It’s a problem all too familiar to those who spend a lot of time driving in rural areas: Mobile network reception is poor, with phone calls suddenly cutting out or music streaming coming to a halt. In many regions, lower bandwidths and high latency still diminish the user experience and prevent drivers from seamlessly transferring their digital lifestyle into their car. In response, technology company Continental has developed a Predictive Connectivity Manager that “looks” into the future to determine network availability and reception quality along the route so that it can then take appropriate action.
“The intelligent mobility of the future depends on connectivity that is as gap-free as possible. To allow drivers to get the best out of the existing network coverage, we have developed a predictive data and connectivity management solution. This enables us to not only identify reception white spots in advance, but also take action for a better user experience,” explains Johann Hiebl, head of Continental’s Infotainment & Connectivity business unit.
The project is an evolution of the Smart Telematics solution that Continental developed together with Carnegie Technologies. With Smart Telematics, it is already possible to aggregate available communication channels to get more bandwidth or to seamlessly switch between the channels once the reception quality becomes poor. The Predictive Connectivity Manager is an add-on to not only handle connectivity issues once they arise, but to develop intelligent data management and download strategies for a more anticipatory drive.
Crowd sourcing to determine network quality
To calculate the quality of reception along the road ahead, the connectivity manager collects data on the availability and quality of the communication channels from vehicles traveling along the same route, based on their current GPS position as well as what time and day of the week it is. This data is then processed and analyzed in the backend using Continental.cloud. The resulting database contains a range of data including information on signal strength, bandwidth, cellular standard and latency, as well as the cost of establishing a network connection at a specific position and the availability of different networks and providers.
In order for the vehicle’s data and channel management system to respond predictively, the connectivity manager must also be capable of predicting the route that the driver will take. To determine this “most probable path,” the software analyzes the vehicle’s pre-calculated route continuously and also accesses the navigation data. “Thanks to the combination of crowd sourced data from vehicles already traveling on the same route and their calculated route ahead, our connectivity manager really can take a glimpse into the future,” says Hiebl.
Compensation for network outages to guarantee optimum user experience
If the connectivity manager sees that the connection along the road ahead is getting worse, or that network coverage will soon not be available, a number of possible actions may be taken. On the one hand, the software could alert the drivers of upcoming network outage and inform them when the connection will likely be available again. A digital assistant could even switch to another, data independent application instead. On the other hand, the solution could prioritize between data intensive applications according to defined guidelines. It could temporarily provide the download of a software update with less bandwidth, for example, so that the current music stream is not interrupted. In addition, predictive channel management makes it possible to switch seamlessly between the various available channels depending on network quality and cost – from mobile networks, available WLAN hotspots in big cities or even satellite connection. In other words, if one channel offers better reception quality than another, the connectivity manager can switch between the networks.
Intelligent software as a digital companion
The Predictive Connectivity Manager can either run discreetly in the background and make its own decisions or actively involve the driver so that they can decide which of the available options to use. “We are constantly refining and enhancing our innovations to take them to a whole new level. With the Predictive Connectivity Manager, we are introducing a new technology that is serving the constant need of Always On connectivity. That way, safe, efficient and comfortable mobility is no longer a vision,” says Hiebl.
Continental will be unveiling the Predictive Connectivity Manager at the Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona. Visitors can find all trade fair innovations and technology developed by the company in hall 6, booth 6B50 at the MWC 2018. In the outdoor area OA3B.40, Continental will also be showcasing two demonstration vehicles.