Kamyar Moinzadeh

Kamyar Moinzadeh

Airbiquity is the market-leading provider of connected services for automotive. It's Choreo platform supports just under eight million cars in over 60 countries across the world and it has recently signed new vehicle subscriptions for Ford, Nissan, FCA, Infiniti and Alpine. Cat Dow caught up with CEO and President Kamyar Moinzadeh to talk about over-the-air updates and future connectivity.

just-auto: OTAmatic launched earlier this year. Please explain in more detail what OTAmatic is and does.

KM: OTAmatic facilitates control units in the car, to be updated over-the-air (OTA), just like your mobile phone. Connected vehicles will be increasingly enabled to receive OTA updates for software-reliant systems and components, and data transmission to power new services and optimisation efforts. The benefits for car makers are significant: reduce costly recalls, improve cybersecurity with faster responses, improve vehicle performance after the sale and enhance features and operational efficiencies, to name just a few. But along with the benefits comes a need to manage the increasing complexity of executing multi-ECU software update and data collection campaigns for millions of vehicles around the world with a multitude of hardware components and software files from numerous suppliers.

That's where we come in. Airbiquity's OTAmatic offering addresses these challenges, with an automated and secure OTA service delivery capability specifically tailored for automotive. Using a sophisticated back-end management portal, automotive customers can efficiently and securely execute multi-ECU software update and data campaigns—at scale—with highly refined vehicle and device targeting, discrete policy and privacy control, dynamic data collection and upgradeable analytics, and customised consumer notifications and prompts. OTAmatic can also be deployed on Airbiquity's cloud (Choreo), leading public clouds, or on-premise data centres.

What percentage of manufacturers have adopted OTAmatic since its launch?

Major manufacturers are planning wide scale multi-ECU OTA program deployments for the 2020-2022 model years. In preparation for those deployments, automakers have begun to issue RFI (Request for Information) and RFP (Request for Proposal) requests to telematics service providers offering OTA products. As you would expect, Airbiquity's OTAmatic product is currently involved in multiple RFI/RFP requests from leading North American, European, and Asian automakers and tier 1 suppliers.

Is your product range only appropriate to premium models?

No. Since inception, Airbiquity has deployed eleven programs for eight  automotive brands and 49 vehicle models ranging from entry level to top of the line.

As a company, you've expressed a preference for embedded connectivity strategies, although you do support smartphone tethered approaches. What are the benefits to an embedded approach?

Airbiquity has deployed embedded, tethered, and hybrid programs based on the objectives and requirements of our customers. The leading benefits of embedded are continuously available connectivity (due to zero reliance on the presence of consumer smartphones), no need to tax consumer cell phone data plans for service delivery, ensure 100% coverage of the vehicle base (versus a subset with consumer smartphone availability), and the ability to conduct on-demand software update and data collection campaigns.

Are there any compromises not yet addressed or addressed inadequately when it comes to connecting vehicles?

Two come to mind: security and business models. Regarding security, as cars have become connected, their cybersecurity "attack surface" has increased, necessitating the development of additional layers of security. The industry is rapidly addressing these new security issues, and a heavy focus on security will continue indefinitely as it's a never-ending process. Regarding business models, automakers have yet to figure out how to secure recurring revenue from connected vehicle programs. Up to this point, these programs have brought additional cost to the vehicle bill of material (BOM), and we're seeing low rates of consumer adoption and on-going use, leading to a lower than expected return on investment (ROI). However, with the pending transition to more relevant and timely program services for consumers powered by vehicle data and analytics, and the ability for automakers to update vehicle software remotely to mitigate software recall costs, the ROI tide is going to turn positive.

OTAmatic covers the key concerns for car makers: security, deployment, networking, privacy and data farming and analytics. What is the hold up for car makers to get on board with OTA? Tesla is seemingly the only one supporting full remote upgrades, BMW is attempting—though partially—and Volvo has said it will be another year. Airbiquity has a clear solution to provide, but there still seems to be reluctance. Is it a case of control? Time? Changing the behaviour of an industry? What's the greatest obstacle to this?

Every major car maker is working to get OTAtechnology into vehicle production. The holdup is the time required to plan and execute wide scale deployments of new OTA hardware and software technology and cloud service delivery into vehicle production cycles. That's why we won't see multi-ECU OTA deployments in vehicles at retail until the 2020-2022 model years. Regarding Tesla, which has been doing OTA for years, they had the benefit of starting with a "clean sheet" vehicle build integrating OTA technology from the start. This is not the case for the majority of other automakers who have to integrate OTA into existing legacy processes, manufacturing, and operations.

The diversification in company portfolios now means your competitors are often companies you'd least expect and they are ever changing. Which would you cite as your current key competitors and in which areas?

Airbiquity competes with traditional automotive telematics companies like WirelessCar, Verizon Telematics, SiriusXM Connected Vehicle Services, Xevo, and Abalta for established use cases like safety & security, infotainment, and electric vehicle. For OTA, there's a different set of competitors such as HARMAN, Wind, Movimento, and Excelfore to name a few of the more prominent ones.

Do you still feel there's a lot of education required around connectivity in cars? Is it more prominent in the consumer market or within the industry?

Without question people working in the automotive industry are much more aware of vehicle connectivity technology, features, and benefits than consumers. But consumer awareness has been steadily rising as system utilisation increases and consumers discover the benefits that are most relevant to them. Recent research shows connected car technology is increasingly impacting purchase consideration, especially among younger demographics and the millennial segment in particular.

The future of automotive is a software-defined ecosystem. Do you really think the current state of the automotive industry is sufficiently prepared?

We've collectively made progress on integrating software into vehicles to improve comfort, performance, efficiency, and security—but there's still a long way to go. Additionally, although software technology has been hugely impactful in the automotive industry over the last 20 years, we believe the future of automotive will actually be a hardware-software defined ecosystem versus a software only defined ecosystem. The reason is vehicles will always require hardware and software working together. Therefore, the ability to effectively blend hardware and software together to meet the needs of commercial businesses and consumers will ultimately separate industry winners from losers.

What do you think about the way moves to legislate and regulate the connected car are going?

They're going as expected, which is slowly and with careful consideration and cross-party collaboration. There's no question that there will be new legislation and regulation for connected vehicle technology as we move toward wide scale deployment of more sophisticated advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), vehicle-to-everything (V2X) integration, fully autonomous driving (defined as SAE levels 4 and 5), and accommodation of consumer privacy and data protection. Like all the vehicles that came before them, connected vehicles must be safe and secure, and the automotive industry will need to work with local and national governments to ensure that happens in an effective and responsible manner.

What's the next focus for Airbiquity?

Given the highly competitive nature of the connected car category we don't talk publicly about what our next big thing will be. But rest assured we know what it is, and why it will be both innovative and impactful in the automotive industry. Having said this, OTAmatic, which we started building two years ago, is our primary focus for new deployments at the moment and, based on customer and analyst feedback, we've got a super competitive high-value product at exactly the right time which is a very good thing.

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