Connected car market: How an Irish tech firm is driving global connectivity
01 May 2018
Audi e-tron quattro concept
In June 2016, Audi launched a European connected car solution, enabling drivers to use features such as navigation, route guidance, information services and an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot service. Cubic Telecom, an Irish technology company, is powering this connectivity solution, and is leading the way in network, SIM and platform infrastructure for the connected car market.
The first data connected car was introduced to the market in 1996 by General Motors. This technology was very limited and only available on high-end models at premium prices. As technology has developed and the throughput speed has increased for cellular networks, the demand for such services has increased dramatically. Auto brands are keen to have this technology trickle down throughout their entire range of vehicles.
Global vehicle sales last year came in at about 78 million. With a variety of brands now developing and offering connected services, it can be assumed that in the coming years this type of connectivity will become the expected norm.
With this versatile end-to-end solution offering a global footprint and low-cost connectivity solution, it is at the forefront of the connected car space. This statement is reinforced by the commitment by the Audi and Volkswagen Group, enabling Cubic’s solution to be utilised across its models in the global market. Working with this calibre of brand has now attracted many other potential customers, not just in the automotive space, but in entirely different industries that require mobile IoT solutions.
The IoT market is growing at a breath-taking pace, from two billion objects in 2006 to a projected 200 billion by 2020. This market evolution has been shaped by rapidly changing customer requirements, pricing and expectations. Secure yet interoperable environments are in huge demand. To deliver a solution for our global clients, and that can provide for and adapt to this environment, Cubic has kept an open mind and flexible outlook on what it can develop.
Built its own highly scalable, 4G capable core network
The Irish tech company has built its own highly scalable, 4G capable core network. This has been developed across multiple points of presence (PoPs) around the world, ensuring class-leading network redundancy. Its global network infrastructure provides customers with local breakout to the internet in key market locations. This provides low latency and high throughput rivalling local mobile network operators (MNO) data speeds.
Cubic Telecom’s in-house developed Java applet on the SIM, allows a fully customisable profile of international mobile subscriber identities (IMSI) that can be used in multiple countries. When the SIM card is powered on in a new territory, it learns which country it is in and the list of available MNOs from the radio network.
The profile is pre-programmed on the SIM to select the desired IMSI to use for each country globally. This IMSI switching can take place seamlessly when a car crosses a border into a new country, enabling high network availability for the customer.
IoT device manufactures to install one single type of SIM card in every product
This allows the automotive and IoT device manufactures to install one single type of SIM card in every product, regardless of the final country of registration. This single manufacturing SKU represents a competitive advantage over a competitor’s solutions.
The platform offers two distinct functions: a business-to-business (B2B) integration with the automotive manufacturers, and a business-to-customer (B2C) portal enabling service management for end users. Integration with the automotive manufacturer enables a number management system to link SIM ICCID, VIN and IMSI numbers for administration and provisioning clarity.
A portal has also been developed where the end user can register their car to add credit and services to the Wi-Fi hotspot solution. This portal allows the separation of bills between a car manufacturer and an end user.
As the firm continues to grow, the need for reporting becomes more prevalent. In an age where data is king, it provides its customers with class-leading data analytics services. This information helps its customers, such as the Audi and Volkswagen Group, and adding value to their solutions for their customers. Having this capability also allows for applications such as fleet management at the enterprise organisation level.
Throughout the last eight years in business, the firm has forged many strong partnerships with the largest MNOs around the globe utilising their radio networks. These longstanding relationships have allowed it to negotiate the lowest possible rates for third parties roaming into MNO networks. It has also built up a portfolio of sponsored IMSI ranges from multiple Tier 1 MNOs.
This means that the company can use these IMSI numbers on its SIM cards, enabling it to take advantage of the MNOs’ own global roaming footprint. Using this matrix of options for direct roaming and sponsored IMSI use, it can offer a flat rate for data usage across multiple territories to automotive and IoT customers, avoiding poor user experience scenarios such as bill shock.
Combination of on-SIM software enabling connectivity
The company’s product is a combination of on-SIM software enabling connectivity via a local mobile operator back to the firm’s own core network all feeding into the platform. Its powerful business intelligence suite has access to all relevant data along the path.
Since its inception, it has built upon its GSMA industry relationships all over the globe enabling the integrations to local MNOs. These integrations vary according to local market and regulatory conditions. Once these integrations are agreed legally and commercially, the agile and flexible environment in the company means that it can be brought to market faster than any competitor.
In the summer of 2015, the first 16 LTE integrations were brought online, the engineering team completing these within nine weeks, giving Cubic the largest independent LTE footprint in Europe at the time. Since then, a constant flow of new partners have been added and the work continues indefinitely.
The two main pillars behind all this work are the engineers designing and implementing the changes and the technology underlying it. Cubic has built up a team of industry-leading experts in its SIM, platform, testing and engineering departments. The technology and tools powering the solution are always from Tier 1 suppliers such as Microsoft, Cisco, Affirmed Networks, HPE, Valid, and Tableau.
Bringing suppliers that are used to dealing with traditional MNOs into the firm’s environment of agility and speed has had its challenges but working closely together they have consistently delivered. Many logistical challenges of growing the solution to a global geographically redundant solution have been overcome by close communication and co-operation.
The company views each supplier as a partner sharing in the success of the expansion of its offering, not just a vendor from whom to purchase. This enhanced relationship has led to much improved buy-in from the suppliers. They offer a greater deal of flexibility in their approach to offering the firm solutions based around the world.
Technology key to the business
Technology is key to the business. To continue delivering products that the customer wants, it is vital that innovation is promoted across all areas of the company. Developments in technologies such as eUICC, where it recently participated in a successful subscription management swap procedure in China with Valid and China Mobile, demonstrate its agility to be at the forefront of innovation in the telecoms industry.
eUICC is a new SIM card technology that allows the storage of multiple MNO SIM profiles on a single sim card. This allows the end user to change carrier without having to physically replace the SIM card. The subscription management transfer takes place over-the-air using a Subscription Manager Secure Routing (SM-SR) node.
The MNO transfers their SIM card profiles to the SM-SR using a Subscription Manager Data Preparation (SM-DP) server. The platform manages this complex procedure for the customer, ensuring their data connectivity solution is highly flexible. This new take on SIM card technology is fast becoming a leading preference for the M2M and automotive industries.
Agility is key to the company’s success. The people, the solutions, the technology and, most importantly, the attitude has always remained agile. The market never stands still, so you can’t either.
The telco market is changing at breakneck speed with IoT creeping into all facets of our daily lives. This growth will continue exponentially over the coming years and we must embrace it. We can do our best to anticipate where it will lead but can never be certain. Only through constant communication with customers and suppliers and persistent market research can you gauge the trends. At Cubic Telecom, we foster an environment where everyone is involved in delivering the solution to our customer, we succeed together.
Table of acronyms:
SIM: Subscriber Identity Module
IoT: Internet of Things
4G: Fourth Generation Mobile Network
PoP: Point of Presence
MNO: Mobile Network Operator
IMSI: International Mobile Subscriber Identity
SKU: Stock Keeping Unit
B2B: Business to Business
B2C: Business to Consumer
VIN: Vehicle Identity Number
ICCID: Integrated Circuit Card Identifier
GSMA: GSM Association
LTE: Long Term Evolution
eUICC: embedded Universal Integrated Circuit Card
SM-DP: Subscription Manager Data Preparation
SM-SR: Subscription Manager Secure Routing
M2M: Machine to Machine
Authors: Tony Flynn, head of network engineering at Cubic Telecom; Hugh Kirley, network development manager at Cubic Telecomhttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/2018/05/01/connected-car-market-irish-tech-firm-driving-global-connectivity/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/a-audi1-1024x682.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/a-audi1-300x300.jpgTechUncategorized4G,data,internet of Things