Why Connected Cars Are Driving Companies Out to the Network Edge

Jim Poole

Connected Car

The connected car of tomorrow is coming, and, frankly, it’s going to be awesome.

When a complex machine streams out massive amounts of data, then uses the Internet of Things (IoT) so businesses can actually access and make use of that data, the possibilities multiply.

That connected car could, for example, track other connected vehicles and warn its driver about nearby vehicles that are operating erratically, so accidents can be avoided. It could detect faulty parts before they fail. When the gas gets low, it could even connect to nearby stations and receive a coupon for free coffee to entice a stop. The mind-blowing advances will come when the driverless connected car becomes autonomous and capable of driving itself to the grocery store to pick up the coffee on its own.

At Equinix Analyst Day in June, Ford Motor Co.’s manager of global network planning, Jack Wright, said Ford’s connected cars can generate an eye-popping 25 gigabytes of data per hour, or 56 megabytes per second, most of which can’t be collected yet. As data capture and analytic capabilities expand for connected vehicles, making a system with the mobility of an automobile run as it should requires superior interconnection out to the network edge. Because in a country of vast landscapes and diverse cultures, the edge is where our cars – connected or not – are built to go

Cars Will Have Lots to Say

Gartner estimates that 250 million vehicles will be connected to the Internet by 2020, making cars a major element of the IoT and enabling and expanding automated driving capabilities.

Cars today are already connected enough to allow passengers to stream movies via onboard Wi-Fi or signal emergency help at the push of a button. But that’s just the start. As Wright’s data statistics for connected Ford cars indicate, cars are loaded with stories to tell. Acceleration and braking patterns, fuel levels, engine temperature, battery level and tire wear are some of the data points a connected car can talk about. And, of course, it can also communicate with the Internet – information about weather, traffic, construction alerts and ongoing events in nearby towns are just a few things that might be relevant and actionable to cars that are interconnected.

The potential of the connected car means its development isn’t being left to car companies. Rumors about Apple’s electric car project, code-named Titan, have enough substance to fill a Wikipedia page. Google’s self-driving car project is no secret. Deloitte’s consumer research suggests the next generation of drivers want their cars to act as “smartphones on wheels.” Deloitte adds that as software companies get in the business of making cars, auto companies are building their own proprietary platforms and working to ensure that cars don’t become “commodity devices secondary to the software they run.”

As technology and car companies compete to develop the connected cars of the future, the consumer benefits from faster advances and innovation. Still, there’s a long way to go.

The jobs that lay ahead for connected car developers are tasks such as basic acquiring and analyzing the reams of data streaming off them, which Wright noted during his Analyst Day appearance is currently both physically and financially impossible. There’s also the complex work of prioritizing and acting on the data that needs to be reacted to in real-time, an essential task for an autonomous vehicle that is, for instance, driving on a dark country road in the same place a deer might suddenly cross.

As companies develop solutions, there is no doubt that one ingredient will be essential: high-performance, secure, fast interconnection wherever the driver of a connected car choses to go.

Connected to the Edge

Traditional IT architectures, fixed and siloed within the confines of a corporate data center, are not built to handle fleets of connected vehicles. Companies developing connected cars must be assured that they can access superior connectivity right out at the network’s edge, as it’s constantly being shaped and redefined by its vehicles. It’s not just a matter of user satisfaction – it’s about user safety.

They need an interconnected IT architecture that’s as agile and mobile as their end users, enabling them to get access to whoever and whatever information they need, from anywhere and any device.

Equinix’s Interconnection Oriented Architecture (IOA) is a proven, repeatable engagement model that provides a blueprint for companies to directly and securely connect people, locations, clouds and data at the edge. On a future highway, the high-performance connectivity that an IOA can deliver may be just as important as high-performance tires.

Learn more about Equinix’s Interconnection Oriented Architecture.

And download the Equinix whitepaper, “The Edge of the Digital Enterprise.”