Connected cars and data monetization: it's not just about the money

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As cars have evolved from being four wheeled buggies to basically a computing, intelligent machine on wheels, we have seen the growing centrality of car data in transportation. Especially as more and more vehicles are becoming Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), car data will drive increasingly personalized driving experiences. Furthermore, this data will not only be generated in greater amounts, but will be extremely valuable in fueling a new market of goods and services built around people’s increasingly car-centered lifestyles. These days, monetization of car data has been a much-hyped topic in the automobile space. However, as with all industries, there is always the danger of the landscape being dominated by few, or certain participants that are being disadvantaged.

Perhaps this is why car data monetization should not just be about turning data into a source of revenue. While participants in any car data market should and will be able to sell and buy car data, special attention must be paid to how well value can be circulated in the market to ensure all players in the game receive fair bang for their buck—or data. This requires an automotive ecosystem that's decentralized, open to participation from all (be it passengers, manufacturers, or service providers), and also sufficiently secured for sensitive data handling. Here are three tangible ways that car data monetization can give all of us advantages beyond just thicker wallets.

Standardized Data Collection for Reliable Automotive History

If you have ever been involved in a used car purchase, you’ll be familiar with some sort of vehicle history report. This report may document any previous accidents, maintenance, and ownership history of the vehicle. While the report is useful in theory, such reports often don’t portray the entire picture because they depend on human sources, which are unfortunately often subjective and unstandardized in their reporting. After all, trusting people to be diligent in reporting their own car crashes may not result in the most accurate history reports. There may be data that’s missing, or the data might be inaccurate to start out. Additionally, there is no way to verify if there were accidents or repairs that went unreported or were recorded with inaccuracies. In fact, providers of such reports like CarFax or AutoCheck explicitly claim no responsibility for errors or omissions. 

However, with the development of technologies like data collectors that can be attached to On Board Units (OBUs) in cars, data collection can be streamlined from a much more reliable data source. For example, by proving that the car was under manual control at the time of incident through recorded data, Tesla overturned a Model X driver’s claims that the vehicle had “autonomously” crashed into a building. In the same way, your car may automatically collect a variety of useful data, producing records that are accessible and verifiable by other parties to enhance the services you enjoy, or aid in any claims you file. To this end, data collection standards need to be established to encourage open participation in the decentralized collection and use of data. 

Efficiency Along With Data Integrity

You may be wondering about how data privacy may fit into all of this. After all, with all the app integrations coming to cars, a large amount of personal and sensitive information is going to be found in your car data and it’s guaranteed that there will be companies willing to pay big bucks to get their hands on this information which you may not be ready to consent to. 

This is where proper blockchain design for handling sensitive data becomes absolutely crucial. Besides implementing de-identification technology, a separate storage server is necessary for the safe and efficient storage of encrypted data. However, this storage server should not remain controlled by any one entity, not even the blockchain creators themselves. When this is achieved, blockchain management can be optimized, efficiently maintained, and secure.

An Open, Seamless Connected Experience

Thus far we’ve talked about the security or verification benefits of car data monetization, but what does this mean for the driver on the road? The idea of a car data blockchain may induce thoughts of driverless cars racing through roads, sending off data to nearby RSUs, but that’s not necessarily the case… yet. Autonomous cars are still the minority and human-driven cars do make up most of the road’s vehicles. But “conventional” cars with drivers can still be connected cars and through various software and hardware, they are able to send off car data in real time to service providers or manufacturers for optimized services and products.

For example, when at a gas station to refuel, your car could send off data in order to check for its software upgrades with instant feedback on what parts of the car may be due for a check soon (i.e. brake pads, oil change). The driver could automatically pay for the gas with cryptocurrency, finish up the upgrades and head off to the next destination—all without ever getting out of the car. And as more cars become increasingly connected or autonomous, more services will become available. 

Conclusion: Create a Healthy Market with Crowdsourced, Valuable Data

From high-tech enterprises to new startups, alternative mobility or even infrastructure operators, there are many players out there that believe massive car data monetization is not only imminent, but a great way to cash out. However what is important is that the average car user is not locked out of these benefits because at the end of the day, creating a healthy car data market is really about getting enough critical mass in terms of both participants and tradable data. User-acquisition is therefore a crucial part of ecosystem-building. 

When a car data monetization system involves rewarding data contribution, participation as blockchain nodes, block generation, and resource contribution for a distributed storage network, these create an all-around win-win situation. With that, we can have a revolutionary monetization of car data that ensures value (whether monetary or not) is not centralized in the hands of just a few major players, but accessible to all who are involved. 

KM Nam, Head of Strategy at AMO Labs 

Image Credit:  Mikko Lemola / Shutterstock