The dawn of 4G LTE networks has given the world's oldest mobile device, the car, a boon up and down the automotive supply chain.
Carmakers, telecommunications operators and semiconductor companies cashed in on the buzz around the Internet of Things (IoT), using the recent Mobile World Congress to showcase their machine-to-machine connectivity capabilities.
Seeing itself more as a "fully-fledged technology company" than a pure-play auto business, Ford Motor Co. is trucking way at improving its Focus line and mobile-enabled features, said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president at Ford Research and Innovation.
He said the company is leveraging next-generation data speeds, voice-controlled apps, driver-assistant features and telematics systems that improve infotainment and diagnostic capabilities to "seamlessly integrate the connected car into customers' daily lives."
To take Ford's innovation further, the company late last year unveiled its Fusion Hybrid research vehicle to test and advance its "Blueprint for Mobility." Developed in collaboration with the University of Michigan and State Farm, the vehicle, loaded up with roof antennas, will test current and future sensing systems and driver-assist technologies, Mascarenas said. Ford's looking to advance development of new technologies with its supplier partners and use them in next generation of vehicles.
IoT-related auto R&D is also on the mind of phone operator AT&T. With 40 million connected vehicles predicted to be on the road by 2017, AT&T Vice President Rick Niedermeyer emphasized that now was the time to look ahead at how the smart phone, mobile technology and the automotive industry could mesh to improve the driver experience. Showing the importance of the future of the connected car, the U.S. carrier opened its Drive Studio in January in Atlanta. The first-of-its-kind connected car facility run by a phone operator has more than 5,000-square foot space, and is dedicated to being "a research hub for auto innovation, a technology lab for safe-driving initiatives, and a center for collaboration between OEMs and tech developers," he said.
And, even chipmakers are getting into the connected car IoT trend. Qualcomm parked a Mercedes in its MWC booth, showing off its automotive solutions and commitment to the industry segment. The company announced at MWC that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., added the Qualcomm Gobi 9x30 platform with extended lifecycle support to Snapdragon Automotive Solutions, enabling advanced telematics and infotainment features for next-generation systems. Gobi 9x30, which is based on Qualcomm Technologies' fourth-generation LTE platform, is the world's first commercially announced cellular modem for automotive based on the 20 nm technology node with support for global carrier aggregation deployments up to 40 MHz in both LTE FDD and TDD modes, according to the press release.
"We're helping to bring the technology people have come to expect on their mobile devices to their car," said Kanwalinder Singh, senior vice president of business development and new markets for Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
Internet of Thing just got more interesting, didn't it?