Partnerships / Acquisitions

How Ericsson And Zenuity Want To Drive The Connected Car Conversation

Cars produce data on a scale and scope that is hard to wrap one’s head around. Think gigabytes. And that’s just the cars of today, with readings shooting forth from the engine, safety systems, infotainment systems, security systems and everything else currently controlled by a computer in the modern automobile.

The cars of tomorrow – the new modern automobile – will also come wired with camera arrays, sensor systems and self-driving radar systems that will likely make the cars we drive today seem somewhat more technologically advanced than the average bicycle. Oh, and this could almost literally happen tomorrow — at least, if the most enthusiastic evangelists of the connected and self-driving cars of the future are to be believed.

That’s not gigabytes of data thrown off daily – it’s terabytes, and it’s data that will be uniquely valuable.

The latest estimates have the connected car marketplace’s data worth something in the range of $450 billion to $750 billion a year – and that is exabytes of data being produced each month. For those unfamiliar with numbers that large, an exabyte is a quintillion bytes, or one billion gigabytes. As a point of comparison, the average smartphone user runs through about six gigabytes of data per month.

But data alone doesn’t just create the value – it comes from being able to really connect it to products and services for drivers, which is why OEMs are so attuned to this. And it also means there needs to be a common platform that that data can be transmitted across. Silos are the enemy of progress for connected cars today, and self-driving cars in the future.

Ericsson wants to provide that platform, an ambition it has been aggressively pursuing in 2017. The company kicked the year off with the announcement of its Connected Vehicle Marketplace at the Mobile World Congress.

That platform has the modest ambition of providing the cloud-based service equipment that manufacturers use to share data analytics and applications with third parties. But they are far from alone in that ambition – Intel, IBM, Toyota and Ford are just a quick hit list of their larger competitors in the race to control the car data.

But that race is collaborative as well as competitive. Last month, Ericsson was announced alongside Intel, NTT, NTT DoCoMo, Toyota and Denso as part of a new auto consortium aimed at harnessing the big data being generated by the connected car industry. The goal of that group will be to develop new architectures to support the coming deluge of data that will flow forth from smart cars.

The consortium will also look to develop industry standards and best practices.

But according to internal sources, Ericsson’s most recent partnership – with Volvo-backed Zenuity – is the biggest step toward advancing both the connected and coming autonomous marketplace to date.

A New End-To-End Platform

Zenuity – the software development firm created as a collaborative venture between car manufacturer Volvo and automotive safety systems company Autoliv – will partner with Ericsson to build an end-to-end platform for connected car safety and advanced driver assistance support.

The solution is built out of Ericsson’s mobile connectivity management platform, the IoT Accelerator.

“The most exciting functions, though, are what we will be able to build around autonomous and self-driving functions on this platform," a source close to the project told PYMNTS.

To make that solution work, the Ericsson-powered Zenuity Connected Cloud will be able to pull and analyze data from the car itself, as well as from data thrown off by surrounding vehicles and infrastructure.

The goal is to enable the inputs to give a 360-degree, real-time snapshot of any vehicle connected to the cloud, which means it is pulling data from other cars, onboard sensors and other infrastructural data about the roads themselves that are stored in the cloud.

Moreover, the platform as built is also designed to allow – and, in fact, to foster – greater innovation and interaction from its users.

“Together, we will provide OEMs with unique, robust and scalable cloud-based solutions with much faster time to market, allowing them to capture the seemingly endless possibilities in the connected automotive ecosystem of the future,” noted Dennis Nobelius, CEO of Zenuity.

They will – if they can capture the OEMs, who are at present surrounded by connectivity solutions, and in some cases are even building platforms of their own. It won’t be an easy battle, and it’s one that Intel/BMW and IBM, among others, can be counted to wage fiercely.

And Ericsson has had a difficult year, as it has labored through what Dominique Bonte, vice president of B2B at ABI Research, called a “major re-organization and cost-saving exercise.”

Ericsson has made notable progress in a tight race, but stay tuned. There’s a lot of data up for grabs, and many players looking to capture those OEMs. The winner(s) will the one(s) that actually do it.

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