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Ericsson joins the automotive industry

Smart vehicles are creating new business opportunities for Ericsson. The company's operations in Lindholmen are part of the digitisation of the automotive industry and transportation systems, a development that favours Gothenburg.

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For car manufacturers, developing connected digital functions is just as important as improving engines and handling. It also places great demands on close collaboration with the telecom industry.

Development is progressing very rapidly – and not only in the automotive sector. Ericsson long had a vision that the world would have 50 billion connected devices by 2020.

"Today it's a vision no longer. Now it's a forecast. It took us 100 years to connect a billion physical locations; connecting five billion people took 25 years. Our forecast is 26 billion devices in the Internet of Things by 2021," says Anders Fagerholt, Principal Consultant at Ericsson.

One of the fields he works with is optimising conditions for smart vehicles and intelligent traffic systems. Much needs to be in place for this to work: connections of sufficiently high quality, cloud solutions to safely manage services, driver-friendly user interfaces and, of course, the smart services themselves.

The cars of the future will be connected to the 5G network, which Ericsson is about ready to roll out. 5G is to be 100 times faster than 4G, while also being able to handle a thousand times more traffic with a fifth of the latency in comparison. Ericsson is already testing 5G functionality together with the automotive industry in, for example, Germany, Sweden and France.

Anders Fagerholt, Principal Consultant at Ericsson

Good, reliable communication between vehicles also requires genuine collaboration between different manufacturers. This utopia will only become a reality when a Volvo can safely communicate with an Audi, which in turn can communicate with traffic lights three kilometres down the road. There are different methods and different standards for achieving this.

Using mobile networks requires the establishment of communications between various clouds, such as between the automotive industry's different OEMs and different traffic control centres. This is exactly what Anders works with.

"Here we really need to get the industries on board; you can't possibly work alone to create standards. Everyone gains from collaborating on a common standard and we're working hard to develop such a standard, just as we've previously done with the standards for GSM, 3G and 4G."

5G and cloud solutions

The key to communication is cloud solutions. Today, both Volvo Cars and Scania are already using cloud services from Ericsson that can collect data from different vehicles and then share it between them. Moving forward, the cloud will also be able to communicate with buses and trucks, as well as with traffic lights, weather centres and traffic control centres.

"We must, of course, maintain our traditional core business for providers. But we must also take a leading role in 5G and cloud solutions, and that means working with other industries so that together with the providers we can realise the networked society. This is a growth area that we must cultivate and maintain moving forward," says Anders.

"Cloud-based business will greatly benefit all stakeholders in the future. It actually requires very little capital investment, instead you rent the capacity you need, minute-by-minute. Another advantage is that everything is made scalable, and scales itself. This means it doesn't matter if you have 100 cars connected – or 100,000 or 10 million. It grows with the customer's needs – pay as you grow, if you like."

And in Ericsson's case, the business opportunities don't end there. The cloud innovation they are working on is already used in a number of other fields.

"We want to use the scalability advantage in every imaginable industry. Our vision is for every individual and organisation to be able to reach their full potential by means of mobility and the cloud."

"And in the future everything will be networked. Entire cities will be networked. We're already seeing networked industries today. Tuscany, for example, has networked vineyards, and you can monitor the water supply over that network, so that you can track the level of impurities. Connectivity benefits everything, and the technology is basically the same."

Gathered in a small area

It's easy to think of IT and telecommunications as being industries where development can take place anywhere in the world, but Anders sees major advantages in actors from both the telecom and the automotive industries being gathered in a small area.

"Contact between people is still important, particularly when different industries are to work together. I've been involved almost since the beginning when Lindholmen was first established, and the environment that's emerged is amazing."

"I'm really pleased that here in Gothenburg we have, for example, Telematics Valley, Lindholmen Science Park, SAFER, Drive Sweden and several of Sweden's national research and innovation programmes. This enables people to meet and develop trust, which is key to a successful partnership. Understanding and trust are two key components if you are to succeed. And here we have both."

Per Österström

Hacker attacks must be prevented

"As the development of connected vehicles progresses, IT security issues gain in importance to the industries that interact with the automotive industry in various capacities," says Per Österström, Business Region Göteborg's expert on development in the automotive cluster.

A vehicle has many different interfaces that are potential backdoors for hackers (BT, CD, Wi-Fi, radio network, USB, CAN bus and more). However, separated architecture, which prevents access to critical functions, and standardised protocols with effective security mechanisms are examples of the ways in which the industry is working to prevent attacks.

"For cloud service and telecom network providers, it is of the utmost importance to also protect the telecom systems and data centres that communicate with the connected vehicles, such as over the airwaves, Wi-Fi or other means. Regionally, we're good at this, in both business and academia (Chalmers University of Technology), but the industry is seeking more experts in the field."

Lars Bern

Good to build physical objects

"The entire Swedish welfare and pension system has been made possible thanks to our favourable innovation capacity. The traditional Swedish focus on consensus has forced us to become stronger through cooperation. One strength here is that the City of Gothenburg has made it possible to pursue collaborative projects with a commercial approach," says Lars Bern, an expert on clusters and innovation at Business Region Göteborg.

"It's a great advantage to be able to use the city as a test bed."

"Ideas are important, but putting them into practice, testing them for real and verifying that they create value, that makes all the difference. Engineering workshops comprise a unique resource in the Gothenburg region. Here we often build physical objects that you can touch, and that provide a foundation for infrastructure and smart solutions such as digital services. It's the actual cars, buses and buildings that build the brands more than slick, digital logos."


Facts: Ericsson Gothenburg

Ericsson's Gothenburg office is located at Lindholmspiren 11 and is home to some 1,500 employees out of a total of 2,000 in Western Sweden. The Gothenburg office is like a miniature Ericsson, boasting almost all technologies within Ericsson's R&D, product and service development, and services divisions. 


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