Smart road tech and the future of mobility




Machine to machine (M2M) and the internet of things (IOT) were first discussed at the 2010 Mobile World Congress, which I attended in Barcelona, Spain. At the time, the industry’s center of gravity was shifting from hardware to software, from voice to data and services, and from traditional telecom stakeholders to new entrants.


Concept smart homes and smart cars were on prominent display, Google was there for the first time, Waze was peddling itself as a subscription service to be embedded on phones and “there’s an app for that!” was becoming a common phrase when going around the thousands of booths at Fira de Barcelona.


Fast forward: most of what were concepts then are now part of our daily lives. Connected devices are in our homes and offices through Amazon Alexa or Echo, Google NestHub, Apple HomeKit and Siri, and many others depending on your price and quality preferences. Most new cars have smart components such as GPS, phone connection through Bluetooth, and intelligent sensors that can control and process the pressure of oil, temperature, level of emission, coolant levels, etc., and safety systems that help you park, remind you to put on your seatbelt, and ABS (anti-lock braking system). Really, can anyone remember the days when everything was oh-so-manual?


Of late, the more interesting development combines electric vehicles (EV) with smart technology. An EV is powered by electricity. Unlike conventional vehicles that use gasoline (petrol) or diesel-powered engine, electric cars and trucks use an electric motor powered by electricity from batteries or a fuel cell.


These are deemed to be not only smarter but also much more environment-friendly than conventional petrol- or diesel-powered vehicles since they generate much less air pollution, releasing no exhaust air pollutants. They’re also deemed to be much more economical in the long run with less maintenance and refueling costs.


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In some more advanced countries, EV owners can potentially make some monetary value out of their EVs through V2G (vehicle to grid) technologies that allow EVs to feed electricity into the grid when not in use. The batteries can be used during peak hours and do most of their charging at night when there is unused generating capacity. Think of it as something similar to the behind-the-grid solar panel technologies being used now, but for vehicles.


On Guam, Atkins Kroll has added the 2021 Toyota Sienna to its line-up. While not a full EV, it is touted to be “hybrid done right” with no need to recharge the hybrid battery pack and no need to spend a couple of thousand dollars installing a battery charger in the garage. The Toyota hybrid system charges the hybrid battery automatically as the vehicle drives.


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In the CNMI, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. (CUC) announced in January that it was looking into the possibility of acquiring EVs for its service fleets. "Heavy electric vehicles can go 300 miles without recharging and are perfect for an island setting," said Gary Camacho, CUC executive director. He added that charging ports would be needed, and they would have to create those, at the CUC facilities in order to do this.


Indeed, exciting times are ahead in the vehicle industry. My guess is that this smart-EV combination will be disruptive. It is only a matter of time before it becomes the norm rather than a novelty. In connected cities, smart self-driving, mostly electric, cars are likely to become commonplace.


Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla among other companies, has often been quoted to have said, “We will not stop until every car on the road is electric."

To that end, he may be right. Deloitte forecasts that EVs will account for 32 percent of sales by 2030.


Look at how far along we’ve come since its first discussion more than 10 years ago. With these developments, our lives will yet again change, becoming more smart and easy, err EV.


Joy Santamarina is the chief transformation officer of Energy Development Corp. She has extensive experience across the APAC region in various sectors including FMCG, telecommunications, media, and technology industries. Send feedback to joysantamarina@gmail.com




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