To realize the promise and potential of the Connected Car, automakers need to embrace satellite technology, insists Greg Ewert
There are millions of connected cars already on today’s roads and highways offering a range of services to vehicle owners, from in-car WiFi to navigation. In reality, however, automakers have only scratched the surface when it comes to the true revenue generating potential of the connected personal vehicle.
One of the areas carmakers are bullish on is OTA (Over-The-Air) Updates. By remotely updating a connected vehicle’s internal software, OEMs can dramatically reduce costs associated with warranty support and recalls. The marketing possibilities are attractive as well, as for the vehicle owner it can also reduce the number of annoying trips to the service station, which can be a nice selling point.
For the Connected Car to truly be a viable boost to the bottom line though, it must have one critical component – connectivity.
To date, manufacturers have primarily looked to terrestrial networks as the communications option of choice for the first generation of connected vehicles. With 5G interoperable networks on the horizon, options are expanding, and as manufacturers consider these options, satellite communications should be a significant part of the discussion.
Let’s face it, satellite communications has always been an outlier in the communications ecosystem, used either during extreme crisis situations, by companies or individuals in far-flung locations or, generally speaking, as a last resort. The miniaturization of equipment and reduction in costs has positioned satellite as a legitimate complement to terrestrial services in a network of networks for IoT (Internet of Things). In the Connected Car marketplace, satellite communications is particularly important given inherent characteristics of satellite networks. Let’s examine the ways:
Remote Updates Reducing Warranty Support and Recall Costs
Satellite’s broadcast capability makes it an ideal communications solution for OTA updates. With satellite, OEM’s can send updates to an entire fleet of vehicles through a single transmission, improving efficiency and reducing associated costs and potentially resulting in millions of dollars saved for OEMs.
Global Reach of Networks
Satellite networks are typically global in nature and have much larger footprints, so updates can reach a connected vehicle no matter where it may be in the world, eliminating the arduous tasks of navigating individual agreements with international terrestrial carriers around the world.
Securing the Vehicle
Cyber security is a growing and paramount concern of Connected Car manufacturers. It’s also a potential marketing point. A Frost & Sullivan study suggests that by 2020, more than 70 per cent of consumers will likely consider security a key parameter when purchasing a car. From the outset, the topology of a satellite network is inherently more secure, operating as a private network that does not traverse the public Internet and with fewer points of intrusion. With encryption technologies layered on top, satellite can offer even stronger protections from nefarious intruders. The broadcast capability also acts as a Global Threat Management System, rapidly addressing vulnerable vehicle populations worldwide.
Preserving the Relationship with Vehicle Owners
Satellite componentry has been dramatically reduced to the point where it can quite easily be embedded into existing antennas and internal units. And once satellite is enabled, the potential then emerges for OEMs to introduce new services that not only deliver new revenue streams but also allow for an enhanced relationship with the vehicle owner.
Despite the prevalence of connected vehicles already on the road today, it’s still early days. Manufacturers and suppliers continue to work together to understand what the consumer wants and how new services can best be monetized. In some circles, the industry has already taken note of the potential of satellite to be a reliable, efficient and secure option in the communications toolkit. Without a doubt, satellite is well-suited to play a major role as the market proliferates and matures.
Greg Ewert is President of Inmarsat’s Connected Car division, which is working with automotive suppliers and manufacturers to bring satellite connectivity to the next generation of connected vehicles.