How machine-to-machine and small data will revolutionise the auto industry

March 08, 2013 // By David Levine, Vodafone
The big trend on everyone’s agenda at the moment is big data, but in the world of machine-to-machine communications (M2M) it’s the small data that matters. M2M communications is helping automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) better understand their vehicles’ performance and driving behaviour. This enables OEMs to develop and evolve relationships by having informed conversations with their customers (dealers, suppliers and consumers) and deliver new, innovative value added services.

By using an embedded SIM card that transmits data wirelessly via a secure mobile network, M2M can collect important granular pieces of information from a vehicle which be put to a wide variety of useful purposes. David Levine, Global Head of Automotive Business Development, Vodafone explains the potential applications for M2M and the opportunities its adoption presents to automotive software and hardware engineers.

The industry drivers

In terms of the machine-to-machine industry as a whole, the automotive sector is by far the biggest, eclipsing its use in utilities, consumer goods and manufacturing. Some analysts predict that the sector will generate up to $199 billion in revenue in 2020. Adoption is being driven largely by EU regulations supporting the implementation of eCall. By 2015, all new cars will be required to have M2M technology that allows their car to automatically notify the nearest emergency centre when the driver has been in a crash.

Fig. 1: eCall is one of the major driver for automotive M2M

The cars will be required to send a 'minimum set of data' to the emergency services including the exact location of the crash site, time of incident, and the direction of travel. As a result of this technology response times will improve by up to 60% in built up areas, and many more lives will be saved.

There are two options for implementing this mobile technology; firstly the tethered phone option. This would enable the eCall system to operate from the SIM that is inside of the consumer's mobile phone which would be 'tethered’ to the vehicle via Bluetooth or USB connection. The other is the embedded SIM, where the card is fitted inside the vehicle and connects automatically when an impact is detected.

The EU Commission strongly recommends the latter option since the tethered approach only works if the driver remembers to connect their phone (typically via USB, Wifi or Bluetooth) and their battery is

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