Managing Data at Scale – New Automotive Industry Research Highlights IT, Business and Engineering Opportunities

The connected car market is growing faster than the overall auto sales market, driven by end-user’s demands for connected services such as navigation, multimedia streaming, social media and remote diagnostics, all expected to increase the convenience of the driver. Gartner estimates that the enterprise and automotive Internet of Things (IoT) market will grow to 5.8 billion endpoints in 2020, a 21% increase from 2019.[1] Everything from engine performance to driver performance can be collected, analyzed and acted upon in ways that create a much closer connection between automakers and their customers.

However, as it turns out, teaching autonomous cars to drive and delivering future services is an incredibly data intensive endeavor. Traditional data management approaches are straining to cope with the demands imposed by the growing autonomous driving movement. Our own customers are experiencing these challenges and in order for Dell Technologies to learn even more from the automotive industry we commissioned, in partnership with research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, independent research that interviewed 17 automotive industry leaders, who are responsible for major transformation initiatives, to understand how they are preparing for this data-centric future.

CIO’s, CTO’s and heads of connected and autonomous driving strategies across the globe were interviewed. We discussed their pain points to realize their future goals, and also debated the solution to manage data at scale.

One clear sign for the need to manage data at scale is the fact that only about 300MB of connected vehicle data is currently being monetized per day. But, by identifying and leveraging the potential of autonomous vehicle data, third-party data, and even customer data, this could exceed 10TB per vehicle, per day. To avoid being overwhelmed by hundreds of disparate point-solutions, data sets, and management systems, industry leaders told Frost & Sullivan within this research that they are planning a platform-centric approach that will enable them to handle a multi-cloud data strategy, now and in the future.

Overcoming Data Challenges

Car-generated data isn’t a novel concept for automakers. Since the late 1990s, manufacturers have used data collected from Engine Control Modules (ECMs) to diagnose and repair vehicles. But there is a huge difference between downloading 200KB of service data every 15,000 miles and analyzing Zettabytes of data from thousands of vehicles every day!  The change is enormous and the challenges to match.

Automakers will have to embrace a new world within which they face immense data challenges, as respondents have been sharing with us. They identified four main issues:

1. What kinds of data should we be collecting?

The temptation is to collect everything and sort it out later. But the true value of Internet of Things is in the “Analytics of Things”. Data just isn’t useful without context and application. Automakers not only need to understand what kind of data is important to collect, but how to integrate that data with other business data to give a richer context and apply it to specific business challenges and opportunities, whether online, on a sales floor or on the road.

This is a challenge for many automakers as they are currently struggling with siloed data in their organizations, while also running the risk of being inundated with their data as the number of connected cars grows. The opportunity to connect that data with the rest of the business for real action and decision-making might be missed.

2. How do we collect and process data?

The second challenge is understanding how to collect and process this data through an effective cloud strategy supported by artificial intelligence and machine learning across the organization. This is a big opportunity for the auto industry, which is undergoing a digital transformation from its traditional business model. The right in-house expertise in these new technologies should be addressed immediately if automotive companies want to remain on top of the industry.

3. How do we monetize data through new services and partnerships?

This naturally brings us to the third challenge: creating new services from vehicle-generated data. The first thing that comes to mind is the service experience itself: Automakers can use this proprietary data to improve service repairs and extend the customer’s lifetime value. But there are many innovative applications as well, from real-time crash-prevention systems to anti-theft text alerts when a car is opened/activated. More data also means more opportunities to improve car designs. For example, if data shows that the rear doors on a four-door sedan model are rarely used, the automaker might consider producing a two-door model.

4. How do we protect the data to earn consumer trust?

Finally, and most importantly, car manufacturers need to protect the data they collect. While consumers have shown a willingness to share personal data where they perceive value in return, they are more guarded with their driving data. Automakers need to pay close attention to and be transparent about how they generate, store and share data. Sharing car usage data with an insurance provider to offer insurance discounts or pay-as-you-drive policies could be seen as a consumer benefit but sharing data that could adversely affect policy costs would obviously be a harder sell to consumers. Drive route and location data is particularly sensitive and needs to be protected to the same degree as personal consumer data.

Managing Data at Scale

The research also provides insights as to how to manage data at scale. From a Dell Technologies perspective, we feel that the automotive industry would benefit from a platform solution strategy and suggest a need to build a platform solution from the bottom up.

Today, most firms move data from the source to the location in which the applications are hosted, but the data explosion in the automotive industry is set to make this more difficult. To make simulation testing faster, app code will have to move to where the data resides. Moreover, vehicle data will be used by different parties at different points throughout its lifecycle — from consent management to payment and authentication. Only a connected next-generation platform will ensure end-to-end transparency of data ownership and deliver the necessary security and compliance.

In order to develop this next-generation connected mobility platform, there is also a key need to attract and retain people with cloud, AI, ML and data management skills. Currently, the surveyed automotive leaders are struggling with a shortage of in-house capability. And without an established road map for a holistic, scalable data management solution, they’re also unsure what skills they’ll actually need — making it difficult to hire the necessary talent.

Without the technical skills to address data management challenges, automakers need the expertise of IT vendors who already tackle these issues in other industries. One Head of Digital Products within the research (we cannot name due to the privacy requirements of the research) commented that automotive organizations will need to rely on IT partners who can help them develop, implement and manage the end-to-end data infrastructure.

Embracing the journey, today

Clearly, the connected mobility journey is just underway. The convergence of autonomous driving, smarter factories, cyber in the car and mobility as a service is radically altering the way people and goods move.

Data is at the center of this shift and, more importantly, the insights derived from it that would identify new business models and opportunities for the automotive industry to thrive in the future. By efficiently collecting, processing, analyzing, and storing valuable data assets in a platform solution, industry participants will be able to overcome the challenges they face right now and move forward with both innovation and determining their business models of the future.

The automotive industry is at an inflection point and the time is now to make hard decisions to remain ahead of the competition and stay relevant in the market.

Read more about this fascinating topic in Adrian McDonald’s recent blog.

[1] Gartner, Gartner Says 5.8 Billion Enterprise and Automotive IoT Endpoints Will Be in Use in 2020, August 29, 2019