The 5 Ws Of Connected Car Data

October 1, 2015  |  By Michael O'Shea  |       

Today’s automobiles are rolling computers with internal systems reporting on everything from fuel efficiency to tire pressure, which means the data can be shared with OEMs, car dealers, software providers, and even other drivers. This raises a question that many OEMs, auto dealers, and drivers are pondering – what data should they be sharing, when do they capture it, and how do they use it?

The average connected car is collecting about 25 gigabytes of data every hour. That’s the equivalent of a dozen high-definition movies, and exceeds the storage capacity of most smartphones. The transmitted data can tell you almost everything about the car, its location, and its driver’s behavior, including routes, speed, engine performance, tire wear, road conditions, even the weather. All that data has value to someone, somewhere, for different purposes.

Let’s consider the five Ws – the who, what, where, when, and why of connected car data collection:

1. Who – Who Wants Connected Car Data?

The short answer is, everyone. Any organization invested in the manufacture, sale, and operation of automobiles can benefit from connected car data. Manufacturers want to see how their cars perform, assessing automotive telematics by checking sensor readings and measuring operating performance. Even the component manufacturers are going to be paying close attention to how their individual parts perform in different models.

Dealers and service shops are going to want to keep track of car use and wear. They want to be able to notify customers when it’s time for a tune up or an oil change, when a belt is wearing, or tires need to be replaced. Providing better, more proactive maintenance support using captured data may ultimately be a factor in what makes one model easier to service and therefore more attractive to consumers.

Then there are other organizations. Insurance companies, for example, will want to track speed and driving behavior in order to reward good drivers with lower premiums. They also will want to take into consideration safety monitoring, such as tracking driver fatigue and erratic driving patterns. Even law enforcement may someday use connected car data to investigate accidents or to prosecute criminals.

2. What – What Types of Data do They Want?

All types of data will prove valuable as connected car technology evolves. In addition to telematics data and driving habits, demographic data and other information could be useful for marketing.

Information can be gathered about driver behavior, such as driving habits, what radio stations they listen to at different times of day or their driving conditions. Infotainment systems can be monitored to determine what apps are most popular for in-car use. Tracking use of on-board infotainment systems could be valuable to marketers who want to deliver targeted advertising to the right demographics. Even roadside businesses may want to use connected car data to alert drivers to special deals as they drive past.

Over time, stored connected car data can be used for big data analytics, answering questions about transportation systems, driver safety, and automotive performance.

3. Where – Where Do They Want to Collect Data?

Connected car data will be collected and stored in multiple ways. For real-time monitoring and immediate data access, information can be transmitted to the cloud where it can be either relayed for immediate analysis or stored for later use. The diversity and volume of connected car data is going to make secure cloud data storage essential. Wireless access to the cloud will be the simplest strategy, and the sheer volume of connected car data is going to require a huge, elastic data repository such as cloud storage.

Some data will be collected locally, such as traffic information. Cars may connect to one another on the road to relay information about traffic conditions and possible delays. Eventually, sensors could be embedded in the roadbed or adjacent to the highway and could communicate with cars to gather information for traffic analysis, alert drivers of hazards, and help monitor and manage traffic.

And there will be on-board data storage as well. Just as on-board modules store diagnostic information today, on-board systems will have more storage capacity and serve as a “black box,” collecting telematics and car information for remote access or direct access at time of service.

4. When – When Is the Best Time to Collect Connected Car Data?

Data collection will be ongoing, but that doesn’t mean interested parties will be reading a continuous stream of telematics. Most connected car data will be stored for later use for analytics and trending. Most car owners have no issue with anonymous data collection. In a 2014 study, 34 percent said they are willing to share anonymous data for research, 31 percent would share data in exchange for an incentive, and 16 percent said they had no issues sharing data. Only 19 percent said they didn’t want to share connected car data.

Data about a specific vehicle can be shared in real-time for traffic events, safety, or roadside assistance. Data also can be accessed as needed for service and diagnostics. Data revealing individual driving habits also could be accessed on a regular basis to assess insurance rates and for other purposes. The legalities and privacy issues will have to worked out, but the technology certainly exists to tell you about the location and performance of any individual vehicle on demand.

5. Why – Why Collect the Data In the First Place?

We collect data to learn more about car performance, driver safety, transportation systems, and so much more. The more data we collect, the more we realize that more data will reveal new insights and new trends. Connected car data can answer a myriad of questions, including questions we haven’t even considered yet.

However, just because we can collect the data doesn’t mean we necessarily should. As the technology continues to evolve, questions will arise about personal privacy, and whether or not specific data should be accessible by OEMs and manufacturers. Those questions will have to be addressed by industry standards and government regulations. For now, the potential applications for connected car data are only limited by the imagination.

What do you see being done with connected car data across the industry?

Topics: Connected Car - Technology

Michael O'Shea

Michael O’Shea is the Founder and CEO of Abalta Technologies. He is responsible for all aspects of executive management of Abalta and a direct participant in many client engagements, particularly in management advisory projects.

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