When Is a Connected Car Not a Car?

Jim Poole
When Is a Connected Car Not a Car?

What does a connected car do? Keep asking, and the answer keeps changing, and it’s redefining driving and an entire industry.

The first “connected cars” in the 1990s were essentially limited to navigational help, anti-theft protections and emergency assistance. Today’s connected cars help you avoid collisions, park, and even text friends about expected arrival times. Tomorrow? They’ll communicate and navigate around traffic obstacles like schools of fish. Or act as a control center for your home environment, or even your personal banking. Or … who knows what others tasks we’ve never before associated with the car?

The market research firm Ipsos says that “as the numbers of connected cars on the road increases, so will the range of services available. It is entirely plausible in a short time that what we think of as the core functions of a connected car will have evolved beyond the current conception.”

The possibilities represent a huge business opportunity. PwC estimates that the sale of connected car packages will hit about $156 billion in 2020, up from about $53 billion this year. Interconnection will be the critical ingredient that makes whatever is coming work as it should, and an interconnection-first IT architecture will be needed to enable it.


Shifting perceptions about the car

Estimates vary widely about the number of connected vehicles soon to hit the roads. Ipsos projects 69 million globally by 2020, while Business Insider says there will be more than 380 million by 2021. Either way, the connected car is well on its way to becoming ubiquitous.

Ipsos breaks the functions of a connected car into five categories:

  • Interaction (basic communication with other drivers, vehicles, etc.)
  • Driving management
  • Infotainment (delivery of news and entertainment choices)
  • Convergence (with other digital ecosystems, for online payments, etc.)
  • Safety and Security

In the early development of the connected car, its capabilities often enhanced the common driving experience, because people were used to looking at their car as, well, … a car. So the focus was things like emergency services in the event of mechanical trouble, or on enhancing the common in-car experience with entertainment options, etc.

But the coming connected car boom anticipates a shift in which consumers view their cars very differently. What will consumers expect from connected cars, when transportation is seen as just one of many functions, and especially as driverless technology relieves people of the basic task of driving? Does it become “a smart phone on four wheels,” as auto and tech companies have long anticipated. Maybe it’s an office on four wheels? Or an infotainment center on four wheels? Maybe all of them.

The opportunities are huge for companies who best figure out how to meet needs and desires of drivers of tomorrow’s connected vehicles. But interconnection will be a mandatory requirement for all of them.

Driving at the digital edge

Cars are mobile – it’s why they were invented, to move us from here to there. Connected cars can’t depend on traditional IT infrastructures that are centralized and fixed, with data traffic running back and forth between a distant corporate data center. Connected cars are and will be dealing with a data deluge – from Internet of Things sensors, from a range of digital ecosystems, from other cars. To thrive, connected cars need direct, secure interconnection at the digital edge, which is anywhere commerce, population centers and digital ecosystems meet.

Think about the number of digital ecosystems involved when, say, the driver of a connected car decides to purchase and send flowers to his mother ahead of a visit (banks, mobile companies, retailers, etc.). And what about the importance of direct, fast interconnection, when a driverless car headed somewhere in a hurry needs to re-route to avoid an upcoming accident scene? Proximity at the digital edge is the only way to guarantee the exchange and analysis of data is as fast and secure as it can be. An Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy is a proven way to bring connected car companies close to their people, locations, clouds and data, so their services work as they should.

An IOA framework can be built on Equinix’s global interconnection platform, Platform Equinix™, which spans 175+ data centers in 44 markets. That footprint is unmatched, as is the direct access to 8,500 potential partners on Platform Equinix, including 1,500+ networks and 2,750 cloud and IT service providers. No matter how the capabilities of connected cars change, an IOA can offer the interconnection at the digital edge needed to deliver them anywhere. Read our Automotive Industry Solution Brief for more details on how connected cars and an IOA strategy can thrive together.


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