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Businesses envision all manner of vehicle-based transactions, such as battery charging, being possible with securely transferred data from services such as ZF's eWallet. (ZF) 

Assuring data integrity: vital for connected-vehicle markets

Connectivity, one of the fastest-growing technical features for new vehicles, has attracted the attention of many companies that hope to offer services and garner revenue by using data from vehicles. But before any market can emerge, data companies and vehicle owners will have to believe that data integrity is ensured.

“The quality of data must be there,” William Bone of Aras Corp said at the recent SAE WCX 18 conference in Detroit. “If it can’t be trusted, you can’t sell it. It has to be something that can be understood and used, and people must believe that they can trust it. There’s a lot of value in data that's traceable and relevant.”

Blockchain to the rescue?

Other WCX speakers suggested fast-developing blockchain technology may provide a solution. Though blockchain’s association with murky cryptocurrencies has created some skepticism, the technology is seeing expanding use in banking and other fields that want to ensure data is not tampered with as it’s used. Blockchain’s ability to ensure data integrity over the decade-plus lifetime of vehicles has many eyeing it as a possible solution for those who build marketing plans around vehicle data.

“We need to find some simple way to monitor data,” said Peter Brown of Wind River Systems. “There may be some blockchain-type solution that will cover the lifecycle of the vehicle. People need to know the data has not been tampered with.”

Block chain already features in some suppliers’ plans; auto-supplier ZF, UBS and IBM teamed up to create Car eWallet, an open automotive-transaction platform that enables vehicles to make and accept payments—and ZF has demonstrated the concept with a vehicle that pays for charging and tolls using eWallet. And while vehicles park themselves autonomously as occupants go about their business, eWallet can automatically pay for parking. The program employs IBM blockchain technology, which makes it possible to synchronize the information of each user in a network in a reliable and unchangeable data record.

Trust for all involved

Protective technologies will have to certify data integrity over the lifetime of the vehicle. However, integrity must go beyond the data. The companies that buy the information will have to prove themselves to the vehicle owners who provide data.

If suppliers want to build a strong market for data from connected vehicles, they’re going to have to make sure that consumers trust all the companies that gain access to their data. Vehicle owners will have to see some reason to opt in to data-collection plans and they’ll have to trust the data aggregators. If media reports highlight abuses or questionable uses, vehicle owners will be understandably reluctant to authorize many data-collection programs.

“For consumers, it’s always about the balance between what they’re giving and getting,” said Andreas Hecht of CCC Information Services. “The industry has done a poor job of explaining what happens with their data.”

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