Notes from Jasper's Connected-Car Confab

In a wide-ranging conversation, executives from AT&T, General Motors, LoJack and ChargePoint discussed the IoT in context of today's and tomorrow's connected-car applications.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Sep 29, 2015

Last week, I attended a panel discussion sponsored by Jasper, in which Macario Namie, the firm's VP of strategy, queried representatives from ChargePoint, General Motors (GM) and LoJack about the state of technology in connected cars and what they see coming down the pike in the near future. Jasper plays a role in these firms' Internet of Things services by offering a cloud-based platform for managing electronic devices that transmit data via cellular networks and handling the associated subscription billing, sensor provisioning and troubleshooting.

The panelists included Emad Isaac, LoJack's CTO; Ajay Agrawal, ChargePoint's CTO; and Steve Schwinke, who directs GM's advanced development and concepts for its Global Connected Customer Experience division. Win Williams, the VP of IoT solutions for AT&T, one of Jasper's long-time cellular operator partners, was also on hand to provide the telecom's perspective on the IoT and automobiles.

LoJack was founded as a vehicle-recovery system, but also provides GPS tracking and telematics services for managing commercial vehicle fleets. Municipalities, employers, places of business and homeowners have installed more than 22,300 of ChargePoint's electric vehicle stations, and a number of carmakers have integrated the ChargePoint charger application—which directs drivers to the nearest available plug, mapped via a cellular network—in their electric vehicles. GM leverages the IoT through its OnStar security and navigation system, of course, and also through its connected-car applications.

It was an interesting discussion, though some of the questions and answers were a bit predictable. Namie asked the panelists to address the recent hacks into connected vehicles, and it seemed like Schwinke punted on his answer, saying that the "whole system is locked down" in reference to GM's connected-car technology, and then claiming he couldn't make more remarks without talking to his PR team. I don't necessarily think it was Schwinke's intention, but that only made me even more curious about what he wouldn't say.

Of course, the hack that UC Santa Barbara researchers perpetuated on a Corvette earlier this year was accomplished by leveraging a Metromile OBD module. Still, the event raises questions about whether the Corvette also has security weaknesses that made the hack—in which the researchers gained control of the car's braking system—possible. So the hack was the elephant in the room that Schwinke avoided.

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