Connected Cars & IoT – Emerging Trends And Predictions

Connected Cars & IoT – Emerging Trends And Predictions

RAHUL DEV is a Partner at Tech Corp Legal LLP; a patent attorney and international technology business lawyer

Tesla founder Elon Musk recently confirmed that he believes Apple is working on producing a car, during an interview with the BBC. So when Elon, who commands great authority in the electric car industry, confirms that a technology giant like Apple is working towards building a car, it seems likely that we might see innovative vehicles strapped with Apple logos running on roads in the near future.

Elon's predictions may not be true, but one cannot ignore the possibility of path-breaking innovations revamping the automobile industry in coming years. We have already experienced testing of driverless cars by Google. However, autonomous cars becoming mainstream is still a distant reality due to various challenges. At the same time, present day innovations are providing excellent solutions relating to in-car entertainment and communication technologies.

Technology trends and predictions are best analysed by reviewing patents filed by companies across the globe. Patent offices worldwide usually publish the patent applications after filing (pre-grant publications) and subsequently after the patents are granted. This can provide insights into future technology trends, as filing patents is essential to ensure that R&D activities are duly protected from being copied. Innovators get appropriate royalties for their R&D efforts.

Vehicle infotainment and digital dashboards are generating enormous revenues due to the constant need of people to stay connected. A leading example of such innovation is justDrive by Jaguar Land Rover, which turns apps and services from smartphone into a voice-activated experience. This allows the driver to bypass the struggle of searching through multiple apps as justDrive can seamlessly search apps, and perform other tasks such as sending a text or tweet through natural speech, or playing a desired song. JLR has filed a patent with the US patent office (USPTO) titled "Touch System and Method" that describes a multi-user touch system and a method of controlling a touch system.

It is common for major companies to cross-license their respective patents and technology to each other, which allows them to use each other's patents at reasonable terms.

Digital innovations by the likes of Apple (CarPlay) and Google (Android Auto) are yet to gain traction but once that happens, smartphones will act as bridging tools to revolutionise automobiles. Moreover, subsequent innovations could potentially eliminate the need of smartphones considering the need of users to expect better capabilities from the dashboard.

In 2015, Apple was granted a patent by the USPTO pertaining to "Accessing a Vehicle Using Portable Devices", which discloses a primary portable device that can access a vehicle by transmitting an activation message including a vehicle access credential to the vehicle. As disclosed therein, the primary portable device can additionally enable a secondary portable device to access the vehicle by transmitting the vehicle access credential to the secondary portable device. In use, the connections between the primary portable device, secondary portable device, and vehicle can be based on a short-range wireless protocol, such as Bluetooth or Bluetooth LE. A wide variety of portable devices can embody this technology.

CHALLENGES

One potential challenge that automakers and technology companies can face is to integrate technology with product lifecycle and consumer's buying cycle. For example, in-vehicle entertainment will require constant addition to new content, and such new content will need regular software updates for seamless user experience. Bugs can spoil the consumer's interest and hence automakers would need to be more proactive in recalling faulty vehicles or providing software improvements. To achieve this, companies will further need strong back-office operations and optimisation of supply chain, so that novel driving-centric services can be rolled out in a timely manner, thereby providing better monetisation schemes for the companies.

To ensure that the connected cars match the needs of all users, companies are aggressively integrating design, research and manufacturing efforts with customer experience, branding and marketing. To provide better experience to the customers, the dealer network also needs to be engaged.

With the ever-increasing smartphone penetration, consumer behaviour has undergone rapid changes and it is not just about buying a vehicle anymore. Consumers foresee car buying as an experience and companies are quick to adapt to changing trends. In the past, interaction of potential buyers with vehicles was limited to test drives, which now begins months or sometimes years in advance.

Consumers begin the car-buying process by doing online research and speaking to dealers, which gets a boost through technologies such as augmented and virtual reality. This can provide consumers with a real life look and feel of the entire experience of owning a vehicle of their choice. With more consumer devices such as smart-watch, wearable gadgets and virtual reality gears, this trend will become mainstream globally. Consequently, automakers that used to focus on B2B aspects by catering to the needs of the dealers will divert their attention to B2C aspects as well because the consumer is at the forefront of new age car-buying experience.

ROLE OF THE INTERNET

Internet of things (IoT) is a term that is used to refer to everyday consumer devices and how these devices communicate with each other and the users via the Internet. Future automobile cockpits will be designed using technology and IoT landscape as communication will become primary requirement of the consumers.

Innovations in IoT will provide significant push to automobile sector as connected cars possessing multiple features are expected to contribute majorly to upcoming technology trends. Such innovations will include consumer-oriented embedded devices such as infotainment, telematics, and digital cluster systems, along with safety and navigation features. Automakers have realised that IoT is capable of pushing automotive systems to become more connected within and outside of the car, through the use of software.

In addition to the above, it would be correct to predict that innovations in automobile sector will drive research and development in other sectors, such as aerospace and defence, and vice versa. Innovations across embedded software combined with rich technology expertise will showcase an intersection of these diverse industries, each of which may be driven to extreme heights due to IoT transformation.

An ideal cockpit of a future automobile exploiting IoT innovations would be packaged with essential elements, including an integrated connectivity framework for extending user experience to the IoT devices and landscape, including the cloud; firmware and software management modules that are capable of managing and updating software in real-time; a flexible platform to allow functioning of various services; and long-term support to allow for extensibility over time with evolving IoT developments. It would be needless to state that such systems will have inbuilt security for safe data handling throughout the entire process beginning from the boot up.

Another trend that would be commonly observed will be the convergence of other technology areas with cars. For example, users who are savvy about new age innovations in the field of home automation and health wearables would prefer cars with similar capabilities. This would mean connected cars will have data processing capabilities so as to provide a coherent experience to users by connecting smoothly with such gadgets, thereby improving overall IoT landscape.

In near future, consumers will expect much more from their vehicles once driverless vehicles are offered to them, including more focus on car safety, creating a more personalised experience behind the wheel, and in-vehicle productivity. Yes, eventually consumers will take work on the road, as a realistically viable option once there exists logical and practical partnerships between connected cars and the automotive, consumer, and enterprise markets.

To conclude, it wouldn't be wrong to state that cars will evolve sooner than expected and users would be able to communicate with cars uniformly via wearable devices, smartphones, mobile apps, and the like. It would be normal routine for a user to set navigation, lock doors, turn on the heat, flash the lights, or sound the horn through the wearable or the smartphone and its compatible app.