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Powering the Next Generation of Telematics and the In-Vehicle Cloud

Wed, 07/13/2011 - 12:20pm
Tom Larsen, Palladium Energy, www.palladiumenergy.com
As telematics devices and cloud computing continue to drive new vehicle technology trends, they are placing a high degree of wireless capability into the hands of drivers. In-vehicle connectivity is quickly becoming a prerequisite for both consumers and fleet owners. As a result, designers and manufacturers are responding with new vehicles equipped with next-generation telematics devices and cloud services that will make driving safer and more reliable. In many cases, helping to power this new trend will belithium-based battery packs that sustain both consumer and manufacturer demand for on-the-road performance.

An Evolving Industry

Early traffic-related services, such as “OnStar,” have evolved to include smart routing and real-time congestion alerts, while future applications like vehicle-to-vehicle communications for crash prevention and biometric driver monitoring will aid driver safety.

Automakers such as BMW, Ford and Nissan are teaming with companies like Microsoft and Apple to offer products beyond traditional in-dash GPS. New intelligent, embedded modules and connected smart phone and tablet services will offer everything from augmented reality navigation to weather and diagnostics updates. in vehicle telematics

In addition to added safety features, Toyota is incorporating clean energy management into its telematics platform by linking electric and hybrid vehicles to the smart grid, with applications that allow customers to manage energy use for their cars and homes in-vehicle.

Emerging technologies will soon allow drivers to perform functions such as unlocking vehicle doors with the simple touch of a button on their smart phones, and syncing their home, car and mobile music into a single, transferrable file via the cloud. In addition, voice-activated web browsing will allow drivers and passengers to engage in M-Commerce (location sensitive marketing) by reserving hotel rooms and purchasing event tickets while en route to their destination.

However, federal regulatory agencies such as the Federal Highway Administration caution that vehicle telematics devices should focus on providing automated notification to emergency responders and law enforcement in the event of an accident or unlawful event, rather than purely entertainment focused applications that distract drivers.

Perhaps the greatest application of navigation telematics can be found inthe fleet management industry. Vehicle-to-infrastructure technology, specifically, Electric On-Board Recorders (EBORs) are not only capable of monitoring and communicating a driver’s behavior, but enable the monitoring and controlling of vehicle diagnostics, navigation routes, location, speed, fuel use, braking, steering and shifting. Fleet operators have noted savings of more than 20 percent due to reduced route, communications, maintenance, labor, legal and lost vehicle/trailer costs.

To help reduce accidents caused by truck driver fatigue, government proposed regulations are striving to make it mandatory for some trucking fleets to install EBORs that focus on monitoring driver hours-of-service (HOS). For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)“Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010” imposes painful fines and penalties for trucking companies that do not adhere to regulations, motivating them to carefully monitor driver performance and service hours. Furthermore, the FMCSA ruled that repeat offenders will be required to install permanent EOBRs in all their fleet vehicles by June 2012 to monitor compliance. In January 2011, it proposed rules that would require all interstate trucking fleets to install EBORSs for HOS monitoring by 2014. Additionally, the United States Senate has championed bills mandating the use of EOBRs, such as SB 3884, to increase awareness of regulatory requirements.

Telematics Rely on Backup Battery Power

As technology and regulations evolve, one thing is certain, however - the increased processing power of advanced telematics devices requires robust and reliable power solutions to ensure the in-car cloud seamlessly delivers driver connectivity.

Emerging Machine-to-Machine (M2M) telematics devices, such as those seen in vehicles, require sophisticated design planning to integrate the primary power source to the device’s circuitry to ensure optimal compatibility and efficient communication. In addition, in the event that a vehicle’s main power source is compromised, a backup power source may be necessary to ensure that critical and possible life-saving data is communicated. For example, in the design of some automated crash detection devices, engineers may include lithium-ion battery packs (complete with their own circuit control boards) as backup power sources to ensure that power is available to notify emergency response teams. Similarly, if a truck cargo container transporting perishable or hazardous material loses its way, a reliable battery pack will be required to run the location finder device and communicate the trailer’s location to the proper authorities.

Additionally, telematics devices must operate in harsh environments and be able to withstand moisture, vibration, impact, shock and other environmental hazards that vehicles encounter. Engineers are often tasked with designing telematics devices to extreme specifications – for example, the ability to handle an impact of 3G’s+, operate in desert-to-arctic temperature ranges, maintain connections in inclement weather conditions ,have wash-down, tamper proof and fire resistant enclosures while ensuring long battery life. telematics

The Benefits of Lithium-based Packs for Telematics Devices

Not surprising, the majority of vehicle manufacturers favor powering telematics devices with lithium-based battery packs because they are lightweight, have high-energy density, can operate at high voltages, have low self-discharge rates of 5-10 percent per month, have no memory effect, and they can easily handle hundreds of charges/discharges. Simply put, telematics devices that contain lithium-based battery packs rarely need to be replaced over the host vehicle’s life because they last longer than other battery technologies. In addition, these packs can be made into various shapes, making them suitable for vehicle telematics which often fit into odd shaped areas.

Safety, navigation and vehicle functionality solutions will continue to shape the automotive and trucking industry for some time to come. There appears to be no limit to these rapidly evolving solutions, and the equipment and cloud services/applications that will support them. But, there is one thing you can count on: the increased processing power of advanced telematics devices will require robust and reliable power to ensure that all vehicle telematics devices operate flawlessly in the cloud.
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