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Cars take pole on grid of Euro carriers’ IoT priorities, ahead of factories and cities

European network operators are prioritizing connected cars over other sectors and assets when it comes to internet of things (IoT) technologies, they have said. Both Orange and Telefónica said the opportunity and focus for them is on cars, ahead of factories and cities.

Emmanuel Routier, vice president of Orange’s global M2M business, told Enterprise IoT Insights that connected vehicles remains its busiest market for machine communications. “The connected car is definitely first,” he said. Orange announced a deal with Spanish marque SEAT in February to co-develop car initiatives, including a ‘digital home’ experience for drivers, and a loyalty program to promote usage.

Telefónica ranked cars highest among its vertical sectors for machine connectivity. “Right now, one of our main bets is the automotive sector. For markets like Germany, Spain, Mexico and Brazil, the car industry is hugely important to the local economy,” he said.

“Car makers are the most sophisticated connectivity consumers,” he added, noting the work the GSMA has done with the car industry on embedded SIMs, and the demands that car makers has placed upon network operators to connect their vehicles. “The mobile industry has evolved to deliver these in-car services.”

Orange and Telefónica supply connectivity to car makers for car diagnostics and maintenance, as well as for consumer services, mostly delivered by the manufacturer as well. “The question is what happens inside the car, and we are approaching that from two angles: one is to sell connectivity and telematics solutions to car makers; the other is in after-market car solutions, and consumer IoT applications,” said Muñoz.

Both are also also selling packaged connectivity bundles for fleet management services. Orange claims to supply around 5,000 customers, mainly in French speaking countries in Europe and Africa, which support around 125,000 vehicles.

Meanwhile, Germany-based telecoms group Deutsche Telekom last week launched a vehicle tracking solution, Drive & Track, in Germany, in partnership with Canadian telematics firm Fleet Complete. “Deutsche Telekom ensures secure, reliable data transmission to and from fleet vehicles,” said Dennis Nikles, the company’s head of M2M and IoT sales.

The service is available in in four versions, priced between €18 and €52 per month: the ‘standard’ solution enables vehicle tracking in real time, and automated reports of excessive speed, braking, or acceleration; the ‘advanced’ solution lets users read vehicle and engine data from the vehicle’s engine control module; a ‘speedometer’ solution also makes it possible to download speed data for trucks;  the ‘fleet sharing’ solution enables multiple employees to access vehicles that are equipped with RFID card readers.

New use cases are being identified for in-car connectivity, going way beyond traffic updates, engine diagnostics, and entertainment systems. “These engines are really software-based,” said Routier, noting Orange has worked with car makers to enable suspension to be adjusted in vehicles over-the-air, for example, after they have left the factory.

Different markets have different traffic calming measures, such as speed bumps in residential areas and around schools; software tweaks to connected vehicles can help to avoid unnecessary damage and costly recalls, said Routier. “Some car manufacturers, which are very software driven, are able to update software in their vehicles to ensure suspension is right for Europe or the US. These are new capabilities, which are now being used more fully.”

When asked, Orange and Telefónica placed manufacturing, including digitized processes and even non-vehicular digitized products, second among their IoT priorities. The rise of 5G will give industrial IoT increased impetus, said Telefónica, which showcased an IoT-based supply-chain and manufacturing concept with SEAT at MWC in late February.

The SEAT demo used private LTE networks, which will be extended and made palpable with 5G network slicing, to guarantee quality of service for industrial processes. Muñoz said operators have so far struggled to meet high demands from heavy industry in terms of availability, latency and security. Private LTE networks and 5G slicing afford a solution to this, he said, and an opportunity for carriers to sell IoT connectivity for manufacturing processes.

“This market has been challenging for us until now. We have a combination of access technologies that we didn’t have before, with evolution of the network,” he said.

France-based Orange said manufacturing and smart cities are priorities, also, alongside consumer applications for personal health and wellness. In particular, Orange highlighted major smart city initiatives in Europe and the Middle East, particularly.

Deutsche Telekom’s new fleet management solution enables drivers to find and reserve available vehicles via an app and park in agreed parking spaces. The company told Enterprise IoT Insights at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, in late February, it will focus on smart parking as a priority, as a springboard for its broader smart-cities play.

“You have to start with something that is scalable, which is why we have backed parking,” explained Anette Bronder, director of digital at the company’s IT division T-Systems, in a response to a question about the challenge of overcoming siloed technology and operations in cities.

Deutsche Telekom has deployed narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) technology to improve parking in Hamburg, with plans to roll out up to 11,000 sensors by the end of 2019. The company started work in January, with 23,000 parking spots covered. “Hamburg is first, but we are going after every public parking spot,” said Bronder. “We are paying for infrastructure, and a share of everything on top of the existing revenues. The next stop will be parking garages, private parking areas, and then even residential parking.”

Parking works as a platform for other smart city services, she noted. “It is an interesting model because you can put additional services on top.” In particular, Deutsche Telekom is in negotiation around adding insurance cover to its parking app, called Park and Joy.

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