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The automobile industry is Europe’s biggest industrial sector. A lot of European carmakers are world-class players. In the past few years, American companies like Google and Facebook have taken the lead in the field of digital platforms. The major opportunity of the future is being played out on the Internet of Things (IoT), with the connected car as a spearhead,” says Matteo Gatta, Director Technology Strategy & Innovation at Proximus.
“Europe is in a good position to claim the digital lead as the situation evolves. But, of course, there are a few conditions. The carmakers need to move away from their short-term view, based on vertical integration and their own systems. They have to open up their cars to technology partners and new business models. A key role has been set aside here for the operators, too. Cars spend upwards of 90% of their time in one country, often in one region. So the connection to the local network and local applications is very important for the connected car.”
“An operator like Proximus definitely needs to be part of the process of drawing up the roadmap to European leadership centered around the IoT and the connected car. I’m thinking mainly here of the extension of the 5G network. We are increasing the density of the network. There are more access points, connected to fiber optics, so we can keep the last part of the connection – the wireless connection to the car – as short as possible,” according to Matteo Gatta.
“Via 5G, you can make a connection without latency or delay, so the apps in the car always have all the necessary data straight away. This means the apps can support decisions and we are then moving into the field of contextual intelligence. The connected car interacts with its environment: with other cars, with road signs, traffic lights, etc. For that, the most important thing you need is an impeccable connection. Of course, the data exchange has to be secure, too. Once again: the connected car offers the automobile industry an opportunity that it really can’t afford to miss.”
“There are already a few examples in the industry. I’m thinking for instance of the cooperation between Proximus and Audi. All new Audis with Audi Connect have an Internet connection via the Proximus network. So, the driver can access all sorts of online services for information and entertainment. At the same time, the principle of the connected car is about opening up the vehicle to other services. So then, among other things, the car becomes an extension of the smartphone, by gaining access via the vehicle to the contents of your smartphone – for instance SMART parking or real-time navigation systems – without the need for cables or other complicated connections.”
According to Gatta, the way the connected car is developing involves interaction. “Neither the carmakers nor the operators have a complete understanding of what the customer wants. But together, they know a lot. One important observation is that the younger generation attaches more importance to the virtual experience of an app than to the physical device that makes this app possible. My life is my phone: everything comes together in the device, but it’s about the apps, not about the device itself. The younger generation will find it less important to own a car, but they will continue to need mobility. The key is to link the experience of this with the connected car. That’s a challenge, not just for the carmakers, but for local dealers too. The customer is guiding the need for this new experience, supported by the carmaker and implemented in practice by the operator’s network.”
Should we look at the connected car as a smartphone on wheels? “No. The industry shouldn’t make the mistake of comparing the connected car entirely to the smartphone. It’s still a car and not a device that you keep into your trouser pocket. I prefer to talk about a sensor on wheels. To use the vehicle, you need a public infrastructure. Hence the need for an open system, with access to open data, from other sensors. The future of the automobile industry and the connected car lies, above all, in cooperation with other parties.” A system that works impeccably is vital for the safety of drivers, too.
Matteo Gatta is Director Technology Strategy & Innovation at Proximus. He manages the investment files for technology, from start to implementation. Matteo previously worked for BICS (Belgacom International Carrier Services) and was CEO of Scarlet for two years. Matteo has Italian roots. He studied in Pavia and Milan.
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