The Smart Money Is on the Sensors

Thanks to RFID and the Internet of Things, the connected-vehicle market offers huge opportunities.
Published: April 5, 2019

According to Gartner, by next year there will be a quarter of a billion connected vehicles on the road, and IHS Markit forecasts that by 2023, worldwide sales of connected cars will reach 72.5 million annually, up from 24 million in 2015. The connected vehicle represents a huge business opportunity, one for which the industry is increasingly well prepared.

Since 3GPP Release 14, LTE/4G is being enhanced by the standards body to support more and more vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) applications. Examples of V2I sensors in use include those measuring traffic flow, controlling traffic lights and smart motorway monitoring with speed restrictions imposed dynamically, if necessary, based on traffic levels and speeds. V2V sensors enable the exchange of information between vehicles in range, such as position, speed and direction, with the system capable of making automatic decisions instantly—essential in the case of autonomous or driverless cars.

The emerging and largely talked about 5G technology has been designed from the ground up to support V2V/V2I, because operators were early to identify connected vehicles as a major business opportunity. One example is the ultra-reliable low-latency (URLLC) feature set in 5G. These capabilities include 1ms latency, which is key for delay-sensitive applications such as safety warnings and accident avoidance.

MIPI specifications are well proven and designed for low power, high bandwidth and low EMI/RFI implementations. Telematics, for instance, relies heavily on sensors, and these specifications play a critical role in enabling sensor-based applications.

As well as the essential need for sensors for safety in the growing autonomous vehicle market, the commercial business opportunities are wide-ranging. Trucking companies, ride-sharing organizations, taxi fleets, rental car providers, municipalities and other fleet owners can all benefit from effective GPS tracking data. There are a variety of use cases, including protecting high-value assets, improving driver safety, meeting tight delivery windows for just-in-time manufacturing, and achieving more efficient dispatching and route planning by identifying and avoiding congested routes.

The health of a vehicle can be monitored and potential issues can be caught early, such as rising transmission temperatures, before they can result in expensive downtime. Data collected can identify models with higher- or lower-than-average maintenance costs, mileage charges or off-road downtime, meaning informed decisions can be made when purchasing replacement vehicles. In addition, driver behavior can be tracked and monitored through in-vehicle gesture control and how the vehicle is being driven. Vehicle journeys can be accurately recreated, incidents analyzed, and in-vehicle alerts activated to instantly notify drivers of infractions, all enabling relevant and real-time coaching and feedback to help improve safety.

With a tracking module connected to the OBD II port and the integration of RFID readers, telematics use cases can be extended to identifying individual drivers and passengers through ID tag swipe. RFID technology allows businesses to, for example, keep track of who is driving which vehicle, or account for a passenger.

Input-output expansion offers even greater flexibility and integration. This capability allows multiple third-party providers to connect peripheral applications such as asset identification, packages loaded or unloaded at every collection or delivery point, Bluetooth beacon sensors, notifications of doors being open or closed, driver panic buttons and USB charging to the connected vehicle’s network.

As with all critical data devices, security is paramount, and any vehicle-based connection to the Internet of Things (IoT) needs to be designed for the end-to-end protection of data. Devices and network interfaces must have authentication, encryption and message integrity verification, and each device should have a unique ID and dynamic security key, in order to protect against hackers attempting to fake a device’s identity. Furthermore, over-the-air (OTA) updates should use digitally signed firmware to verify they originate from a trusted source.

New opportunities for leveraging the IoT are emerging all the time, and the connected vehicle market is at the forefront. As an example, the European Union recently announced plans to make speed-limiting technology mandatory for all vehicles sold in Europe from 2022, and the European Commission set itself the ultimate aim of cutting road deaths to zero by 2050.

With the standards in place, the technology available, the innovation out there and the 5G networks on the near horizon, the telematics industry finds itself facing a market opportunity with arguably limitless potential.

Moussa Kfouri is Geotab‘s associate VP of product operations. He graduated from McMaster University with a Master of Applied Science degree in 2008. He joined Geotab straight out of school, and has taken on several roles during the company’s thriving growth, during which he garnered extensive project- and product-management experience and knowledge in the telematics, M2M and wireless industries. Moussa now leads Geotab’s product operations team that is responsible for overseeing the development and delivery of various products and new-product introductions.