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How are M2M applications driving the Smart Cars agenda?

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I confess, I’m a petrolhead – I love my cars and I can never seem to get enough of being behind the wheels! I jump like a 5year-old when someone mentions a road-trip. I bought my first car at the age of 22 and my most recent set of wheels is my eighth car. And if you’re anything like me, you’d agree that a car is more than a means of getting from point A to point B; especially for us urban-dwellers, who spend a considerable portion of our day inside our cars – waiting in traffic, taking the family out, taking calls (I use a Bluetooth speaker, I promise), grabbing a quick bite and sometimes even getting dressed because we’re running late for work. In other words, it’s our second home.

I take immense pleasure and satisfaction in equipping my second home with handy gadgets and accessories that makes my drive-experience smoother and more gratifying. Manufacturers these days offer car owners a host of features and accessories to choose from, but that wasn’t always the case. But before I tell you why, I’d like to offer some context around a very commonly used word in India, ‘Jugaad’ – which basically means a hack, or an innovative and frugal workaround, to be more precise. Before India became such a lucrative market to car manufacturers, we had to make do with a lot of such jugaads. I remember implementing one such jugaad on my car many years ago, where I retrofitted a Windows mobile 6.5 system, to help me implement basic OBD protocols by writing simple applications. For the uninitiated, OBD stands for on-board diagnostics – it refers to the car’s self-diagnostic and reporting capability.

Apple CarPlay
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The OBD-II port, which became the norm in the US after 1996, allows car owners and technicians to plug in scan tools to gather diagnostic data. Today, a car owner can choose to connect their retrofitted infotainment systems to the car’s OBD port, to view real-time performance diagnostics like fuel efficiency, rpm, average speed etc. Users can also plug-in their Android or iPhone devices using USB adaptor cables, Bluetooth or WiFi adaptors, to leverage a multitude of features offered by 3rd party apps. Most modern vehicles come equipped with (almost) either Android Auto or Apple’s CarPlay, or a bunch of other standards, which replicates or provides the same smartphone like experience on the dashboard. But Android and iOS can’t be given all the credit, players like Nokia, Nippon and Kenwood have been at this game far longer, and had pioneered a lot of the features that these new entrants are rehashing or recycling today.

The car dashboard diagnostics is an evolving space, and nobody has managed to get it right yet. In my opinion, most of the dashboard technology we have today is a working prototype of what we could expect to see in a few years from now. The Open Automotive Alliance and MirrorLink are good initiatives, but ineffective, as things stand today. Here’s a story that caught my eye the other day – Hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, used Wired’s Andy Greenberg as a crash dummy to demonstrate how your car could be subjected to malicious attacks remotely, by someone perched on their couch in their pajamas, half-way across the country! It’s fine that we want to have access to more features in our car, but at what price? Do we compromise on safety? The technology we have today is unreliable, unstable and buggy; the onus lies with technology companies to change this, and trying to exercise monopoly may not be the answer. Ideally, all platforms need to be made open-source, allowing developers to cherry-pick workflows, implement UX learnings, deploy quicker, manage updates and leverage pre-integrated features.

I love the fact that my job allows me to use my passion for cars to help make a difference for clients. Our deep expertise in mobile technologies has enabled us to collaborate with our clients to develop dashboard solutions that are safe, reliable and meets all compliance requirements.

Here’s a look at how we helped build a remotely managed pre-heating mobile solution for DEFA, a leading automation company.

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Another example of a dashboard application that we worked on was the connected information and multimedia system, smart-drive application we developed for a premium global car manufacturer.

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Diagnostics and smart-drive apps are just a couple of practical uses of Machine-to-machine (M2M) applications in a car, but with every innovation in this space, we’re one step closer to making smart-cars a reality. Until then, we’ve to tread carefully – remember, the objective is to make driving safer, not hazardous. All stakeholders involved, including OEMs, technology providers and car manufacturers, should come together and collaborate to develop safety standards that will become the new norm. This will not only ensure safety, but it will also set a level playing field for more engineers and developers to drive growth and innovation in this industry. You can also look forward to cloud and analytics playing an instrumental role in the rise of this industry. Drive safe!

Avinash Birnale

Avinash has been associated with Endeavour ever since its inception in 2002 and is a co-founder. In his current role as VP - Strategy, Quality and IS, he leads and inspires the technology and quality control teams at Endeavour. He’s passionate about technology, portable devices, automobiles and photography.
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