Think “connected car” is just a buzzword? Think again. Gartner predicts that in 2020, 250 million vehicles will be equipped with sensor technologies courtesy of the IoT. Do the math, folks. That covers about one in every five cars on the road. And, as “futuristic” as the year 2020 sounds, it’s only four short years away, so it’s time to start seriously analyzing this rapidly growing IoT application. Where are we at today and what developments can we expect tomorrow? Even more importantly, how is the industry approaching security? These integrated technologies make great selling points, but they can also make connected cars quite literally moving targets for cyber criminals.
Intrigued? Buckle up because we’re about to break it all down.
IoT and the Automotive Industry Today
Here at Converge (and everywhere else, by the way), we talk a lot of shop about the IoT—what it means for big data, how it can improve employee engagement and its implications for businesses both big and small—just for starters. The marriage between the IoT and automobiles, though, is a relationship equally worthy of examining—and arguably equally if not more far-reaching than some other IoT chatter. Why? How many people do you know who drive decisions in a business? Now, how many people do you know who drive a vehicle? That’s my point—this IoT application has some mega implications.
We’ve all heard about parking assist features and even the up and coming self-driving car. Today, though, electronics and telecommunications companies—as well as some start-ups and even insurance vendors—are pushing boundaries in the automotive industry, trying to stake their claims to a piece of the IoT pie. From an IT perspective, automakers are rightfully asking themselves numerous questions about each of these proposals, including the following:
- What platform is best—public cloud, hybrid cloud, or on-premise solutions?
- Does it provide enough tools to handle natural-language processing, data streaming, reporting, and other analytical tasks?
- How many use cases can it enable via vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) data exchanges?
- Will it appeal to today’s consumer, and can it integrate efficiently across the existing platform?
Here’s a given worth mentioning—all those connected cars are going to produce A LOT of data. And, necessity being the mother of invention, there are already numerous apps (with potential) on the table aiming to capitalize all that data, including the following:
- Traffic management systems that are more accurate and provide real-time updates on accidents, or which routes to avoid.
- Manufacturer apps that signal when parts need replacing based on wear and tear.
- Insurance systems with adjustable rates based on driving behavior and geolocation.
- Car sharing aps harnessing real-time location information to promote carpooling.
Policies and standards for data collection and integration still need to be developed. And, while there’s been significant attention paid to how to best use all that collected data, many are asking a different question: How are we going to protect it?
Spotlight on Security
We’ve been discussing what the IoT can mean for new vehicles feature-wise, but let’s not forget the elephant in the room—er, trunk: What about security? The last thing we want to worry about when we buckle ourselves and our families into connected cars is whether or not we’re going to get hacked on the freeway.
According to Cybersecurecar 16, an upcoming international conference dedicated to engineering safety, security, and privacy for connected vehicles, “Cyber security is the ticking time bomb threatening the promising, connected future of the automobile.”
There’s truth in that, unfortunately—when vehicles interface with smartphones, navigation, infotainment and others technologies, that’s all the more exposure to external software and, by default, to hackers. These cyber criminals can conduct myriad unsavory activities, from stealing your personal data to killing your engine. In traffic. While you’re driving!
Case in point: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Transportation (DOT), and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) recently released a public service announcement to warn “…the general public and manufacturers – of vehicles, vehicle components, and aftermarket devices – to maintain awareness of potential issues and cybersecurity threats related to connected vehicle technologies in modern vehicles.” The PSA points out the public should always ensure vehicle software is up to date, be cautious of making modifications to connected cars and be wary of connecting third-party devices.
If what we need is a firewall for cars, one company—Karamba Security—says they’ve got it, securing Electronic Control Units (EUCs) in connected vehicles. These EUCs work to block unauthorized code and work in conjunction with Wi-Fi, USB ports, and Bluetooth. Plus, they can alert manufacturers if someone is trying to use a ‘dropper’ code on the device—i.e., one that can eventually be used to install malware.
Karamba’s EUC isn’t the only product on the market for connected car security, nor will it be the last. The fact that it’s backed by $2.5 million in seed funding, though, does speak to one common denominator as we look at the automobile industry and the IoT: Security is indeed a top priority in this integration.
It’s clear the IoT is continuing to seep into not only how we conduct business but also how we live our lives. What do you see as the potential benefits for IoT and the auto industry? Conversely, how do you feel about the challenges? If your vehicle is one of those one in five that are sensor-connected by 2020 (again, according to Gartner), what’s on your must-have feature list when it comes to security? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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