As smartphones and cellular networks reach new levels of speed and sophistication, the “connected car” has transformed from futuristic vision to reality at an astounding rate. Research firm IHS projects the number of vehicles connected to the Internet will reach 152 million by 2020.  And “Gartner forecasts that about one in five vehicles on the road worldwide will have some form of wireless network connection by 2020, amounting to more than 250 million connected vehicles.”1

In many ways, automobiles have become the ultimate mobile device for both drivers and passengers. In-vehicle communication systems have ushered in a new level of convenience including voice-activated applications, onboard GPS and Wi-Fi connectivity. And in showrooms around the world, would-be buyers have added self-parking capabilities and remote diagnostic services to their purchasing criteria.

The connected car has undeniably enhanced consumer experience. But how does all this connectivity impact automotive manufacturing?

At its core, the manufacturing process today is more complex because vehicles are more complex. In addition, the technology embedded in today’s vehicles is changing at a rapid pace. To leverage the latest advancements in commercial communication technology – and meet consumer expectations – automakers must create flexible production environments that support this transformation.

But connected vehicles also promise to optimize the manufacturing process in ways unforeseen just a few years ago. Connected cars generate a wealth of data – Big Data. Just how automakers utilize this data will be key to true market differentiation – and separate the winners from the losers.

For automakers and tier suppliers, Big Data is not a particularly new concept. No doubt, we all remember the public outcry and privacy concerns stemming from car connectivity at its onset. In response, automakers have adopted privacy principles for vehicle technologies and services and car owners have increasingly chosen to opt in. Today, automakers utilize that information to improve car safety and operational design in many ways.

And now, the capability to integrate that data directly into the manufacturing process is inevitable. To do so, automakers must enhance their ability to analyze data, recognize emerging patterns and uncover information that is relevant to their manufacturing process – all of which can lead to improvements.

For example, let’s say multiple connected vehicles begin to report an anomaly and integrated dealership systems report warranty claims on the same issue. The right analytic tools can compile this information with vehicle identification, production facility and supply chain data to recognize a pattern quickly – and identify and define a potential manufacturing cause. Ideally, corrective action can be taken to remedy the situation within the production environment – before it becomes a major customer quality concern.

The benefits of this kind of connectivity on the plant floor are vast. But the true manufacturing advantages of the connected car can only be achieved within an enterprise-wide infrastructure that forges a smooth bond between information technology and operations technology – a Connected Enterprise that enables real-time visibility to relevant information.

In addition, an information-enabled control and information system that utilizes EtherNet/IP™ can help automakers more easily move toward the use of a single network – and enable secure and easy flow of production data.

 

1Gartner Press Release, Gartner Says By 2020, a Quarter Billion Connected Vehicles Will Enable New In-Vehicle Services and Automated Driving Capabilities, January 26, 2015.