10/01/2017 10:22 GMT | Updated 11/01/2018 05:12 GMT

Looking Ahead To A Connected Future

Expectations around connected vehicles are reaching fever pitch. Tech giants like Apple, Google and Tesla have their feet firmly wedged in the market and with sales of related technologies expected to reach upwards of €122bn by 2021, the next five years will see our driving experiences transform way beyond mirror, signal and manoeuvre.

'Connected' encompasses autonomous cars, platooning fleets and smart cities to name a few, but the future of the automotive sector will largely be dictated by two factors - the Internet of Things (IoT) and the smartphone. Here we examine the technological advances already realised in both areas, and how each factor looks set to change the face of driving for both consumers and businesses.

The IoT will be crucial

What is the IoT? It's when everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data. How does this work in vehicles? It is wireless network connections enabling automated and intelligent features that improve the driving experience.

Right now it's still in its infancy, with the IoT starting to be used in the likes of in-car infotainment systems - an industry that will be worth $600 million over the next four years according to Juniper Research. Vehicles are also beginning to use the IoT to communicate with the home, through connected thermostats like Hive or Nest and advanced home security systems. Further application comes from insurance companies, which have started to see benefits too as the IoT allows more data to be collected about the way a vehicle is being driven.

However, more advanced and game changing benefits are coming down the line for businesses. The IoT within vehicles will increase the possibilities presented by Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I), which is when vehicles communicate with local infrastructure and the cities through which they are driving. This means updating drivers on everything from vacant parking spaces and roadworks to adverse weather conditions.

Intelligent traffic management will also come to the fore through V2I, enabling transport network operations to run roads efficiently and cohesively based on monitoring factors such as time of day, and volume and flow of vehicles. Opening extra lanes at peak intervals for example if there is a risk of congestion, is just one of the endless possibilities this provides.

Managing mobile and data

Aside from the IoT, there is also the smartphone revolution to consider. Seventy-six percent of Brits now have a smartphone in their pocket according to Deloitte, and this means that devices, workers and assets are now mobile and connected in an extremely powerful way.

Added to this, more and more organisations are becoming experienced at using technologies such as cloud and big data to harness insights from mobility. Research from Adapt claims that almost 90 percent of UK organisations now use cloud services, while the British government claims 12 percent of companies are analysing their data. These two technologies, plus the power and mobility of the smartphone, are giving unparalleled insight into operations.

This is where Mobile Resource Management (MRM) comes in. MRM is software that allows all elements of a business with people in the field to communicate and interact with data and gain insight from them in real time. From sprawling international supply chains to small commercial fleets of vehicles, using mobile and the cloud to connect an organisation from the front line to the back end - and all the individuals involved between - is where businesses can totally optimise their operations. This includes planning, navigation, routing and compliance data.

And because it is smartphone based, the capabilities of iOS and Android open up the possibilities for businesses even further. Think about the way consumers interact with their smartphones - an app can be created simply to solve almost any demand within a fleet operation. One example is gamification products, which are being developed to get drivers to compete against one another on fuel efficient driving, encouraging better driving, as well as increased safety and fuel efficiency.

Combining the two and looking ahead

Of course, the two technologies are not mutually exclusive. The smartphone and the sensors of the IoT are already working together to change the face of driving, fleet management and the consumer experience.

Earlier this year Uber confirmed that following a partnership with Volvo, it will allow users to hail self-driving cars. This represents the combination of the possibilities of the smartphone and the IoT core of an autonomous car.

In fleets, drivers can now use their smartphones and the IoT to glean comprehensive understanding about the use of assets like cranes, plants or trailers. For example, our DVIR technology uses the IoT sensors around a vehicle and a tailored smartphone app to make sure compliance checks have been made.

Our increasing reliance on technology, the internet, mobile devices and connectivity is impacting every aspect of how we live our lives, when we're socialising, at home, and on the road. It's certainly a time of transition as our vehicles and surroundings become more interconnected, driving benefits for all of us.