|Issue:||Europe I 2011|
|Topic:||Mobile data, the ecosystem and the electric vehicle|
|Author:||Leo A. McCloskey|
|Title:||Vice President, Marketing|
Leo A. McCloskey is the Vice President of Marketing at Airbiquity; he has nearly two decades of experience in networked-services marketing in North America, Europe and Japan. Mr McCloskey was most recently Vice President of Marketing for IntelliTax, a provider of software and services for tax professionals, and has held senior leadership positions at Nexagent, Ebone and Terabeam. While at EDS, Mr McCloskey defined a novel method for connecting customers to the EDS global service delivery infrastructure. Leo A. McCloskey holds a B.A. in Russian studies and language from Dickinson College.
A new digital lifestyle is evolving based on the ubiquitous presence of inexpensive mobile devices often embarked in automobiles and other everyday products. These devices will link information about us – our needs, habits, schedules, and such – to virtual platforms in the clouds that will use this information not only to seamlessly provide us with needed services – often before we realise we need them – but to provide feedback to the services and utilities we use to minimise our impact upon the environment.
A new decade dawns – and it is nothing like the last. As you may recall, the world was set to end at the beginning of the previous decade as information systems collapsed under the weight of more than two digits. Instead, this decade begins with burgeoning ambitions for integrating all things into personalized digital mobile ecosystems. Mobile data consumption is exploding and mobile phones built only for texting are now only a niche category. The mobile devices of this decade will adopt multiple form factors according to individualized needs. These ‘create, consider, connect and communicate’ devices will be gateways to a personalized digital lifestyle that, quite literally, integrates all things. An Internet of things is springing to life around each of us. It is built on the same micro and nano-technologies – relentlessly pursued by all manner of device and equipment manufacturers – that let us manufacture common devices inexpensively in mass quantities, and then customise them – for markets throughout the world with different cultures and languages – using chipsets, firmware and software. These capabilities will be harnessed to weave a hyper-personalized digital lifestyle that is ‘aware’ of one’s possessions, one’s tasks – both routine and irregular – and one’s combinations – in both a temporal and spatial sense – and all will be built on mobility. This digital lifestyle will not thrive, and may not even survive, on just mobility. These digital capabilities will integrate what are today disparate tasks and behaviours into single actions that automatically organize and control multiple, interdependent actions. For example, a calendar that has place and time awareness can automatically set a wake-up alarm each morning, set and start the kettle bubbling or coffee brewing, precondition the car before the driver enters it, populate the vehicle navigation system with all known stops for the day, set reminder notices for child pickup that arrive as a text message 15 minutes prior to the hour, notify the crèche you will arrive late because of a traffic jam, maintain an inventory of refrigerator and cupboard contents, and create a shopping list when stocks are low after searching the Internet for discounts and special offers, and manage the temperature at home to reduce both environmental impact and personal cost. Among the first things to be connected will be the automobiles, scooters, cycles, cars, vans, buses and trucks that we use for transportation. For many, the automobile is the most essential item of their lifestyle. We drive it to and from work, we use it for errands, to buy groceries, and collect the kids from crèche, sport and school. The automobile has also quietly become a very sophisticated and powerful computing device. Automobiles will become increasingly less reliant on the internal combustion engine; many manufacturers plan electric vehicle launches, and progress in alternative fuel technologies, especially hydrogen, is promising. Developments in information and communications technology will meet the increased information needs of alternative fuel vehicles and promote major changes in consumer and commercial automotive use and functionality. With advances in mobile communications, both technological and psychological, consumer expectations for near-instant access to information – public, private and personal – are the norm. We remain stubbornly sophomoric in this digital lifestyle, however, and seem to lack the sensibility to know when and how to request information or services. When the vehicle is connected to the Web, it becomes ‘aware’ of time, space, driver and destination and this lets it prioritise and access services that would be hard to contemplate today. Imagine being able to notify subsequent stops along a planned route of updated arrival times. In the example above, the crèche knew that the parent would arrive late. Some may find that interesting but trivial, but then picture this in a commercial environment, where schedule and time have real financial impact that can be measured to the minute and second. It is in the commercial world where dramatic changes are likely to occur initially. The main fuel used in alternatively powered vehicles is electricity. As a commodity, electricity has many curious attributes. For example, it is perishable. Once power is produced by anything from a gas turbine to a windmill, it must be consumed at some endpoint along the distribution grid or it is wasted. As a fuel, electricity has many advantages. Electricity is very clean, although its source might not be. Electricity is quiet, so a small noise generators industry is emerging to create devices that alert drivers when the motor is working and warn pedestrians of a vehicle’s approach. Electricity can inexpensively be collected and stored for later use when the demand is lowest, typically at night, and then used during the waking hours. Since power generation is not easily adaptable to demand cycles, lowest cost power is when demand is at an ebb point. Any price is better than no price. The converse is true as well, which intrigues many urban planners and utilities. The availability of precise real-time and projected data regarding when and where power can be obtained as well as storage capacity and usage details can make possible tremendous improvements in power generation and distribution. Electricity pricing follows a fairly straightforward price/demand curve – when power supply exceeds demand, it costs less. When power is in short supply or when demand peaks, it is most expensive. Demand tends to peak, for example, on hot afternoons when people are at work, school or other routines and energy is required to keep temperature comfortable. Accordingly, power generation and distribution is over-dimensioned to handle peak period demand, and this increases overall generation costs. Ideally, urban and utility planners would access electrical resource use, generation and availability information via mobile cloud platforms that continuously receive data, in real-time, regarding usage and generation – including from electric vehicles. These vehicles, from a power-planning viewpoint, are both users and – depending on the hybrid technology used – portable power stations. When the number of vehicles with hybrid technology reaches a reasonable level, excess vehicle power might be harnessed (along, for example, with excess power generated by home solar panels) via information and communications technologies to increase the energy supply during peak demand periods. Legislation in many countries has introduced feed-in-tariffs (FITs) that requires the utility to accept – and pay for – power contributed by non-utility sources, including, perhaps, vehicles. The opportunity for drivers to contribute to environmental sustainability, and receive compensation at market rates, is very real; energy in excess of the owner’s projected needs could be fed into the energy grid while the vehicle’s owner remained at work. A platform that receives and integrates all the data from in the emerging mobile ecosystem is essential. Such a platform would create individual mobile presences within the cloud and, through these, interconnect participants to services and utilities in a way that maximises the potential of each individual’s hyper-personalized digital lifestyle. This will maximise the benefits each receives and minimise the adverse impact each of us has upon the ecosystem.