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Samsung Taking a Swing at Car Connectivity

by Roger Lanctot | 2月 21, 2016

A little over a year ago the automotive aftermarket got a jolt when Jalopnik reported on the vulnerability of Progressive's Snapshot OBDII plug-in device.  This report was followed quickly by an Argus report of similar vulnerabilities in a similar aftermarket device from Zubie.  Both companies had failed to implement even the most basic measures to protect the access to vehicle data that they were enabling with their devices.

http://tinyurl.com/j9tphvj - "Progressive Insurance's Driver Tracking Tool is Ridiculously Insecure" - Jalopnik

http://tinyurl.com/zw4wqfm - "A Remote Attack on an Aftermarket Telematics Service" - Argus

The two events cast a pall on the entire OBDII aftermarket segment and emerging applications making use of these devices, such as usage-based insurance.  The two hacks also foreshadowed even more alarming white hack intrusions such as the IOactive penetration of a Chrysler infotainment system and the eventual involvement of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S. 

NHTSA ultimately demanded the automotive industry take action and an ISAC was set up for information sharing among carmakers and suppliers.  The security concerns remain as does the steady march of new products entering the market such as Verizon's Hum device with Wi-Fi and call center support.

The latest entry having its coming out party at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week is Samsung.  Samsung is directly confronting the security concerns by integrating Samsung KNOX1, the company’s defense-grade mobile security platform.

But what is most unusual about the Samsung launch is the portfolio of partners participating in the program at launch.  The partner eco-system includes: Amdocs, AT&T, AXA, Blink by Agero, China Unicom, Cisco, Crawford & Company, Ericsson, Europcar, HERE, IBM, Jasper, Oberthur Technologies, Openbay, Orange, Tantalum and Willis Towers Watson.

Although details won't emerge until later this week, the partner eco-system clearly suggests a global launch likely including a reprogrammable SIM with robust back-end data platform and location-related services.  Like the Verizon device, the Samsung device will be Wi-Fi capable and encompass roadside assistance from Blink by Agero in the U.S. and AXA in Europe.

The participation of China Unicom, AT&T and Orange suggest a wide geographic scope with a strong North American and European emphasis.  The integration of OpenBay indicates a connection to that company's network of independent repair shops while the participation of Amdocs hints at payment services.

Other partners include Towers Watson - a clear tip of the hat to usage-based insurance a la Progressive's Snapshot - and the presence of Europcar suggests the beginning of a much wider deployment of connectivity devices in the rental car and company car segment.  Rental car companies have long sought a connected car solution to speed the process of renting, refueling and returning rental cars.

Tantalum, owner of U.K. Lojack licensee Tracker, is also a participant in the program suggesting some intriguing anti-theft applications along with the expected vehicle diagnostics and driver behavior analysis.

Samsung's official announcement:

http://tinyurl.com/zmycyt2 - "Samsung Ushers in a New Era of Driving Experience with Samsung Connect Auto" - Samsung press announcement

The only missing pieces at launch for Samsung are:

A) A roster of high profile auto insurers such as China's Ping An, Europe's Allianz or State Farm or Allstate in the U.S.

B) A couple of strategic car sharing partners or a Samsung-branded car sharing service

We'll learn more later this week.  The device is built upon Samsung's favored Tizen Linux distribution and with partners such as Ericsson, Cisco, and IBM the expectation is that Samsung's Connect Auto device will serve as a platform for application development targeting multiple vertical markets.  One thing ought to be clear from the get go - Samsung Connect Auto will be secure.

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