“We make cars talk.”
This is how Springworks’ Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Kristofer Sommestad describes the company’s connected-car technology SPARK.
Through SPARK, Springworks is helping to drive the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution in personal transport. It connects car owners with key data about their vehicles, ensuring they have the information they need to keep themselves safe on the road. So it can tell you if your car needs to be serviced, whether you’re driving in an “eco-friendly” way, or—the example Sommestad gives—when you should be switching to your winter tires. This is particularly important in Sweden, the market in which SPARK is coming to life first.
“We want to help everyone connect their cars,” says Sommestad. “Ultimately, our market is any car that has an on-board diagnostics port, so we’re looking at around 300 million cars in Europe and 3 million cars in Sweden.”
In the near term, Springworks is aiming to connect 20 million cars across Europe by 2020.
IoT is everywhere, connecting us more closely than ever before to information about nearly everything—from our home heating systems to the cities we live in. And in the connected-car market, automotive manufacturers aren’t the only organizations making a mark. Technology companies such as Springworks are playing a big role in creating new experiences for consumers.
The wealth of data that car owners can access with the help of SPARK—from journey information and location tracking to various types of alerts concerning car maintenance—isn’t just valuable because it helps them understand their cars better. Mobile operators can use this data to link car owners and service providers such as insurance firms, car park companies, or car repair shops. This gives car owners easy access to the services they need when they need them and opens up new revenue streams for mobile operators and service providers.
In Springworks’ home market of Sweden, SPARK is the software behind Telia Sense, an IoT service launched by TeliaSonera in November 2016. It provides connected-car services to the telecoms operator’s subscribers through an app on their mobile phones.
Working with Sweden’s largest mobile operator, Springworks knew it needed a highly scalable and secure infrastructure. A big challenge in IoT in every sector is the sheer volume of data from masses of sources that has to be collected, analyzed, and kept safe. “Each car generates about 10,000 data points every day,” says Sommestad. “And we want to connect millions of cars, so we needed to know we had the ability to cope with billions of data points from day one.
“We have a background in building platforms for online games,” he continues, “and in doing that we’ve tried various infrastructure setups over the years, from collocation services to physical racks at our offices. We’d seen the problems that arise when infrastructure gets in the way of global growth, and we didn’t want to make the same mistakes with our connected-car platform.”
According to Sommestad, choosing Amazon Web Services (AWS) over other cloud providers was easy. “We have world-class ambitions,” he says. “So we just looked at which provider could help us achieve those ambitions. AWS gives us the tools we need to run IoT workloads, helping us address the massive scale and security challenges related to IoT.”
Scaling had been a challenge with Springworks’ previous projects, but Sommestad says he and the team don’t worry about that anymore. “With AWS, we have really powerful APIs that can scale very well. It doesn’t matter if we have 100 or 1 million connected cars. The environment we’ve created in the AWS Cloud is built to scale. Testament to this is the fact that I wasn’t even slightly nervous when TeliaSonera launched Telia Sense. I have 100% confidence that the system can scale without limits.
“It’s a powerful, flexible system,” he continues, “but the beauty is that it’s easy to operate. We can be a team of 30 rather than a team of 3,000, and we don’t have to have an entire department that just manages infrastructure. We’ve eliminated the need for an operations department, which saves us potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and means we can direct our efforts and resources towards making our technology the best out there. This is ultimately how we can attract more mobile operators to use SPARK in their IoT offerings to their own customers.”
Sommestad is a big fan of automation, and Springworks uses the AWS Lambda compute service to run code automatically in response to events. “From generating financial reports to scheduling notifications, there are hundreds of regular tasks that take an hour here or 30 minutes there,” he says. “It all adds up. AWS Lambda is a great platform for automation, and we’re always looking at additional ways to use it to help us be competitive in the fast-moving connected-car market.”
Using AWS, Springworks’ developers can focus on getting new features to market fast. About 300 percent faster, according to Sommestad. “Speed is crucial in the IoT market,” he says. “There are lots of firms out there trying to create the ubiquitous connectivity that users today demand,” he says. “With our previous setups we could ship a new feature every two weeks, but now we can get four new features to market in that same period. This is helping us give customers increased functionality and hopefully a better, more relevant experience.”
“The companies that we work with—telecoms operators and insurance firms, among others—need solid assurances that our technology is secure,” says Sommestad, who found that by using AWS security features—including AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) and AWS CloudTrail—the firm could easily create a secure environment.
“Building a similar system with all the necessary compliance would have taken us twice the time without AWS,” says the CTO. “That means we wouldn’t have gotten to market yet; we’d still be building our infrastructure for another two or three years.”
It’s clear Springworks isn’t short on ambition. Along with its target of connecting 20 million vehicles across Europe by 2020, it wants to be a core contributor to the connected-car market globally. This means staying ahead of the IoT curve. “With our trusted platform, we can bring SPARK to markets across the globe. We’re building new partnerships with mobile operators and other service providers every day.”
The next step for Springworks is to find new ways to use the data it is collecting. “We want to understand what we could do better,” Sommestad says. “How can we help mobile operators and service providers increase their revenue opportunities while making car ownership even easier? We’re looking forward exploring data analysis to make our service even more useful.”
Learn how AWS can help you can focus on developing applications that fit your needs with IoT.