Huawei HAS 2016: ‘Cloudification’ comes to cars

lanctot cloudAt the Huawei Global Analyst Summit (HAS) 2016 this week, multiple Huawei executives started talking about ‘Cloudification.’

PC Magazine defines cloudification as:

Moving a service to the Internet (the cloud). The term generally refers to traditional applications that migrated from local installations on the user’s computer to Web-based equivalents. Cloud-based programs may require an online connection at all times or be able to run offline when necessary. See ‘cloud computing.’”

This is easy enough to understand in a desktop or mobile computing scenario, or on a smartphone. It is something different if you are talking about a car – but cloudification is coming to cars.

We are increasingly streaming content to our car’s infotainment systems – usually over our connected smartphones – and also receiving traffic information and route guidance with the help of off-board resources some of which, technically, are ‘in the cloud.’  But we are far from experiencing a truly cloud-based experience in the car.

More and more car companies are working with Rackspace, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, among other cloud providers.  But these relationships are not much more than “point” solutions; individual applications.  What’s missing is a kind of “cloud fusion.”

Many forms of ‘cloudification’

Cloudification of the car will take many forms including server-based digital assistants with voice recognition, supported by on-board systems for facial and voice tone recognition, and cloud-based diagnostic and security systems constantly monitoring the vehicle and driver.  These systems will be supported by infrastructure to vehicle communication which will manifest over existing cellular connections.

Huawei is actually in the forefront of promoting the concept of car cloudification, even if only indirectly. But Huawei executives had little to say at HAS 2016 about automotive 5G technology, in spite of the fact that Huawei is leading 5G testing at its labs in Chengdu. Nothing less than a revolution is in the balance in the form of automotive cloudification.

Intelligent networks on 5G

While 5G will enable inter-vehicle communication for alerts ultimately intended to help avoid collisions, the technology exists today using advanced forms of LTE to enable the communication of the very same alerts using existing networks and technologies.  Companies like Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia are working toward the creation of intelligent networks capable of detecting the movement of people and vehicles throughout the network with the ultimate goal of avoiding collisions aided by infrastructure to vehicle communications.

Clever use of existing sensor technology including thermal, camera, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular are currently being tested as a multi-layered means of mitigating vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian crashes along with eliminating the related injuries and fatalities. BMW is probably the furthest advanced in delivering a constantly contextually aware solution derived from the extraction of small packets of location data from all of its cars.

While BMW is enabling applications intended to build a location data gathering network from individual BMW drivers (aggregated and anonymized) in order to help all BMW drivers, General Motor (GM) insists on preserving the privacy of its customers – even while it plans to introduce DSRC technology intended to announce a vehicle’s present location 10x/second.

GM: a ‘sleeping giant’?

Separately, GM has announced a cooperation with Mobileye and Volkswagen to aggregate camera-based data gathered by cars.  This activity holds the promise of bringing GM up to speed with the leaders in vehicle connectivity and automation. With 12 million live connected cars on the road globally, GM is something of a sleeping giant in the world of car cloudification. But that slumber could end with the flip of a switch to turn on its vast data gathering engine.

Huawei appears to have downshifted in its 5G messaging to the automotive industry even as it has amplified its cloudification campaign. But make no mistake that the cloud is coming to the car, and Huawei will play a role.

In the end, real-time, all-the-time connectivity such as that available in a Tesla or a Qoros or, increasingly, in a BMW, is becoming the norm. And it is precisely this kind of technology – with the bigger bandwidth and minimal latency of 5G – that will transform driving into a safer and more pleasing experience for all.

But we don’t have to wait for 5G.  Much of what 5G will deliver is “doable” over existing LTE technologies including vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Whether LTE or 5G, the increasingly advanced telecom connection in the car and the cloudification it enables might just be the missing ingredient to allow your car to drive itself.

The original version of this article appeared on the Strategy Analytics blog. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of ITU.

 Roger C. Lanctot

Roger LanctotAs Associate Director in the Global Automotive Practice at Strategy Analytics, Roger Lanctot (@rogermud) has a powerful voice in the definition of future trends in automotive safety, powertrain, and infotainment systems. Roger draws on 25 years’ experience in the technology industry as an analyst, journalist and consultant. Roger has conducted and participated in major industry studies, created new research products and services, and advised clients on strategy and competitive issues throughout his career. Some consider Roger the Kevin Bacon of the connected car industry as evidenced by his wide LinkedIn and Twitter following and his frequent speaking and blogging activities on critical industry issues impacting critical topics such as vehicle safety, fuel efficiency and traffic. Roger is a graduate of Dartmouth College.

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