Ashithabhanu Bhanumurthy

Internet of Things: Spotlight on the Automotive Industry

Blog Post created by Ashithabhanu Bhanumurthy Employee on Apr 9, 2018

Today's post was contributed by Akamai's very own Raphael Edwards


Hello World. If you have a background in programming Hello World is something near and dear to you. It’s used to illustrate that the basic syntax of a programming language is working as intended. In the software world, it’s the moment where you turn the key for the first time, and hope the engine starts. These Hello World moments are happening at an increasing rate on today’s Internet. As the promise of the Internet of Things comes to fruition, everything from toothbrushes to salt shakers are getting online to make a Hello World introduction. By the end of 2017, Gartner forecasts ~8.3 Billion IoT connected devices, and by 2020 that number is expected to reach north of 20 Billion connected devices[1].  Notably, many of these devices were never designed to deal with today’s cyber-security threats or performance challenges in a mobile-first connected world.



In this article, we’re going to spotlight the automotive segment of IoT and connected vehicles to understand the challenges in delivering software updates or firmware over-the-air (FOTA). While automotive centric, you’ll find many of the challenges of mobile/cellular network delivery, cyber-security threats, visibility and reporting may be applied to other IoT growth verticals such as healthcare, retail, infrastructure, utilities/energy, financial services and more.

The connected vehicle market is poised to explode with close to 100 million connected vehicles expected to be on the road by 2020[2]. However, in today’s 2017 math, connected vehicles still only account for less than 5% of the total number of vehicles on the road.  We are truly at the cusp of a transportation transformation and the architectural, governance, and regulatory decisions made today couldn’t be more important.


As the connected vehicle market grows the vehicle threat landscape will continue to be an increased area of focus. The possibility of vehicle takeover[3] through compromised Internet connected vehicle components, elevation of privilege via owner services, or physical security is top of mind for every OEM and IoT manufacturer. The impact to the manufacturer and brand reputation is paramount. These risks are profound and each manufacturer must have a mitigation and recall strategy for vehicle defects. Historically, traditional recall campaigns of components and hardware have had the following challenges outlined below.



  • 20-30% of identified defect/recall campaigns are never completed by the consumer.[4]&[5]
  • Identification and diagnosis of issues requires the consumer to schedule a dealer service visit.
  • A percentage of consumers may not have close accessibility to a dealership network and may forgo a service visit, despite safety risks.
  • Consumer perception of defect severity and willingness to complete/schedule service visit.
  • Potentially a long time frame between defect identification, consumer communication, and service visit.
  • Lastly, effectiveness of recall communication campaign and accuracy of consumer contact information.


Each of the above challenges in traditional vehicle recall campaigns now presents an opportunity to drive brand differentiation and value added services. However, addressing each of these issues presents a unique technological, operational, and business challenge.


Presented below you’ll find the current challenges manufacturers are facing with the current state of IoT delivery.




  • Performance and reliability at scale  For many manufacturers the overall deployment reach will target millions of connected vehicles. Ensuring firmware downloads / service updates are delivered reliably at scale will be a core differentiator in allowing manufacturers to respond to recall campaigns and drive value added services.
  • Device accessibility and availability – As vehicles are typically only used for a couple hours each day, the opportunity to perform vehicle downloads and updates are usually during the height of rush hour traffic where other vehicles are also competing for the same network resources creating a delivery and reliability challenge.
  • Device connectivity – Vehicles are often equipped with LTE / 3G modems that are subject to network latency and capacity constraints by the network provider. Mobile network operators may restrict or cap traffic at certain times of the day. Additionally, vehicles are foremost transportation which means they will be establishing connections with many different cell towers to complete a single download as they are in transit.
  • Vehicle / regional jurisdiction and content governance – Regional jurisdiction may regulate where content and software updates may originate from which further complicates the delivery execution for manufacturers.
  • Zero-rating – Allows the manufacturer to work with mobile network operators to whitelist connected vehicle update traffic vs vehicle owner initiated traffic and bandwidth.
  • Security – Mitigating and managing vehicle threats and consumer privacy and data is a core mission critical objective for manufacturers. Ensuring protection for vehicle services and data, or any personally identifiable information is an imperative.
  • Reporting / Visibility – Fleet intelligence, at a glance reporting of total firmware downloads, success rate of delivery, and throughput are some the key metrics manufacturers will need to have visibility on to determine overall success rate of campaigns, and introducing new vehicle capabilities and services.
  • Frequency of Updates – How often will new firmware, patches, and new vehicles services and capabilities be introduced?

Let’s focus in on the frequency challenge as this is perhaps the most important. As software technologists, we come to expect the imperfection of software. Bugs and vulnerabilities are a reality. Addressing each of the above challenges at scale is a monumental task. Many modern vehicles today have over 100 million lines of code. The effectiveness of a vehicle manufacturer to not only identify defects, mitigate threats, and release a patch at scale timely and repeatably will be core to the overall success of Connected Vehicle Operations, and the IoT vision and solution.  Akamai is poised to deliver on each of the above automotive and IoT challenges.


Akamai OTA Updates Solution


  • Globally distributed platform optimized for mobile / cellular networks. Allows firmware updates to be delivered from an Akamai Edge Server closest to the vehicle and cellular tower.
  • Zero Rated Billing allowing manufacturers to work with Mobile Operators to whitelist firmware update traffic leveraging a small subset of Akamai Anycast IP Addresses.


  • Aggregated Reporting to capture metrics for download completion, throughput, traffic distribution, and more.
  • Low-latency Download Notifications allows the manufacturer to receive a notification at the completion of a download to confirm successful delivery.

Akamai’s Existing Platform Capabilities


  • Distributed Denial of Service / Web Application Firewall protection – Adaptive Rate Controls, Intelligent Application Layer Rules based on anomaly scoring, Network layer controls, and real-time Threat Dashboards
  • Establish Trusted End-to-End communication via mutual authentication and client certificates


Contact your Akamai Account Representative for more information on how to address your IoT strategy and Connected Devices. Stay tuned for our next article on best practices for configuring your OTA solution through Akamai to handle 100,000+ vehicle updates per day.




Note: Above is a major automotive manufacturer ramping up to deliver 100-300MB firmware package to hundreds of thousands of vehicles.