CommsMEA: Analysts believe that MNOs seeking to capitalise on the take-up of automotive M2M solutions will need to prevent radio link failures, interference, incomplete coverage and unsuccessful handovers along roads. Do you agree with this statement? Why?
Potgieter: Yes, I do agree that it is the single point of failure that poses the biggest risk in an industry that has mission critical elements attached to it. The dependency and its mitigation though, lies both with MNOs and device manufacturers. As an MNO we undertake multiple means of connectivity and failover, but this in turn can only work if devices and systems are geared to accept these mediums. It’s a catch 22 which one can only overcome by being both the enabler and the enabled.
Scherer: I think we need to take this industry transformation as a journey. It is not only about link failure, it is about bandwidth needs, latency and exposure of the right telco assets. Today you can efficiently and reliably use mobile networks to provide OEM diagnostic services, which are about maintenance and support. You can also offer different type of infotainment services based on the mobile network capabilities. Video streaming will of course require more bandwidth than music streaming, but content is accessible form the car. Mobile network operators can also leverage on their identification and payment capabilities.
The challenge comes if we are talking about car communication for road safety. This question is still debated and standardised. When trying to prevent accidents on the road using vehicle to vehicle to network communications, it is both about latency and reliability. Whether the communication is done between vehicles or with a network that communication has to be reliable and fast. That demand will further increase when evolving toward self-driving cars.
Some of these challenges, especially the latency perspective is addressed with LTE, and mobile networks will have to be designed and managed differently if they are at the heard of road safety, but as said this is a journey which requires both standardisation and regulation to evolve.
Nieuwenhuis: There are about 1.24 million deaths on the road each year (2010, source WHO). Traffic congestion is reducing productivity whilst at the same time CO2 emissions are rising. The focus of M2M solutions to cars is on increasing road safety, improving traffic efficiency and sustainability.
Though the standardization of communication technologies to cars is under full development, mobile connectivity and specifically LTE delivers the bandwidth and latency required for services to the car. It does mean that, when road safety is increasingly depending on mobile connectivity that operators will need to manage their networks in a different way.
Black: With the advancements in technology and the introduction of LTE and advanced networks, a consistent service can be achieved. Innovation for automotive M2M solutions will not be far behind.
CommsMEA: How will the telecoms sector in the MEA region evolve when offering M2M automotive services?
Black: MEA operators are joining global operator alliances, such as M2M World Alliance and Bridge Alliance to develop advanced digital services. These alliances will serve as an enabler to automotive manufacturers in implementing advanced automotive solutions. For example, BMW partnered with Vodafone to develop predictive maintenance and internal process change services in its vehicles.
Potgieter: The evolution lies in the “interconnectedness” of the services we provide to the markets. Offering a fleet management service that tracks your assets and assesses your driver’s behaviour is good but when this very same service extends itself to interact with your supply chain management system or CRM environment, you evolve not only its capability but also its value proposition. This will enable customers to have a service that tells them how drivers are handling fleet assets, where they are, notify suppliers or warehouses when to expect them, prepare the necessary goods for transportation, send communication to customers advising a delivery is enroute and offering an opportunity to either order related items or any services they want expedited along the route which the vehicle will be taking. This will spur the growth of aggregated cloud-based data platforms.
Nieuwenhuis: It is a great opportunity for the telecoms sector to heavily engage in as early as possible. Not just in providing the communication technology, but also in getting engaged in the discussions around the establishment of new and cooperative business models. Apart from network related questions there are many others, for example: what does it mean for an operator’s billing services? Who and how to handle customer care on connected cars?
CommsMEA: What trends do you foresee in the M2M automotive vertical in the telecommunications sector?
Black: Infotainment such as music and video content consumption, resonates with most end-users in the region. Therefore, service offering around automated media syncing from personal devices to in-car devices will gain traction. Operators are currently adopting and implementing LTE-A technology with increased Wi-Fi hotspots which will serve as an enabler for such type of service.
Nieuwenhuis: It is an exciting era for M2M and telecoms. Automotive M2M is a great driver of both technological and business innovations and can bring cost-effective, smart and safe solutions to all of us, as we commute on a daily basis. Automotive M2M brings together the increasingly mobile society and their demands, the possibilities of cloud-based technology and the strengths of mobile broadband communication. There is not one aspect dominant and therefore it requires a collaborative model between vehicle manufacturers, the ICT industry and traffic authorities that traditionally have had different ways of operating to work together to bring innovative solutions to drivers and cars.
Scherer: I believe that in our region we will see a mixture of attempts to push for these global solutions coming from the O&M as well as some interim aftermarket solutions until the regulations fall in place. Telcos will probably focus on the infotainment and try to position some of their strong assets, which is the access to content and the payment mechanisms that they can expose. Exposing mobility based analytics to reduce congestion or help in urban planning can also provide great value.
Going forward will also see the intelligent transport systems evolve and try to leverage on the connected vehicles to optimise traffic, collected tolls and provide a two-way communication to improve road safety.
Potgieter: The trend to mine big data extracted from this vertical is the obvious one. The underlying trend is the emergence of data hubs and vehicle data scientists. A more interesting development is the explosion of the social aspect of automated vehicles. Take a practical example like WAZE where millions of users interact through their routed journeys, sharing pivotal information about traffic, accidents and even chatting to fellow users. The possibilities here become endless for the right innovators to commercialise. It will be interesting to see where it goes from this direction. There are also many advances in the autonomous car concepts and these are becoming more and more of a reality. Today self-parking, tomorrow a relaxing drive between cities.
Sicart: The essential trends that we notice are - for line fitted connectivity, a strong movement of car OEMs towards reprogrammable SIM cards (so-called eUICC). This technology allows car OEM to keep one single centralised production process, while still having the ability to work with the best local/regional telco provider. Orange offers a complete “eUICC” solution, together with its GMA partners, that provides the most comprehensive and global one stop shop solution for automotive M2M.
Finally, there is a strong push for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) such as solutions leveraging existing Smartphones and screen mirroring technologies like ‘Car play’, ‘Android auto’ or ‘Mirror link’.
Overall, the automotive vertical has been at the forefront of M2M for years and represents over a third of the global M2M market. This is not about to change.
CommsMEA: Automotive M2M solutions offer significant potential for mobile network operators. What are companies doing regarding this vertical?
Black: Within the region, MNO’s have been more active around fleet management but there are indications of movement. An example is Viva Bahrain’s recent introduction of LTE based Mi-Fi solutions for Nissan and Infinity cars that allows occupants to access navigation and infotainment along with a Wi-Fi solution.
Sicart: Faced with traffic congestion and pollution in large cities, cars and mobility are at the heart of the challenges for sustainable development. In fact, by exploiting the anonymous data generated by its mobile phone network, Orange has an innovative and efficient source of information that can predict traffic conditions with increasing accuracy and thereby assist cities in dealing with the challenges of transportation.
Cars have become a third ‘living space’ after the home and the workplace; Cars are well-suited to being connected, allowing a wealth of new services ranging from safety to entertainment and mobility services. Connected cars are also formidable sensors, able to produce vast amounts of information on their environment to supply the carrier’s Big Data approaches, which are naturally integrated into Orange’s M2M and IoT ambitions.
Potgieter: MTN Group is in the process of deploying its Global M2M platform and associated Global SIM. This will enable our customers across the asset and vehicle fleet sector to experience uninterrupted network services across territories, resulting in better cost management and optimisation. Existing fleet players will be able to access MTN’s extensive coverage within Africa and across the rest of the world. A superior global experience for our customers will be supported by Global agreements with preferred roaming partner networks. MTN will also launch an array of applications in the coming months, one of which is fleet management, ensuring that we do not only focus on direct business impact through one sector of applications, but aim to deliver an ecosystem of related services synergised to address our customer’s requirements.