experience of driver and passenger, alike. More complex applications for this technology could include predictive maintenance. Just as we touched upon the power of IoT and big data to inform driver and mechanic that a defect is occurring within the vehicle, by programmatically and intelligently analyzing data sets from the vehicle, a cloud-based or onboard telematics system could go one step further and identify components that are likely to fail, though they have no current functional defect. This capability is certainly in the embryonic stage, as far as connected car is concerned, but machine learning will almost certainly help to make vehicles safer and more reliable, once the birth pangs have passed.

Opportunities for Developers

Gartner predicts that connected car services will generate $40 billion annually by 2020. This figure represents opportunities for innovative development in several areas. A short list might include the following:
  • connected car big data analytics
  • connected car data usage optimization
  • connected car cyber security
  • IoT applications
  • 3rd-party connected car solutions for various industries
  • cloud-based connected car services
  • specialized applications for connected truck and bus
  • big data/blockchain integration technologies
  • enterprise fleet management solutions
  • insurance solutions
  • big data logistics platforms
Developers who can innovate early in the connected car space will help shape the industry.

How Ignite Can Help?

There is, perhaps, no greater opportunity for the developer and automaker to seize a new billion-dollar market than through connected car/big data technology. The technology is here, market projections are optimistic, and consumers are ready. All that needs to happen is for solutions to be developed that make wise use of the technology. That is, of course, easier said than done, especially of you are unprepared. Even though industry experts predict that 75% of new vehicles sold by 2020 will include connected car technology, the opportunities that will drive the industry will go to those with the expertise to innovate, rather than merely emulate, in this new market. Whether you endeavor to develop OEM platforms or 3rd-party applications, Ignite has the experience and knowledge to bring your concept to market. With six R&D labs across Europe, we are well-positioned to take on your automotive project. Connected car data analytics, IoT, and mobile app development are just a few of the verticals in which we excel. Why not contact us, today, for a no-cost consultation? The market is ready. We are ready. Are you?