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Connected cars: What’s in store

driver car at night navigation display Source: fotolia/lightpoet

The passenger automobile is one of the venues where there is tremendous opportunity for adding connectivity.  You can use your mobile feature phone in the car, but that feels a little like retrofitting an old rotary-dial phone into your 21st-century home. In both, the developed and emerging worlds, it’s common for commuters to spend 1-2 hours per day driving in their automobiles to work. Isn’t it odd that new automobiles with all their computer componentry are not ubiquitously connected? What does the world of connected cars have in store for us?

Based on our Internet of Things (IoT) research and Analysys Mason’s M2M worldwide forecast, there will be 279 million connected road vehicles worldwide by 2021. Of those vehicles, 66% or 185 million of will be passenger connected cars. The remainder will be commercial vehicles equipped with fleet management solutions. Approximately 54% of passenger connected cars by 2021 will be in developed markets like Europe, North America and the developed countries of Asia. This obviously leaves a tremendous opportunity in emerging markets including China, India, Brazil, the Middle East and other emerging countries.

Consumers have traditionally relied on bringing their own devices – notably mobile handsets – to remain connected while in their cars, because most cars do not have built-in wireless connectivity. However, various developments are now leading car manufacturers to incorporate sensors and embedded connectivity – cellular and, in some cases also Wi-Fi – within their vehicles.


Key IoT applications that are facilitated by embedded connectivity in cars

  • Safety: European safety initiatives, such as eCall, rely on connectivity to contact emergency services and transmit the location of a vehicle to them, even if its occupants are unable to do so. Various car manufacturers have incorporated eCall within their range of connected services.
  • Navigation and informational services: The addition of connectivity to built-in satellite navigation systems enables drivers to receive real-time traffic information, which would help them to avoid congestion or other delays. Manufacturers typically include this feature as part of a suite of connected car services. Additional information services include concierge calling services. In addition, several car manufacturers have used embedded connectivity to provide services such as tracking and access to roadside assistance or other technical services.
  • Vehicle management: The emergence of fully electric vehicles has led to the growth of cloud-based vehicle management services, which enables owners to remotely check the distance their car can travel on the current battery level in order to allay ‘range anxiety’, or switch on their in-car heating a few minutes prior to setting off. Engine diagnostics also fit into this application category whether that information is provided to end-users, dealerships, manufacturers or repair shops.
  • Infotainment: Built-in connectivity enables content and information to be streamed directly to the vehicle, giving consumers access to it as part of a more convenient and integrated experience without having to use separate devices, which might be distracting or dangerous. Several car manufacturers have already launched in-car tablets, which feature apps and multimedia content.


Features that are currently available only in high-end cars will eventually enter the mainstream, especially as upgraded services from vendor-independent manufacturers become increasingly adopted. Prestige car maker BMW was one of the first manufacturers to launch its emergency call function in the USA, in 1997, and made the service available in Germany in 1999. BMW has since expanded the ConnectedDrive service to incorporate a wide range of services, such as those described above.

In addition, the launch of all-electric vehicles brings mobility. These solutions solve some of the unique requirements of electric vehicles including charging.

We expect the majority of new cars in developed markets to have embedded connectivity within the next five years, turning the car into yet another connected node.

Share your thoughts about IoT in the automotive sector. Which other services would you like to see and use in your car? Everyone loves talking about cars!