by Dennis Juul Poulsen, CEO with Tweakker
Billions of dollars are being invested in what is seen as the next big digital playground – the connected vehicle. And central to the mass roll-out of new and subsequently used connected cars and trucks is not just the sticker price, but having connectivity solutions embedded in them allowing the humble, network-agnostic SIM card to access the Internet from a vehicle at anytime, from anywhere, worldwide. Vehicle manufacturers believe that smartphones will change the way people use their vehicles and giant strides have already been made in making them safer, more fuel efficient and more fun to be in thanks to device technology.
The connected cars hitting the market this year  will be luxury cars with in-car telematics and infotainment systems such as those being provided by TeliaSonera to Tesla for the Nordic markets.
BMW has also announced plans to further enhance its ConnectedDrive infotainment system with the latest updates focused on improving the level of online-based in-car services and the next generation of Audi and Telsa automobiles will become more like smartphones on wheels thanks to AT&T.
Audi’s 2015 line-up of A3s and all Tesla models will be connected to AT&T’s wireless network, the same one currently used by phones, tablets and computers. Audis will operate on 4G LTE, while Teslas will be on 3G.
Audi cars will feature displayed navigation, connect to 7,000 plus Internet radio stations and will read things like news headlines, Facebook posts and Tweets aloud.
Passengers will also be able to connect to the car’s Wi-fi and be able to stream high-definition video to up to eight devices.
Initially, the market will be driven by large, cash-rich Telcos able to invest in these initial offerings, but their solutions are expensive, and expensive solutions breed expensive products.
A huge chunk of the connected car market will eventually be based on more cost-efficient vehicles interfacing with the Internet.
Top mobile network operators [MNOs] will try and control the market but price will prevail in the long run in a similar way to the services of MNOs over the last 10 years.
However, the transition from contract to Bring Your Own SIM (BYOS) driven connected cars will most likely happen over a much shorter period of time due to growing numbers of small budget/eco friendly cars being sold worldwide.
And they will not come with a contract based mobile subscription service. It is more a matter of how long it will take before this car category will offer connectivity as standard equipment.
What this means is today’s smartphone app-culture will be infiltrating the dashboard – from a parking space finder to a way to get coupons for local restaurants, or directions that can pop up on the windscreen.
It all relies on the car being connected to the Internet, allowing information to arrive without too much searching or button pushing and a lot more focus on voice commands.
At present, connected car headlines often focus on the use in-car of social media, integrated Internet radio or clever ways to use voice commands. But the Internet could be used for much more simple and practical things.
Apps already exist that show local petrol stations and their prices, allowing drivers to keep going for a few more miles to save a few pence a litre when filling up a car.
There is also an app to find a car parking space in some major cities, using electronic sensors, or analysing an aerial view of local street spaces. In the UK car park firm NCP has both an iOS and Android app for this.
Perhaps more interesting are the things you never knew you could find out.
When stopped at a traffic light, trials have shown a system where a time can pop up on the dashboard letting drivers know how long they’ll have to wait until it changes.
This is not a cheap business. It is thought billions of pounds have been spent so far on the development of all these services.
By 2020, $ 600 billion (£380 billion) – or 20 per cent of the value of new connected vehicles – will be able to be attributed to ‘our connected life’ according to some research firms.
Intel alone is investing $ 100 million in the next five years in companies that can quicken the adoption of connected cars.
And by Q1 2015, every vehicle sold will offer some sort of connectivity. If you look at a cost to design a completely new car model, some companies are spending around a third of the budget just on the in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) and the in-car technology around the system.
If all this IVI information becomes even easier to access in-car, the question arises – Is there an even greater risk of distraction from driving?
Safety concerns are being addressed with a mandatory sensor which calls emergency services in the event of an accident.
Entitled eCall, all new cars will be fitted with such a sensor by 2015 under an EU legislation scheme.
But it is not just on-road safety that is causing developers headaches. If there’s a data system in a car, technically someone could hack into it by intercepting wireless messages between the car and the network.
But the risk is small because of time spent on security by the companies involved and the risks of failure.
Connected cars will have to be released with appropriately designed security to prevent hacking.
New and used vehicles
As we enter the connected car era, it must be remembered that a very large chunk of the market will be infotainment systems fitted in second hand cars and used trucks.
This means that when someone buys a used vehicle, they’ll have to bring their own SIM card to activate it.
The card needs to be network-agnostic, capable of connecting to any network in Europe as cars/trucks pass through various countries.
The EU’s work on eliminating mobile roaming charges across Europe will certainly help speed the development of the connected vehicle especially in more mature European markets such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
Smartphone connectivity app
An instant connectivity app for the connected car is now available from my own firm, Tweakker, and connects the BYOS SIM to the modem.
The importance of this app cannot be underestimated. According to research firm Gartner, around 30 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020.
They will vary in size and functionality and the majority will be mobile related, whether it’s the connected car or connected body with a host of M2M sensors embedded in the clothes and jewellery we wear that connects them to the modem.
At Tweakker, our unique technology took three years to develop and has already been downloaded by millions of Android users to connect to the Internet.
All that connected car makers need do to get users online and using OTT services is to embed the app in their infotainment systems.
Plus users will be immediately connected to the Internet with their BYOS and will continue to do so even as they pass through different networks and frontiers.
The Internet of Things [IoT] will have a profound impact on the world economy with some experts predicting a global business worth $ 1.9 trillion by 2020.
Connectivity will be key to the successful deployment of these devices and here at Tweakker we are urging all connected car manufacturers to engage in its technology roadmap for the developing IoT ecosystem.
Dennis Juul Poulsen is CEO and co-founder of Tweakker, a leading mobile connectivity firm established in 2009. Mr Poulsen began his career as product manager for mobile device intelligence company Mobilethink. In 2009, he was appointed manager for products and communications by Tweakker, subsequently director of sales and product, and then Tweakker’s CEO in 2011. As a business development, sales and management oriented executive, Mr Poulsen has broad experience within the mobile industry including international B2B sales at executive level. His focus revolves around developing disruptive cloud technologies and products for the mobile provider & consumer space. He enjoys working with start-ups and established companies that aim to capture market share or seek to broaden their market scope by re-positioning their brands and products. Mr Poulsen holds a BsC in Information Studies & Organizational Anthropology, Aarhus University, Denmark, as well as an MsC, Science & Information Technology, from the same university.