The advent of smartphones, and the rise of mobile internet and mobile apps disrupted and transformed the way we live and do business. Thanks to the millions of mobile apps you can buy or download from app stores, you practically have your mailbox, office, photo album, TV, game console, shopping cart and much more at your disposal any time you like.
Now, thanks to the Internet of Things, the phenomenon that is already triggering the next digital revolution, your car will become integrated with your increasingly-connected life and will be added to the collection of things that fit in that little gadget you carry in your pocket all the time. Already, the combination of IoT gadgets and mobile apps in vehicles is gaining popularity among consumers and fleet operators, providing functionality and opportunities that were inconceivable a few years ago, which make them more efficient, safer to drive, more resistant to crime and theft, and less costly to maintain.
The current possibilities are virtually endless, and the future is even more exciting. Here’s a glimpse of how IoT connectivity, smart sensors and gadgets, edge computing, mobile apps and cloud services will revolutionize how you interact with and use your car.
IoT provides improved access and security
With every part of your vehicle being connected to the internet, you’ll have better remote access and control over your vehicle’s functionality with your phone. Ignition, windows, lights, trunk, everything can be manipulated through your smartphone while you’re busy elsewhere.
So you can start the engine with a tap on the phone and let it warm up in winter while you’re having breakfast and going over news headlines.
BMW puts this functionality to display with its My BMW Remote App, which enables car owners to remotely unlock or lock their cars, sound the horn, flash the lights, and turn on the auxiliary heating/ventilation system.
Viper SmartStart is an example of how you can integrate IoT with legacy technology. The kit, comprised of IoT gadgets, a mobile app, and a mobile app will give you enhanced control on your vehicle. After installing the IoT devices in your car, you can use the SmartStart app to start, lock, unlock and locate your car with a swipe and tap on your phone.
But mobile access surpasses convenience and also enters the realm of security.
Today’s mobile devices protect your data with state-of-the-art security and encryption features that are hard to hack even for government agencies. IoT will help you leverage this enhanced level of security in your car and improve theft prevention.
NFC door locks can relieve you of the nightmares linked to your car keys being lost or stolen. After registering the lock with your phone through its associated mobile app, you can unlock your car by tapping your phone against the handle. You can rest assured that only a person possessing your phone and being able to unlock it can unlock the door to your car. And in case you want to lend your car to a friend or family member, all you have to do is to grant access to their phone through your mobile app.
TapKey has implemented this concept successfully, creating a mobile app that turns the smartphone to a car key and enables car owners to securely and easily grant vehicle access to others.
And in case you lose your phone, having the lock registered with another phone will be a matter of logging into a cloud app and introducing your new phone.
Smart car alarms will quickly send an alert to your smartphone in case your car is being broken into, and in case your car does get stolen, your mobile app will help you find and track it through its GPS device. This can help report the theft and have it recovered much faster.
IoT provides improved control over vehicle status and driving
On-board Diagnostic (OBD). Telematics devices are smart cloud-connected IoT boxes installed on vehicles which provide insights and real-time information about vehicle health and driver habits. These devices function by communicating with a set of smart sensors installed on different vehicle parts including doors, windows, engine and tires, and constantly monitor and report the status of the vehicle.
A mobile app interacting with the telematics system can act as a digital assistant which alerts drivers in real-time about measurable events such as speeding, sharp cornering, seatbelt usage and over-acceleration. The app can also communicate with the cloud service where historical driving data is stored in order to enlighten drivers about bad habits they should correct, and their driving improvements over time.
EcoDrive is an interesting app that monitors your driving habits in real-time, including acceleration, deceleration, changing gears and speed variation, and gives you a score (or eco:Index) which helps you assess your safe driving skills.
More advanced use of IoT and telematics would be to keep tabs on and alert about maintenance issues that can compromise passenger safety, such as low tire pressure, malfunctioning engine, parts that need replacements and overdue services. Drivers would be able to get a complete report of their vehicles with a tap and swipe on their phone and without the need to look under the hood.
Chrysler’s UConnect app is an example of the efficient use of telematics and mobile technology. The app lets you remotely monitor and control your car’s maintenance, provides you with monthly health reports and alerts you about critical maintenance issues that need immediate attention.
The best part about telematics and on-board diagnostics is that they’re standardized across the industry and do not require vendor-specific integration, which means your mobile app and historical driving data can be migrated and ported when you switch vehicles.
IoT sensors improve vehicle safety
While the intersection of IoT and vehicles provides many opportunities, perhaps safety is the most prevalent. If there’s one thing that IoT should be praised for, it’s the fact that it’s promoting safe driving and assisting drivers in avoiding road incidents.
With more and more cities investing in smart infrastructures, IoT-powered vehicles are much better prepared to help drivers in commuting safely. Interacting with IoT sensors installed on roads, connected vehicles can detect when drivers are veering off the road as the result of distraction or fatigue, and alert them to steer back on the road. In the case of semi- and fully-autonomous vehicles, the car itself can take matters into its hands and correct the vehicle’s direction if the driver doesn’t react.
Smart sensors and smart cement can also gather information about road surface and bridge conditions. Connecting to cloud servers, mobile apps get real-time insights about road conditions and assist drivers in choosing safer roads and avoiding hazardous areas before heading out. In case a driver treks into a particularly dangerous zone, e.g. an ice-covered road, connected vehicles will directly communicate with local gateways and sensors, retrieve data about road conditions, and warn drivers about the dangers and instruct them to slow down.
In 2007, the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi Bridge in Minneapolis resulted in 13 casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of damage. Today’s IoT technology could’ve detected the bridge’s failing structure and warned both maintenance authorities and drivers about the dangers, saving lives and preventing damage.
IoT helps avoid traffic and congestion
Few things are as frustrating as getting stuck in a traffic jam when you’re late for work or want to attend an important event. Being able to avoid congestion and plan in advance can save you time and also reduce fuel consumption.
Fortunately, IoT can help in this sector as well. IoT sensors in roadways track and report commuting in real-time, which can help drivers better plan their trip and avoid crowded areas while also assisting city authorities in distributing congestion and pushing traffic toward the less frequented areas.
Mobile apps gleaning information from traffic sensors can estimate time of arrival based on the level of traffic and also provide alternative routes to drivers which will cut down the time and stress of the trip.
The added benefit of controlling traffic through IoT technology will help reduce car accidents considerably, and will collectively reduce pollution and help us have greener cities.
IBM has a great post on how it’s using apps and its IoT platform to collect traffic data, generate insights and control congestion.
Caveats and requirements
All the benefits of connected, IoT-equipped and mobile controlled vehicles isn’t without its drawbacks. The vehicle industry is already dealing with several worries where vehicle IoT is concerned, chief among them being security and privacy issues. There have already been several cases where connected cars have been hacked through mobile apps, infotainment systems and other insecure connected gadgets that are installed on the car.
While none of these dismisses the importance and impact that IoT will have over the future of cars, it does highlight the need to pay more attention to the security of IoT, especially in the vehicle industry.
This can be achieved by making sure the developed software is built by experts that have the knowhow to deliver both functionality and security. Secure coding should be one of the main tenets of any software that will be installed in our cars and their related peripherals, lest we want to see them be exploited by malicious actors and used against us.
The future of IoT in vehicles
For the moment, you have your car in your pocket. But this is just a taste of how IoT is transforming the automotive industry. Cars that can be parked with a single tap of an app button, circular economies where automobiles are shared and rented as a service through mobile apps, and the era of completely autonomous vehicles are not far away. Every day, the Internet of Things is conquering new summits. Who knows what tomorrow holds?
(Photo courtesy of Faraday Future)