One of the biggest highlights of the upcoming CES show in Las Vegas, put on by the Consumer Electronics Association the first week in January, will be the focus on the Internet of Things. While most journalists and attendees will focus on the morphing of televisions into home hubs, they might miss the emergence of IoT as the replacement for vehicle-to-vehicle communications.
Astute industry watchers will have picked up on the Volvo bike helmet story on Engadget (http://tinyurl.com/q5kjwkc - ‘Volvo's bike helmet concept alerts riders and drivers to each other’). But even these devotees may have missed the implications of a bike helmet communicating with a car through an app.
The significance, quite simply and clearly, is that communications with vehicles will not require an entirely new wi-fi-like network as envisioned by the U.S. Department of Transportation and foreign and domestic ITS executives. Communication with vehicles and between vehicles and other vehicles or infrastructure is being made possible via either connected smartphones or embedded telecom modules, a la GM’s OnStar service today.
In fact, car makers are increasingly turning to existing wireless networks to enable this kind of communication not only to identify and avoid hitting pedestrians, as in the Volvo use case, but to identify and avoid hitting other cars or to be alerted to road hazards. In fact, the concept of driver alerts is ideally suited to the kind of use cases envisioned for the Internet of Things.
This communication between cars and smartphones and connected “things” has a precursor in Waze. Waze was first to popularize and mass market the concept of crowd-sourced traffic and map data along with the concept of driver alerts regarding everything from potholes, to speed traps to traffic.
The ITS V2V crowd has co-opted the Waze concept with their own idea of “swarm intelligence” – a phrase first used in the late ‘80’s – right around the time the V2V folks began latching onto 802.11p Wi-Fi technology to create a proprietary, industry-specific means of communication between vehicles. By now, of course, this concept has been superseded by the proliferation of powerful smartphones, cloud connectivity and analytics, and cheap camera and wireless sensors.
So, while consumers are just becoming aware of IoT and its application and monetization possibilities (Harbor Research: $1T/28B things; IDC: $8.9T/212B things; Cisco CEO: $19T/everything), the ITS crowd has kept its head down insisting that V2X communications will require new hardware, new infrastructure and protected spectrum.
CES 2015 signals the ultimate demise of existing V2X approaches and the sooner this is seen the better for the safety of drivers and other users of roadways.
V2X via dedicated spectrum is dead man walking thanks to IoT.
Different forms of connectivity are better suited to different applications. In the Volvo use case the helmet-wearing bike rider must be using an application on his or her smartphone that connects to the “cloud” which then communicates to a Volvo vehicle via the embedded modem.
But what if the car is not a Volvo and what if the car does not have a built in modem. In this case, the clear path to directly communicate an alert to the driver is via that driver’s connected smartphone.
But the smartphone alert only works if the phone is connected in the car. While this may require some behavioral change to convince consumers to connect their phones in cars – PHYSICALLY via a cable – it also means that the connected phone will communicate through and with the vehicle.
This is not to be confused with Google’s Android Auto smartphone connection or Apple’s CarPlay. Only proprietary connectivity systems like Ford SYNC or GM’s MyLink will enable a deep integration with the vehicle systems for driver alerts. It is worth noting that neither Google nor Apple have proposed this kind of safety alerting for their smartphone integration systems – just another reflection of their disconnection with automotive industry priorities.
The Volvo smartphone-to-car connection is using Ericsson’s cloud technology. But what if the helmet could communicate directly with another smartphone or car?
The vision of IoT is to enable connectivity and the resulting analytical intelligence to occur directly between devices or via devices and infrastructure to other devices or to the cloud and, thereby, to other devices. The related analytics can also occur on the device, in the cloud or at the edge of the network – in the infrastructure.
In fact, emerging wireless technology, LTE Advanced and (in 3-4 years) 5G, will enable direct device-to-device communications meaning the bicyclist’s helmet could communicate directly to a smartphone connected in a car (or the embedded modem) to alert the driver to the bike rider’s proximity. But Ericsson and Volvo are delivering this kind of communication today, at least for appropriately equipped Volvo vehicles and Daimler, too, is using connected smartphones and embedded connectivity to enable inter-vehicle communications of highway and traffic conditions.
BMW demonstrated infrastructure-to-vehicle communications using cellular technology at a recent conference in Detroit. And even GM and Honda have looked at smartphone-based V2V communications.
IoT technology will open up communication between cars and everything else: smartphones, wearables, homes/buildings, and infrastructure. It is this vision which is rapidly rendering moot the US DOT’s plans for a purpose-built, dedicated wi-fi network. It is increasingly becoming clear that we don’t need this network. It will take too long and cost too much to build, even if the capacity, interference, cost and security concerns could be resolved.
It appears that the auto industry is waking up to this opportunity. A November 11th connected car working session of the Linux Foundation’s AllSeen Alliance included participants such as Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen/Audi Research, Continental, Panasonic Automotive, Nissan, General Motors, and Sony.
To catch up with the latest developments, prime CES exhibitors (in January in Las Vegas) include Muzzley at the Sands Hotel and Qualcomm in the Central Hall. The list of AllSeen Alliance members at CES includes a handful of automotive players, but the complete list of IoT exhibitors appears here: https://allseenalliance.org/event/ces-2015.
Meanwhile, executives at Technicolor are seeking to create a connected car project and working group within AllSeen Alliance after having coordinated the recent working session. Bottom line: V2X is here today manifest as IoT and will be visible at CES.