2013
06.27

On the surface, the news hitting the wire this morning of FIAT signing on with Aeris Communications for connected car services might seem like just another customer announcement. But dig a bit deeper and you begin to realize this news could have much larger ramifications for how our cars connect in the future.

The connected car is nothing new to Aeris. In fact, it provides connected-vehicle services for Honda’s AcuraLink and Hyundai’s BlueLink, both of which are leveraging CDMA. But the FIAT announcement is GSM. So instantly we get into the issue of giving OEMs network choices. But let’s think bigger than that.

I had a chance to speak with Steve Millstein, managing director with Aeris Communications, this morning about what this means for connected cars in general. Here are some of the highlights of what he told me:

-One key takeaway from our conversation was about the importance of “mitigating obsolescence” for vehicle OEMs. By incorporating network technologies Aeris is ensuring a connected car isn’t limited in any sense and that OEMs will always have choices.

-Millstein drew parallels to the time when analog was shut down leaving many with network choices related to devices. Something like that could be detrimental to an automotive OEM in terms of quality, reputation, and costs. This an important point due simply to the fact design cycles for a new vehicle can take years, which means any small change in network makes a connected-vehicle system obsolete in a heartbeat.

-He says, “With our platform, using multiple technologies and network access devices, we have specifications to help mitigate the risk of obsolesce by providing choices based on location of car, etc. That kind of capability is built into the device so that the car can be managed OTA rather than in the dealer.” This speaks largely to the trend related to OTA (over-the-air) updates that the auto industry is striving to achieve. We saw announcements from BlackBerry earlier this month addressing OTA updates too. I smell a much bigger trend starting to emerge here.

-While we are talking wide-area networks specifically with this announcement, don’t count out those short-range wireless networks either. Millstein spoke if Wi-Fi or other networks becoming incorporated over time as well. But as he pointed out, this shouldn’t just be limited to total city Wi-Fi situations, but also the idea of a car pairing up with your home Wi-Fi network to know your car is home. This could present huge cost savings with regards to the OTA updates mentioned earlier.

-And one quick note about the FIAT announcement. While it is not taking advantage of the total capabilities as discussed in this blog, the deal looks to be a big step forward in the process of managing EVs (electric vehicles). The FIAT deal is for its EV program and one of the applications Millstein sees being very valuable to the OEM is the ability to obtain vehicle performance data.

He says, “With regards to EVs and new power train tech range, etc., collecting that information and presenting that to the driver in a usable form is critical. That is part of strategy with Aercloud and our portal that allows you to manage it—it allows OEMs to extract information from the vehicle so that they can find out if there is a problem in car right away.”

The example he used was letting the OEM know how the engine controller is operating in a certain model that has 10,000-20,000 miles. This can be crucial in recall scenarios.

It’s an exciting time to be involved with connected cars. I like this news from Aeris. Couple this with the AerCloud platform, which we were able to see firsthand at our M2M App Challenge earlier this month, and you sense the company will be making even more noise in M2M soon.

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