IOTA in OTA An Exploration of IOTA Use Cases in the New Mobility by Alexander Renz
By 2020 industry experts expect more than 250 million connected vehicles on the road. As software plays an ever-increasing role in future vehicles, remote software up-date capabilities become critically important. Following the disclosure of the Volkswagen Group project with the IOTA Foundation on Over-the-Air (OTA) updates, we want to further explore some of the related applications of the IOTA protocol and its modules.
What is OTA?
Most people are very familiar with software up-dates for their personal devices such as smart phones. In the context of the automotive industry, Tesla has pioneered the vehicle as a computer on wheels with comprehensive OTA up-date capabilities. Brands can deliver customer value throughout the life cycle by treating the car as a platform. No longer must a vehicle be outdated the minute it rolls off the factory floor. OTA delivers new opportunities to increase safety, fix bugs and patch cyber risks, comply with new regulations, deliver new features and create passionate brand advocates.
IOTA is uniquely positioned to enable OTA through its next generation distributed ledger technology based on a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG). Not only does the IOTA Tangle promise to address the limitations of blockchain-based architectures around scalability, transaction fees and energy consumption. The IOTA protocol is uniquely positioned as a secure data transfer mechanism where data can be sent and anchored in the distributed ledger in a tamper-proof fashion without any transaction fees. Think of IOTA as a data transfer protocol and shared, yet secured data layer with the added bonus of a built in payment function.
Let’s explore some of the aspects of OTA and discuss how IOTA’s immutable ledger, trusted connectivity and data integrity, as well as feeless micro payments can enable automotive players.
Traditionally, the various Electronic Control Units (ECUs) in the vehicle are flushed at the end of the production cycle. With OTA, the software on the various vehicle components can be up-dated throughout the assembly process. Just like IOTA can help authenticate parts and validate and record the various production steps as demonstrated by Fujitsu at Hannover Fair 2018, the IOTA tangle can serve as an immutable record of the integrity of software configuration of each vehicle.
As a vehicle is configured, parts and components delivered and assembled, its Digital Twin, including its software and hardware configuration, is created. A distributed, tamperproof database provides controlled and secure access for the various entities that will want to access or up-date data related to the vehicle.
A Multi-Entity Collaboration
Creating and performing a software update involves multiple parties. There is a software developer or content provider involved next to a Tier 1 supplier that created the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) and the brand OEM. A distributed ledger can help create a transparent, auditable process across the life cycle, all the way from initiation of the software update or fix, review of the code, packaging, delivery and installation of the software to a fleet of vehicles. The IOTA Tangle creates a shared ledger to bridge the interoperability gap across the various backend systems and ensures the integrity of the data.
Cyber Risks and Data Security – Trusted Connectivity and Data Integrity
As much as OTA can be used to patch vulnerabilities, it can also provide an attack surface in itself. Once the up-date is ready for distribution, IOTA can establish trusted connectivity between the backend and the vehicles. For any up-date we need to verify the source and establish trust before we initiate an up-date. Furthermore, IOTA can also ensure the integrity of the data that is transmitted and eliminate man-in the middle attacks, where bad actors may seek to manipulate the data during transmission.
Even though the initial efforts around OTA were around the infotainment and telematics systems, the focus has shifted towards Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) systems. The critical importance of data integrity becomes apparent when you consider vehicle up-dates of machine learning models for autonomous driving developed in the cloud. The ability to validate that the artificial intelligence software employed by autonomous vehicles comes from a trusted source and has not been tampered with is critical to ensuring compliance with regulations and increasing road safety. As such, IOTA can help address a huge potential liability issue, increase compliance and protect against brand risks. Even though proprietary point-to-point encryption could help secure updates between vehicles and the OEM cloud backend, a shared ledger creates trust and creates an immutable audit trail across the various constituents.
Delivering New Features and Functionalities
The ability to up-date existing features or deliver new features throughout the life cycle of the car creates revenues opportunities and helps deliver engaging customer experiences.
Using OTA, brands may deliver software up-dates for existing hardware that significantly increases the utility or adds completely new feature sets. Consumers not only expect their vehicles to utilize the latest content, such as maps for navigation and points of interest. The power of software also allows new capabilities to be delivered that create significant additional value for the user. Examples are additional active and passive safety features, or comfort and entertainment enhancements. Especially in view of shared ownership models and robotic taxi fleets, we envision a future where features will increasingly be made available on demand and paid for using micro transactions. Using modules such as Flash Channels, it becomes possible to stream digital content from backend services to vehicles and pay using real-time token streaming. IOTA not only provides a secure data transfer protocol, but fee-less micro-transactions that enable such new business models.
After Sales Service – Self-Diagnosis and Automated Fixes
The cars of the future not only generate vast amounts of data every day, but they are data collection devices in themselves. This data, which is at the core of future business models in mobility can be securely shared and made available in a controlled fashion across the new mobility ecosystem.
Have you ever wondered what the amber light that just came of in your dashboard wants to tell you? And have you wondered how you might be able to make it go away? Such indiscernible error messages negatively impact the brand experience. Using IOTA vehicle data can be shared securely without impacting privacy. The vehicle could automatically send error messages it cannot self-diagnose and repair to the backend. In the cloud backend, the problem could
be diagnosed and an appropriate fix could be deployed to the affected vehicle. In addition, the entire fleet of vehicles could be updated proactively. The entire consumer experience can be optimized and expensive visits to the dealership can be avoided. Needless to say that any services performed, software up-dated and parts exchanged can be securely stored in Digital Twin of the vehicle. The IOTA Tangle as an immutable ledger creates an auditable record of the software up-dates that have been performed across individual vehicles in the fleet.
IOTA can be described as a secure data transfer protocol with a built-in payment function. This makes IOTA is uniquely suited to enabling OTA scenarios. The IOTA protocol cannot only help make OTA more secure and create a shared, tamperproof record but also lays the foundation for new innovative business models based on customized services and on demand features whilst protecting consumer privacy.
IOTA aims to become the standard protocol to empower carmakers, suppliers and their software and hardware partners to deliver next generation OTA capabilities.