The Next Workplace is the Connected Car

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor & Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — February 24, 2014

It doesn’t get any more mobile than a vehicle. The Connected Car, however, takes that a step further, not just via wireless connections for end users, but in the ability for machines to communicate with each other. With this new frontier come the problems and potentials, from the vast array of services, to the burgeoning ecosystem of automakers and app developers.

One such initiative is the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA). Audi, GM, Google, Honda, Hyundai and NVIDIA have joined together to bring the Android platform to cars starting in 2014.

"Millions of people are already familiar with Android and use it everyday," said Sundar Pichai, SVP of Android, Chrome & Apps, Google, in a company statement. "The expansion of the Android platform into automotive will allow our industry partners to more easily integrate mobile technology into cars and offer drivers a familiar, seamless experience so they can focus on the road."

Another initiative is AT&T Drive, a modular, global solution that allows automakers to pick and choose what services and capabilities—from connectivity and billing to data analytics and infotainment—are important to them in order to differentiate their solutions in the marketplace.

In addition, the AT&T Drive Studio is a new 5,000-square foot space. With working garage bays, a speech lab, a full showroom to exhibit the latest innovations and conference facilities, the Studio serves as a hub where AT&T can respond to needs of automotive manufacturers and the auto ecosystem at large. Partners include Accenture, Amdocs, Clear Channel’s iHeart Radio, Ericsson, Jasper Wireless, Synchronoss and VoiceBox.

Meanwhile, OpenCar Inc., a Seattle-based software company, plans to bridge the gap between automakers and software developers. Via a strategic partnership with the Mazda Motor Corporation, the company debuted OpenCar Connect at this year’s CES. The standards-based app platform is a new paradigm, taking a “one-off process” and empowering software developers to create code for multiple makes and models. While Mazda can define safety requirements, the third-party app developers can focus on the user experience, building profiles that match each vehicle¹s visual and functional interface design, hardware controls and voice interaction middleware.

What The User Wants
Almost half of all consumers currently consider it vital to have access to a phone while in a vehicle, according to “Methods and Practices: Connected Vehicles and Consumer Connectivity Preferences,” a report by IDC Manufacturing Insights. And about 40% consider it vital to access apps such as navigation and music while in the vehicle.

And when it comes to Baby Boomers (those between the ages of 45 and 65), almost half consider it vital to access the phone in the vehicle for business and applications. (This is contrast to only a quarter of all consumers considering it vital, and just 19% of Millennials.)

Wait, aren’t Millennials the ones constantly connected, demanding work access from anywhere at any time?

“Looking at the data for the age group younger than 34 years, but greater than 18 years (greater than 18 was criteria to participate in the study) i.e. loosely "Millennials," – and comparing to the Boomers—it's true,” said Sheila Brennan, Program Manager, IDC Manufacturing Insights' Connected Vehicle Strategies, via an email interview.

“There are many factors influencing this including a trend referred to as ‘delayed adulthood’ among Millennials.  Young adults today find it increasingly difficult to enter the workforce, in part because of retirement postponement by the current workforce, and as a result live at 'home' with their parents into their high 20s.  Interestingly, our data shows significantly more Millennials consider access to the phone in vehicles vital for personal use and apps, over business and personal use, to the tune of 31% of the Millennial population.”

The IDC report also shows that three-quarters of respondents prefer to access in-vehicle services through their existing mobile device, maintaining their "digital identity” while two-thirds prefer their existing mobile service provider for emergency and other in-vehicle services, if given a choice.

And despite the need for and consumer interest in connected vehicle functionality, IDC Manufacturing Insights predicts adoption, via new vehicle model purchases, will continue to be slow.

Highway Safety
In early February, the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced plans to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles. The agency is also considering future actions on active safety technologies that rely on on-board sensors.

By exchanging basic safety data, such as speed and position, 10 times per second, crashes may be avoided. V2V communications can provide the vehicle and driver with 360-degree situational awareness. Say a driver is deciding whether to pass on a two-lane road, or make a left turn against traffic. In these cases,V2V technology detects threats which are often unseen or can’t be quickly determined by a human.

According to the NHTSA, the V2V technology will not involve exchanging or recording personal information, and actually have several layers of security and privacy protection to ensure that vehicles can rely on messages sent from other vehicles.

Enterprise Safety
Will this help when it comes to enterprise liability? Too soon to tell, but Brennan said, “At IDC we stress that it is critical for each company to have a comprehensive mobility strategy in place that considers driver safety and associated corporate liability.”

She urged companies to proactively safeguard field service professionals, for example, against distracted driving. “Obviously, policies which prohibit or limit the use of mobile devices while driving can be mandated, however if a company is concerned about adherence to policies it may consider vehicle telematics integration,” said Brennan.

IDC research shows that deploying new or updating field service mobility apps are top priorities for enterprises, and Brennan believes this provides companies with the opportunity to address the safety issue “head on.” 

There are several apps on the market already that limit the distraction created by mobile devices while vehicles are in motion over a certain velocity. There are also “'watchdog” apps available to monitor the use of mobile devices of field service professionals, to ensure compliance to policies, according to Brennan.

What About Security?
Traditional safety telematics services such as eCall, bCall, stolen vehicle tracking, and diagnostics are involve the physical protection of vehicles and passengers. What about the potential for cyber threats?

“So far connected car security has been mainly based on hardware protection and separation with infotainment and vehicle-centric safety systems shielded from each other,” said Dominique Bonte, VP & Practice Director, ABI Research. “However, the shift towards cost-effective software-based security based on virtualization, containerization and sandboxing is well under way with Harman and Mentor Graphics as some of the leading vendors.”

Currently, Cisco is partnering with Continental and Visteon to bring enterprise IT connectivity based security technologies such as Private Networks (VPN), IPsec, encryption and authentication (PKI). ABI Research projects that more than 20 million connected cars will ship with software-based security by 2020.

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