Telematics, connected mobility and OTA software updates

The Device Chronicle interviewed Tawfeeq Ahmad to learn about how connected mobility, telematics and OTA software updates, is evolving in the automotive sector.

Tawfeeq leads the Product Marketing team for Telematics and Industrial IoT at  iWave Systems. This leading embedded design and product engineering company offers a wide range of System On Modules and Single Board Computers built on a wide range of ARM processors and FPGA SoC platforms .iWave offers embedded computing platforms on  different form factors such as Qseven, SMARC, SODIMM and HPC and works very closely with Tier-1 silicon companies such as NXP, Xilinx, Intel and so on.

Embracing the revolution in telematics and IoT

Tawfeeq explains that in 2016, the company embraced IoT, big data, and telematics to enable connected mobility. It started to develop a portfolio of telematics solutions including the OBD2 dongle, Telematics Control Units, Heavy Duty OBD Loggers and new V2X gateways which are on the current product roadmap. These devices, Tawfeeq continues, are scalable and compatible with different types of vehicles ranging from passenger cars, to two wheelers to forklifts and EVs. The  telematics devices supports various input connectivity interfaces and wireless options enabling system integrators and application providers target various aftermarket solutions in connected mobility with complementary security for telematics. 

Telematics expert Tawfeeq Ahmad
Tawfeeq Ahmad, Leader of Product Marketing Team, iWave Systems

Use cases in connected mobility and telematics

Tawfeeq explains that there are three to four key use cases that have emerged since 2018. The first is predictive maintenance scheduling. “With the gateway being connected to the vehicle, there is now the possibility for real time AI-driven intelligence on the car every second.” This means that the in-car system uses variables such as distance travelled, fuel consumed, engine parameters, tire conditions, and weather conditions to predict when the vehicle should get its next service. If the engine oil is reduced for example, the AI automatically schedules an appointment with a garage with the data available to the consumer and the repair workshop. There is no need for manual intervention. This reduces the risk of a vehicle breaking down on a highway with the potential to save a transport and logistics company time and money and brings about efficiency for the workshop. 

The second key use case that is growing fast is vehicle personalisation and in-car infotainment. Tawfeeq observes that with the explosion of data, the personalisation experience has reached the car. With the assistance of an IoT gateway, the driver can set up a Wi-Fi hotspot within the vehicle and personalised content can be delivered to them. In another example, if a driver is commuting for let’s say 90 minutes, they can create a mobile office within the car with seamless connectivity to online meetings. 

The third key use case is supporting driving behaviour-based insurance premium setting. Insurance companies want to set rates based on risk associated with driving behaviour assisted by real time data. 

The fourth key use case is for more conventional fleet management for trucks and cargo. This typically involves measuring the estimated time of departure and arrival of a cargo, and the precise position of the transport vehicle in transit at any given time with transparency on location and vehicle run time. 

The predictive maintenance, fleet management and insurance premium risk management are the most pervasive use cases in connected mobility. These are being adapted by system integrators and enterprise software providers who in turn are providing these services for these Tier 1 OEM Automotive Manufacturers. 

Connectivity in telematics requires work

There are still some challenges with connectivity which challenges adoption of in-car infotainment. Wide bandwidth such as 5G is required across the whole journey to support applications such as the mobile connected workplace and video streaming for in-car entertainment. Communication technologies such as Narrowband IOT and CAT M1 are now coming on stream. These are the communication technologies that will drive telematics forward. Telematics is the remote monitoring of vehicles and the performance of advanced analytics often the edge rather than the Cloud. Bridging the ECU Data to the cloud, the protocol conversion, the data storage, sensor-based edge analytics and other important features needs to be taken care of by the Telematics Unit on the vehicle. With the intelligence sitting within the vehicle, Edge processing of data is also necessary for many use cases. Real time data analytics required in scenarios such as vehicle crash damage detection. “In such applications, there is no buffer to do analytics in the cloud, the intelligence is held locally and immediately transmitted to alert the local ambulance service and road safety organisations wherein telematics is crucial for regulations and road safety.”

Massive data collection at the edge in telematics

The collected data available now locally within the vehicle has also exploded. Quartz reported that as early as 2015, an average of 25 Gbytes was being collected per vehicle per hour in an optimised telematics use case. The telematics devices make the data available to appropriate stakeholders that can use this data. The data and the way it is applied in applications is creating new and more profitable opportunities to automotive OEMs beyond just selling the vehicle units. The challenge is to come up with creative and compelling applications that can monetize the data that is being collected through the gateway.  

Understanding the supply chain in telematics

Telematics works with many technologies in a well established ecosystem of manufacturers and system integrators. The telecoms operators provide the last mile of connectivity, there are the IoT and telematics device manufacturers; analytics companies that create the dashboards and the end user mobile applications; the system integrators that install these aftermarket devices in the field and last but not least the automotive OEMs. It’s a well established chain-based ecosystem rather than a circular one. Automotive OEM works with the system integrator, the system integrators works with the analytics provider and the analytics provider works with the device hardware provider. Automotive OEM will define the 10 year strategy for the customer experience and that will be filtered down to the systems integrators and the analytics providers. 

Critical OTA software updates and telematics

For Tawfeeq, the OTA software updates is a critical component. He says “One single hardware, and new use cases, new feature enhancements, new business and new Edge computing logic must be supported in tandem after the device has been shipped. He continues to say “There is no way companies can do systematic recalls of the devices for updating after they have been shipped into the market. Updates must be done on the go to cover bug fixes, OS, application and security updates to cover the customer’s needs for at least 7 years in the lifetime of the telematics solution. There must also be a continuous and uninterrupted flow of data so that the customer is unaware the updates are taking place in the background.” 

Security by design in telematics

Security is a critical concern. Tawfeeq explains “The ECU plays the role of a computer brain in the car and it could be hijacked by a laptop computer and off the shelf software. With a telematics device communicating directly with the ECU device in the car, it provides a very rich gateway for hackers to penetrate the car’s network.” Security must be taken care of by design and not when they would arise as that would be catastrophic. So security must be considered and factored into the product development phase at the earliest possible stage. The telematics devices must also be “air gapped” from the public Internet, as these devices will be in millions of vehicles and would provide the perfect gateways for IoT Denial of Service attacks. During the updating process, the telematics gateways are in the most vulnerable state, the telematics controller can get interrupted and corrupt the firmware and this can result in a huge financial loss in terms of the data that can be lost and the impact it would have the end user’s ability to perform their business. The security architecture must be just right to protect the integrity of the firmware. This means that even if a malicious actor manages to hack the device, they will be unable to interfere with the firmware. 

Security technologies to consider in telematics

The processor needs security intelligence on the edge so you have options such as secure boot and secure file system provisioning, Wi-Fi security and OS hardening; and then a data communication layer needs TLS, and integration from the device to the cloud and back to the OTA with the corresponding security aspects. 

We wish Tawfeeq and his colleagues well on their journey to provide the most robust and secure Telematics and IoT devices to the automotive, medical and industrial sectors.

A special note of appreciation to Supritha Somashekar, marketing leader at iWave Systems for arranging this insightful interview. 

For insights into other use cases where OTA software updates are being deployed, find out about telemedicine

Mender Enterprise for telematics

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