Full Speed Ahead: How IoT Is Driving the Automotive Diagnostics Industry

Bobby Rush, the U.S. Representative for Illinois, recently introduced legislation requiring car owners and private service centers to have the same rights to maintenance and repair tools and analytics as car manufacturers and their distributors do. This move will open up new opportunities for the automotive industry.

Indeed, advancements within the Internet of Things (IoT) sector have resulted in breakthrough technologies that make things easier and faster across numerous industries, and automotive diagnostics is no exception.

Automotive Diagnostics 101

Vehicle diagnostics refers to the process of finding and diagnosing faults that may exist in a vehicle. Indeed, the primary goal is to prevent any detected issues from interfering with a vehicle’s operation.

In the past, car diagnostics relied heavily on a mechanic’s expertise. Before computers were built into vehicles, a technician typically had to become a surgeon of sorts to piece together information in order to analyze and treat a vehicle’s issues.

With the introduction of electronic control units (ECUs) in automobiles, however, the process of vehicle diagnostics has become significantly easier. In addition, almost all modern vehicles now have onboard diagnostics (OBD) connectors, which interact with ECUs to scan different sensors and report warnings when issues occur.

The Implementation of IoT in Automotive Diagnostics

Cars are becoming more advanced and interconnected than ever before, thanks to the emergence of electric and smart vehicles. These advancements will undoubtedly be accelerated by improvements to service and repair procedures.

As mentioned, traditional OBD tools have proven beneficial to car mechanics. However, these OBD connectors consume a lot of resources, space, and energy. For example, they require an automotive technician to move from place to place, interpreting data reports, making adjustments, performing repairs, and verifying that all issues are resolved.

Because of all the tasks required in using conventional OBD tools, they’re generally not the most effective tool. That’s why researchers worldwide are increasingly using IoT to improve the whole automotive diagnostic process.

A team of Indian researchers conducted an experiment in 2017 to replace the Controlled Area Network (CAN) devices used in traditional OBD tools with IP-based networks. Their investigation proved that it is possible to replace CAN devices with IP-based networks using a microcontroller. It also proved that these IP-based networks produced more data while using less energy.

Yet another study from Malaysia, also conducted in 2017, demonstrated the advantages of adopting IoT in automobile diagnostics. In the study, the researchers collected five categories of car data via wireless tools: engine RPM, manifold air pressure, engine temperature, load fuel temperature, and barometric pressure.

The researchers concluded from their experiment that using big data cloud storage can aid in better vehicle data management. Using a CPS security system can also help increase network safety in crowdsensing.

The two experiments above came from the academic world. So, what about industry leaders? Are they also jumping on board with IoT for vehicle diagnostics?

The HoloLens 2

Mercedes-Benz USA teamed with Microsoft last year to help identify and remedy vehicle problems in its service centers. In the collaboration, Mercedes employed Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, and Microsoft used its  HoloLens 2 holographic smartglasses.

The experiment’s purpose was to connect frontline employees to experts via their HoloLens headgear. This allowed the experts to see a car’s condition and provide remote support, assessment and consultation.

The experiment demonstrated that, by employing the HoloLeans gadget, a remote specialist could write on the holograms around the vehicle to direct the front liner’s attention to specific locations. This, in turn, allowed front liners to return cars to owners relatively quickly, which significantly impacted service centers’ ability to provide outstanding customer service.

The front liners who took part in the study gave it a thumbs up. They believed that remote collaborators such as Dynamics 365 Remote Assist and HoloLens 2 saved them a lot of time because they did not have to go back and forth submitting data, discussing things, and waiting to hear back.

Mercedes-Benz also collaborated with performance experts CraneMorley to create a training class that assisted technicians in becoming acquainted with IoT technologies. In fact, they made a guided discovery course as part of the new model release preparation for the GLE lineup.

Other Applications of the HoloLens

CraneMorley President Thomas Pratt lauded the HoloLens for facilitating the adoption of sophisticated new technology. Specifically, it essentially provides frontline workers with X-ray vision in order to see how a vehicle’s components work.

The HoloLens team can also facilitate training by assisting personnel as they learn the complicated systems and processes involved in vehicle maintenance. Technicians learn by interacting with augmented reality models of real-world settings.

However, the use of Microsoft’s HoloLens in the automobile industry doesn’t end with car maintenance. HoloLens is now being used earlier in the production process, during the designing of new vehicles, thanks to the presence of Enklu. Known as a platform for distributing mixed reality programs, Enklu helps automakers quickly enroll industrial workers using augmented reality learning.

Ford, for example, is blending concept car models with realistic production models via 3D holograms using HoloLens. Other notable automakers are also attempting to incorporate IoT into their manufacturing processes. Audi, for example, is collaborating with Ericsson to develop a low-latency 5G connection technology to increase factory automation.

Ericsson’s 5G solution is already operational in a genuine production environment at Audi’s P-Labs in Gaimersheim, Germany. Plans are currently being developed to add 5G URLLC functionality to the current framework for advanced factory systems and human safety use applications.

In August 2018, Ericsson and Audi announced plans to pioneer 5G for automobile manufacturing. Since then, the co-collaborators have made significant progress in addressing complicated use cases in manufacturing and industry automation.

The Future is Here

Not too long ago, we envisioned a future in which car technicians could work hands-free without spending too much time guessing. The good news is that, thanks to IoT capabilities such as Microsoft’s HoloLens smartglasses and mixed reality remote assist, it appears as though the future has arrived.

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