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What are the Applications of the Internet of Things in the Automotive Industry?

02 May 2023

The Internet of Things is one of the key concepts that can be encountered in the context of the ongoing digital revolution. It is applied not only in the sphere of everyday life, but also in highly advanced industrial processes. What is its impact on the development of the automotive industry? 

Internet of Things – what is it? Definition of the concept 

Before we get into the practical applications of this technology in the automotive industry, it is worth first briefly explaining the Internet of Things or IoT for short. It is made up of electronic devices equipped with various types of sensors and meters, which, networked together, can collect, transmit or exchange data among themselves. Digital communication between IoT devices is aimed at streamlining various types of processes and ultimately improving the user experience. A distinction is made between a basic version of IoT, which is used by a wide range of users on a daily basis, and a sub-version – the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which is reserved for advanced processes, such as manufacturing or logistics.

Internet of Things – advantages and disadvantages 

One of the most frequently cited benefits of using the Internet of Things on a daily basis is a more comfortable life. Smart IoT devices collect data, which they then use to make independent decisions without human intervention. For example, a smartwatch, upon detecting increased stress levels after work, can send this information to the control panel of a smart building, which in turn activates a program to enable relaxation. In contrast, the task of the Industrial Internet of Things is to increase process efficiency and safety. Data on the production flow, energy consumption or predictive maintenance of IoT devices helps reduce costs, avoid potential losses and downtime, and continuously improve the product. However, the Internet of Things as a technology that collects Big Data can have its drawbacks. Data stolen or transferred into the wrong hands can be used to the disadvantage of users or companies. Another issue is handing over  the ability to make decisions in sometimes key areas of human life to artificial intelligence. Any computational error in, for example, medical procedures or on the production line in a factory can lead to severe consequences. 

Does the Internet of Things pose any risks? 

The Internet of Things, like any digital network, is vulnerable to outside interference, which raises various risks. In addition to the aforementioned data leakage, there is also the danger of third parties taking control of IoT devices. In the case of companies, this can lead not only to losses related to equipment downtime and the cost of cleaning up the consequences of the attack, but even to health risks for employees. It's also not hard to imagine a scenario in which a hacker breaks into the navigation database that autonomous cars connect to or changes the algorithms that control them.  

The software controlling the IoT device can also misjudge the situation and make the wrong decision without outside interference, as tests of autonomous cars in the United States show. Of course, not all risks can be avoided, but they can be proactively countered by ensuring that the latest security features are in place, keeping software up-to-date and preventing the potential leakage of sensitive data that could be exploited by cybercriminals. It is worth remembering that security depends not only on hardware and software manufacturers, but also to a large extent on the awareness and reasonableness of the users themselves, especially the appropriate culture of using networks and devices. 

Application of the Internet of Things in the automotive industry 

If one considers the increasing complexity of both vehicles and processes in the automotive industry, it can be concluded that the application of the Internet of Things in this environment is essential. Its presence can be seen on two levels: on the roads and in automotive factories. Today, artificial intelligence can not only monitor traffic on the roads and, on this basis, prevent collisions and traffic jams, but also transmit information to intelligent vehicles.  

Today's cars have an increasing number of sensors and systems that analyse, send and retrieve data from central servers – all to improve driver comfort and increase traffic safety. Designing and manufacturing vehicles that increasingly resemble smartphones on four wheels and are another type of IoT device poses new challenges for manufacturers.  

In addition to the several thousand mechanical parts that make up a car, there are intelligent electronic components with dedicated software, whose architecture must take  heightened security standards for users and databases into account. Without the industrial Internet of Things, complex manufacturing processes running in many different factories would be much slower and subject to a much greater risk of error. In the car factories of the future, product design, production planning, logistics, production line operation and even the maintenance area of machinery and equipment, will occur largely in the digital realm and will actively be supported by artificial intelligence. 

IoT devices used in the automotive industry 

In the context of both IoT and IIoT, it is not so much the specific devices that are being talked about, but rather the sensors, meters and counters with which they are equipped. It is through cameras and sensing that robots on the production line can record data related to the operation of a machine or process. Data acquired in this way can become the starting point for optimisation and Industry 4.0 solutions, the Industrial Internet of Things is increasingly being used for operations such as predictive maintenance. At BMW factories, for example, thanks to the large number of sensors on production machines, it is possible to continuously monitor their operation and detect potential faults even before production is halted. This allows the service department to replace the still-working part with a new one, reducing overall maintenance costs. The entire system runs in the cloud, so maintenance teams at other plants know which potentially failing parts to look out for. A similar solution is also being used at Audi's Ingolstadt plant. Employees use a mobile IoT app that sends push notifications when any anomalies occur.  

Data collected from sensors in the industrial IoT network can also be used to optimize energy consumption, reduce waste or improve quality control. According to Capgemini's analysis, manufacturing plants that have implemented the Internet of Things have seen a 4.4% increase in productivity after just one year. 

The future of the Internet of Things in the automotive industry 

 cover for the dome of the hydrogen tank
Hydrogen tank cover

The Internet of Things is one of the leading Industry 4.0 technologies driving the automotive industry and supporting its rapid growth. The most visible manifestation of the digital revolution in automotive is the growing number of connected vehicles. According to a report by Omdia, a London-based research firm , it will reach a dizzying 571 million by 2025. In the face of rising fuel and energy prices, smart systems that provide the best answers on how to reduce and rationalize production costs, 3D automotive technology and state-of-the-art software are already being used in our factories across Europe. As a result, we are able to design in every detail and efficiently manufacture a wide range of modern plastic automotive parts, such as injection moulded automotive components and innovative foamed polypropylene (EPP) parts. We invite you to cooperate with us and take advantage of our modern production potential. 

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