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The connected car meets the Internet of Things

Monday, May 15, 2017 - 07:00
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The car is considered the next important computing platform, as more connected vehicle technology makes its way into the market. Consumers want to be able to connect their vehicles and smartphones, and technology vendors are now looking for ways to better integrate vehicles into the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT).

Earlier this year, the GENIVI Alliance, which is developing standards and open source software for connected vehicles, and the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF), an IoT standards body, inked an agreement to co-develop open standards for vehicle connectivity and data exchange.

The collaboration will help create a unified model for secure discovery and exchange of data between connected cars, IoT devices and smart home systems. The two organizations also will work with the W3C Automotive Working Group so that vehicle data can be exposed to open web platforms and application developers.

At the recent CES 2017 conference, GENIVI and OCF demonstrated how a smart home and vehicle could connect using the GENIVI Remote Vehicle Interaction (RVI), Vehicle Signal Specification (VSS), and OCF’s IoTivity systems.

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“OCF believes in technology partnerships that will help drive our vision of ensuring secure interoperability for consumers and business, across multiple industry verticals,” said Joonho Park, executive director of OCF. “We are excited about [this] announcement, which helps us build on our momentum to deliver specifications and open source components that will benefit the entire IoT ecosystem.”

Initial smart home/connected car interactions would focus on things like using the vehicle to send signals to the smart home system to adjust the thermostat, turn on lights, or even activate sound systems based on the proximity of the vehicle. When a vehicle leaves the home, the system could be configured to make sure lights are turned off automatically.

Wearable devices also could be integrated, says Steve Crumb, executive director of the GENIVI Alliance. “So, for example, if a known driver leaves the home and approaches the car with his/her wearable, the car can recognize the driver and customize the vehicle to the preset preferences for that driver,” Crumb says. “The control can flow both ways – home to car, car to home, and wearables to both of them. One of my favorite ideas is when the refrigerator sends a signal to the vehicle reminding the driver that the milk is low so that he/she can stop on the way home.”

The GENIVI effort is separate from the type of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure mandates and standards being evaluated by NHTSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Crumbs describes the group’s work as focusing on lighter-weight, peer-to-peer connectivity that is not intended for safety critical actions. “Regulators have a different view and are pushing different standards primarily to drive the necessary reliability and timing to support safety functions in the vehicle,” Crumb says. “The GENIVI focus, so far, has not included those sorts of functions.”

However, GENIVI has launched a “smart city” collaboration with the Nevada Center for Advanced Mobility, a pilot project to demonstrate how open standards for vehicle communication could create better driver awareness. The initial pilot will focus on alerting drivers of upcoming bus stops and pedestrian traffic, providing warnings as drivers approach crosswalks, alerting drivers when they exceed the speed limit, and providing traffic condition alerts.

Late in 2016, NHTSA published a notice of proposed rulemaking for a connected vehicle technology mandate, and accepted comments on the proposal through March.

Standardizing these types of interactions is a challenge in that each of the OEMs handle data and communications in different ways. “Vehicle data is becoming more of an asset to many parties, but the problem is that most automakers label their data differently,” Crumb says. “This makes accessing the data, whether from a web application or from some sort of API, very difficult as developers have to rewrite their software for different brands of cars.”

GENIVI, OCF and W3C are working on a Vehicle Signal Specification (VSS) to help address this issue, and Crumb says the document has already come to an initial reviewable draft phase.  Coupled with that is a Vehicle Signal Interface (VSI) specification that can be used by web applications to obtain those standardized signals.

Security is another potential obstacle to broad adoption of connected vehicle technology. There are a variety of security issues with connected vehicles that must be addressed across the industry.

“For one, being able to separate automated and safety critical functionality into a more secure partition,” Crumb says. “And by the way, there is legacy technology that needs to be replaced like the CAN bus that was never meant to be secure. Security needs to be looked at in a holistic way rather than just within one or two systems of the vehicle.  This is especially true when you introduce the cloud into the connected vehicle activities.”

There are also other groups working to help standardize connected car and IoT interactions. In 2013, Ford contributed its AppLink code to GENIVI open source project.  AppLink allows software apps from connected smartphones to be controlled via the vehicle interface. Ford now promotes the SmartDeviceLink (SDL) open source platform for connected smartphones to vehicle interfaces, and has formed its own SDL Consortium with Toyota to promote the technology. Neither Ford nor Toyota are listed members of the GENIVI Alliance.

Both Apple (via CarPlay) and Android (with Android Auto) are also competing to gain market share in the phone-to-car space. Ford also supports both of those platforms, in addition to SDL.

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