On the Road with the Digital Assistant

The Internet of Things is making everyday life more convenient, more secure, more productive and more entertaining

The Internet of Things is interconnecting more and more devices in all areas of life. This is producing numerous new options for the car to integrate itself even more deeply in the everyday life of its users. IAV is turning these options into actual solutions that are capable of combining different  areas of life and work – for example, the domains of vehicle, home life and intelligent traffic management.

In future, the “digital assistant” is set to be people’s constant companion. It will be there when the user leaves home in the morning and drives to work, or in the evening looking for somewhere to park on the way to meeting up with a friend. The basis for its useful services is the Internet of Things (IoT) which, in just a few years’ time, will be interconnecting billions of devices all over the world. This will make it possible to develop new services covering several domains and simplifying people’s everyday lives.

Video chat with the parcel courier

For instance, by connecting car and smart home: often, the parcel courier rings the door bell when everyone’s out. “In future, the digital assistant could make sure that if this happens a message appears on the display of the infotainment system in the car”, reports Ralf Benthin, technical consultant in IAV’s Architecture and Integration section. “The driver can then start a video chat via the camera at the front door and speak to the courier. He or she could even open the door for a short while to let the courier in and leave the delivery in the hallway.”

The digital assistant is even on the spot when the home owner approaches the front door. Based on a measurement of walking time or the strength of a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signal, it can see where its user happens to be: still near the car or almost at the front door. “Depending on current position, it then initiates various actions”, says Dr. Jan Gacnik, head of department for interconnected functions at IAV. “It can, for example, light up the walkway and open the front door. And on leaving the house, the digital assistant can unlock the car door in response to a voice command.”

Whatever the case, it will be crucial to seamlessly integrate the new IoT solutions into people’s everyday lives. In developing new services, IAV can draw on its many years of experience in the area of interconnected vehicle functions and consistent implementation of user-oriented designs. In particular, this makes it necessary to think and act on an interdisciplinary level – which is why IAV is involved in standardization bodies and systematically develops contacts with potential partners.

SOAs provide interoperability

The domain-spanning approach on the Internet of Things makes it essential for all systems to interoperate – after all, completely different approaches and traditions from the automotive and IT world all come together on the Internet of Things. Having already proven their worth on the Internet for many years, this is why service-oriented architectures (SOA) will play a key part in the future. They consistently use open standards which increases flexibility and reduces development complexity at the interfaces. They make it relatively easy to take basic services from the vehicle or smart home and orchestrate them into higher-quality ones.

But the interaction among development partners will also change: “So far, our customers have only been OEMs or their suppliers”, Benthin explains. “In future, we will be dealing with a heterogeneous world of various manufacturers with completely different needs. This will also open up new business models for IAV, such as being the provider of a platform for new services.” Besides the familiar automotive technologies, such as CAN or Automotive Ethernet, standards from the Internet world, like Internet Protocol (IP) or Architecture Frameworks, will therefore also play a key part in the future.

This is why IAV is systematically recruiting staff to provide its teams with members who have the necessary IT expertise and also build its own wealth of experience in the connected world. As part of an in-house project, for example, IAV has developed a service for “smart parking”: a camera identifies vacant parking lots, shows their prices and automatically directs the driver to the chosen parking space – a typical service that extends across several domains.

Agile development in a highly dynamic environment

Because the Internet of Things is a highly dynamic environment, development processes also need to adapt. “In this field, the future is agile development, such as in the form of scrum or agile testing – always linked with the classic approaches of the automotive industry”, Gacnik says. “We can no longer plan everything in detail years in advance. We will need to proceed from a specific user experience and take an iterative approach in developing new services.” When it comes to implementing the digital assistant, this combination of over 30 years of automotive engineering and constantly growing IT expertise makes IAV the ideal partner.