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On the Road with the Internet of Everything

How cars will merge into our connected lifestyles

It’s been a buzzword for years, now. The ever-illusive Internet of Things is coming soon and it’s going to streamline our lives by intelligently connecting all the devices on us, around us and, yes, even in us. It will automatically arrange everything from cooking our dinners to monitoring grandpa’s heart implant. This is what is commonly referred to as a smart or connected home, but what about our cars?

That’s the Internet of Cars or the Internet of Things and Cars or more simply the Internet of Everything. Indeed, a car is a device, albeit a very expensive one, and it operates in an even more data-rich environment than our smartphones and ovens.

A driver’s ecosystem presents a variety of both internal (car temperature, motor conditions, driver alertness) and external data (weather, traffic, road conditions). Indeed, cars themselves automatically operate a number of processes that can be constantly monitored and optimized. We hear claims every day about how, before long, our cars will drive themselves down digitally connected highways that will automatically alert us to traffic conditions, closed roads and accidents. Last, but certainly not least, connecting our cars with other devices and the broader mobile ecosystem means that our cars will converge seamlessly into our digital lifestyles.

Our cars are already teeming with digital technology, including systems for navigation, hands-free mobile communication, infotainment, usage-based insurance, stability control and anti-lock braking, but we are still at the dawn of the connected car. Automotive makers are eyeing systems for automatic braking, night vision and active safety systems controlled by interactive data analysis.

Safety First

Safety is clearly the topmost concern for a car driver. Telematics devices such as the Octo one already provide drivers with advanced information and safety features such as traffic alerts, stolen vehicle tracking and recovery and emergency calls, but the future clearly lies in full connectivity, especially amongst vehicles and between vehicles and emergency centres.

In the near future, drivers will receive real-time, intelligent traffic forecasts and road and weather alerts. Cars will automatically sense and react to safety data, while remote vehicle diagnostics will ensure greater vehicle maintenance and preventive safety alerts and measures.

Embedded vs. Mobile

As the automotive industry gears up for this connected future, one of the main issues that continues to rage is whether cars will embed their own telematics devices – sending, receiving and interacting directly with data – or whether our vehicles will interact with the ubiquitous smartphone app.

Octo, as we have seen, provides its own telematics device and services to insurers and policyholders, but it is also developing smartphone apps.

Carmakers clearly prefer the embedded device option, although it presents one fundamental issue: cost. Who will pay for the installation of telematics devices and Wi-Fi modems in cars: the factory or the client? Nor do the issues stop here. What about software updates? What happens if something goes wrong, will this affect the carmaker’s reputation? And what about data privacy? Cyber attacks?

Smartphones represent a viable and efficient alternative. First of all, the smartphone industry is already up and running. Smartphones are virtually in every driver’s pocket and there is a huge developer ecosystem available to create new applications, not to mention the large number of apps that have already been tried and tested and that are used day in and out by drivers around the globe. A further significant aspect to consider is that a third-party app would divert any problem or issue from the carmaker to the application developer.

This debate over embedded (in-car device) vs. mobile devices (smartphone) continues to brew. Indeed, the consensus among experts and industry leaders at the recent Telematics USA 2014 Conference was that, at present, a hybrid approach seems to be the only viable solution.

Where do we go from here?

A further variable is represented by consumer demand. A survey conducted by Gartner (Q1, 2014) indicates that most drivers currently seek basic services (traffic information, map updates, weather and news updates, parking information and Internet radio), but that there also is a growing demand for further value-added services, especially by the younger tech-savvy generation.

In fact, speaking at the Insurance Telematics Update 2014 Conference, Nino Tarantino, CEO, OCTO Telematics North America, urged insurers that the time had come to incorporate value-added services into their usage-based insurance packages. “In order to differentiate a telematics product and provide true value to customers, insurers must offer packages including a wider range of value-added services,” he underlined. And the same definitely holds true for the car industry.

Carmakers, in the meantime, are also thinking ahead: from diagnostics to prognostics. Vehicle smart systems can forecast where a driver is headed based on the time and the day or interact directly with a digital calendar. Intelligent systems employ predictive-user experience to suggest alternative routes or provide greater comfort, for example, by automatically heating cars. Even more importantly, data collection from telematics devices means that the intelligent system can alert drivers of impending problems, ranging from motor issues to tire consumption, before the car breaks down on a highway or is involved in an accident.

Clearly, the future will be based on the reception, transmission and analysis of individual vehicle data confronted with enormous amounts of real-time information and archived data on driver preferences, habits and driving styles.

Octo, a pioneer in insurance telematics, has already archived data and insight. Octo’s data centre currently stores driver behavioural data for over 241 billion kilometres.*


Today, we still face a clear divide – even a generational gap – between consumer expectations and the reality of automotive telematics, but there is no doubt that vehicles and roads will merge into our connected, digital lifestyles and into the Internet of Everything. It’s just a question of time.

We will have fewer issues with our cars and issues will create fewer hassles in terms of time, cost and safety. We will use our cars to move around, communicate and interact, and just like our smartphones, cars will provide us with a seamless digital experience.

*as of 30/06/2014

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