Tag Archives: 50 billion connected devices

5 IoT challenges for connected car dev

Growth in adoption of connected cars has exploded as of late, and is showing no signs of slowing down, especially the vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-retail segments. As adoption grows exponentially, the challenges in how we develop these apps emerge as well.

One of the biggest challenges to consider will be connectivity, and how we connect and network the millions of connected cars on the road. How can we ensure that data gets from Point A to Point B reliably? How can we ensure that data transfer is secure? And how do we deal with power, battery, and bandwidth constraints?

connected car

1. Signaling

At the core of a connected car solution is bidirectional data streaming between connected cars, servers, and client applications. Connected car revolves around keeping low-powered, low-cost sockets open to send and receive data. This data can include navigation, traffic, tracking, vehicle health and state (Presence); pretty much anything you want to do with connected car.

Signaling is easy in the lab, but challenging in the wild. There are an infinite amount of speed bumps (pun intended) for connected cars, from tunnels to bad network connectivity, so reliable connectivity is paramount. Data needs to be cached, replicated, and most importantly sent in realtime between connected cars, servers, and clients.

2. Security

Then there’s security, and we all know the importance of that when it comes to connected car (and the Internet of Things in general). Data encryption (AES and SSL), authentication, and data channel access control are the major IoT data security components.


In looking at data channel access control, having fine-grain publish and subscribe permissions down to individual channel or user is a powerful tool for IoT security. It enables developers to create, restrict, and close open channels between client apps, connected car, and servers. With connected car, IoT developers can build point-to-point applications, where data streams bidirectionally between devices. Having the ability to grant and revoke access to user connection is just another security layer on top of AES and SSL encryption.

3. Power and Battery Consumption

How will we balance the maintaining of open sockets and ensuring high performance while minimizing power and battery consumption? As with other mobile applications, for the connected car, power and battery consumption considerations are essential.

M2M publish/subscribe messaging protocols like MQTT are built for just this, to ensure delivery in bandwidth, high latency, and unreliable environments. MQTT specializes in messaging for always-on, low-powered devices, a perfect fit for connected car developers.

4. Presence

Connected devices are expensive, so we need a way to keep tabs on our connected cars, whether it be for fleet and freight management, taxi dispatch, or geolocation. ‘Presence’ functionality is a way to monitor individual or groups of IoT devices in realtime, and has found adoption across the connected car space. Developers can build custom vehicle states, and monitor those in realtime as they go online/offline, change state, etc.

connected car

Take fleet management for example. When delivery trucks are out on route, their capacity status is reflected in realtime with a presence system. For taxi and dispatch, the dispatch system knows when a taxi is available or when its currently full. And with geolocation, location data is updated by the millisecond, which can also be applied to taxi dispatch and freight management.

5. Bandwidth Consumption

Just like power and battery, bandwidth consumption is the fifth connected car challenge we face today. For bidirectional communication, we need open socket connections, but we can’t have them using massive loads of bandwidth. Leveraging M2M messaging protocols like the aforementioned MQTT lets us do just that.

Building the connected car on a data messaging system with low overhead, we can keep socket connections open with limited bandwidth consumption. Rather than hitting the servers once multiple times per second, keeping an open socket allows data to stream bidirectionally without requiring requests to the server.

Solution Kit for Connected Cars

The PubNub Connected Car Solution Kit makes it easy to reliably send and receive data streams from your connected car, facilitating dispatch, fleet management applications and personalized auto management apps. PubNub provides the realtime data stream infrastructure that can bring connected car projects from prototype to production without scalability issues.

IoT set for takeoff…

Nantes, France. I’m here to pick up a friend from the airport. There is a great view of the runway, and I’ve seen his plane land, a beautiful Airbus A320 flying Air France colors. This is a domestic flight, and ten minutes later, he is off the plane and has his luggage.

We talk about his business trip, and how it went. He’s a technical recruiter, and has been working on a project in the south of France. He tells me just some of the details. We clear the terminal and walk towards the parking lot. On the other side of a fence, an A320 is being looked over by a crew of technicians. After a quick refuel, it will be ready to take off and fly to another destination.

– You know, they keep on talking about IoT, but I can’t see any solid examples yet.

I smile. He stops dead in his tracks.

– You have an example?

I do. You just flew it.

He has a blank expression on his face.

Look, it is right over there.

I point to the A320.


Source: Aviation Photos – Airbus A320

– What do you mean IoT? The airplane is IoT?

Well, not exactly. IoT is the Internet of Things, devices that communicate. This plane has an onboard system called ACARS, and it communicates with the ground throughout the flight. Hundreds of parameters are monitored and sent to the ground crews.

Global ACARS Infrastructure

Source: Rockwell Collins – Global ACARS Infrastructure


Source: Aviation Knowledge Wiki – ACARS

– But why?

Modern aircraft are highly reliable, comfortable and silent. All this comes at a price, and a modern aircraft can cost a small fortune. Even worse, an airplane will only make money when it is flying, if it stays on the ground, the company doesn’t make any money at all. In order to maximize revenue, companies need to keep their fleet flying, but not at the cost of safety. On board systems monitor the flight, and inform ground crews of any problems. It monitors critical systems, but it also monitors other systems; if the in-flight coffee machine stops working, it alerts the ground. If there is a malfunction with the toilet, again, the ground will be alerted.

– Why?

Imagine an international flight. Halfway over the Atlantic, one of the ovens stops working. Of course, the flight crew will have a problem getting all the food ready for the passengers, but it can still be done. It is a nuisance, but it doesn’t force the airplane to make an emergency landing. Imagine arriving at Paris, and telling the ground crew that there is a problem. They only have an hour to find a replacement, and get it installed. That probably won’t happen, so the plane will take off with a defective oven, which will be replaced at a later date. Now, imagine that the airline’s center is notified as soon as there is a problem. The flight is scheduled to land in 6 hours, to the airline notifies the ground crew at the destination that there is a defective component, they have a few hours to find replacement parts, and when the airplane touches down, they will already be there, waiting, prepared to replace everything necessary.

– That seems like a lot of effort to change an oven.

Maybe. The oven isn’t the best example, I’ll grant you that. Think about this, then. The engines. Aircraft engines are an incredible feat of engineering, and are some of the most reliable mechanical systems ever built, but they are still mechanical, and things can go wrong. Engines do fail from time to time, even if it is extremely rare. Luckily, an A320 can perform very well with a single engine, but it still requires action. An emergency landing at another airport, having to take the engine off the wing, inspect it, find the fault, and then replace the components, before putting the engine back on. This can take a very long time, and can be horrendously expensive. What if the engine itself could communicate with the ground team?

– They can do that?

Some of them can, yes. Engines are monitored, and hundreds of parameters are analyzed. The engine in your car doesn’t fail without a reason, and simply taking your car to the garage from time to time saves costly repairs. Jet engines are even more advanced. Failures rarely “just happen”; they can often be predicted by looking at variables; oil pressure, temperature, vibration, etc. Instead of waiting for a failure to occur, they can be prevented with close monitoring, changing elements as required. It saves on cost by replacing small parts before big parts fail. It saves cost by replacing elements quickly, putting the aircraft back into service as soon as possible. That is one of the reasons for IoT; cost saving. Being aware of all the parameters means the best choice can be made. Airlines know when to change components, thermostats know when to turn the heat on, greenhouses know when to open the windows.

– I never knew that panes could do that;

One of the things that makes IoT so good is the fact that it isn’t visible. There is no point in adding a screen to a thermostat to display “Calculating ideal temperature”, or “contacting server”. We expect things like that with the programs that we have had on our computers, but that is about to end. People want simple devices that work, and IoT is all about that. Just walking through the airport, you probably didn’t notice the wireless equipment used to broadcast Wi-Fi and to power the wireless telephones used by the airport staff.

Imagine walking through a beautiful garden, completely unaware that there are hundreds of sensors, monitoring soil humidity, temperature, plant growth and other parameters that sets off the sprinkler system only when needed. The world has limited resources, we are painfully aware of that, and this is the technology that could save us. It will make calculations far better than man could, and create data far more precise than we can imagine. All of this can be powered by a solar panel, making it even more eco-friendly.

He remains silent as we walk to the parking lot. Behind us, passengers are getting ready to board their plane, unaware that their trip is made easier and cheaper with IoT. The plane will soon be ready to depart, a trip monitored by processors and microcontrollers like Atmel’s SAM D21.

UK invests big in the IoT

The UK government will reportedly spend an extra £45m on developing Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The pledge, made by British Prime Minister David Cameron, more than doubles the amount of IoT-related funds currently available to UK tech firms.

“I see the internet of things as a huge transformative development,” British Prime Minister David Cameron recently told CeBIT attendees in Germany in a statement quoted by the BBC. “[It is] a way of boosting productivity, of keeping us healthier, making transport more efficient, reducing energy needs [and] tackling climate change.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the IoT is essentially a combination of multiple market segments, tens of thousands of OEMs and hundreds of thousands of products.

“It is seen by many as the next wave of dramatic market growth for semiconductors. If you look at the different estimates made by market analysts, the IoT market will be worth trillions of dollars to a variety of industries from the consumer to financial, industrial, white goods and other market segments,” Dr. Reza Kazerounian, Senior VP and GM of the Microcontroller Business Unit at Atmel, recently told EEWeb.

“Companies that provide cloud-based services, service providers and semiconductor companies will also benefit from this market. The number of small or new companies that are showcasing connective devices has increased – there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020. These nodes will have characteristics such as low-power embedded processing, a human-machine interface and connectivity.”

Interested in learning more about the IoT? You can check out previous Bits & Pieces articles on the subject here.