Electric car firm Tesla's products are almost as talkative as the company's CEO. They constantly ET* to allow the company to check that the battery is in tip-top condition, the car isn’t being driven badly or that the owner isn’t thinking negative thoughts about Tesla.
The company can collect a huge amount of data, although CEO Elon Musk says: “Tesla data logging is only turned on with explicit written permission from customers, but after Top Gear BS, we always keep it on for media.”
The battery thing is very important because there is an issue with the Tesla Roadster (note, not the S) where if the super-expensive lithium ion batteries go completely flat – flat beyond charging – they have to be replaced.
If you thought the bill for having a new battery fitted for your iPhone was big, that’s just peanuts to the $40,000 it costs to replace a Tesla Roadster’s cells.
Making sure the Tesla can keep in touch is therefore pretty important. Tesla can at least tell you that someone has plugged the lawnmower into the garage socket charger and left your car to go flat.
So Telefonica has proudly announced that it’s the M2M (machine to machine) partner for Tesla's Model S electro-car: "Telefonica and its M2M World Alliance partners will provide connectivity for Model S across multiple countries in Europe, including in Germany and the United Kingdom on Telefonica’s O2 network, in Spain on Movistar, and in the Netherlands on KPN.”
The M2M alliance incorporates technology which is delivered by M2M specialists Jasper Wireless, and is a collaboration between Etisalat, KPN, NTT DOCOMO, Rogers, SingTel, Telefónica, Telstra and Vimpelcom.
The Tesla deal is the first gear-phoning-home deal for the Alliance, and it's one that makes a lot of sense. If you make ATMs or slot machines you can do a deal with a local mobile operator, as those devices are not supposed to move around internationally. Cars, even electric ones, do, however, have the habit of crossing international borders. This means roaming, complete with all the associated costs.
Jasper Wireless has deals with enough networks to not incur the roaming costs. This makes for a very efficient solution for all concerned. It also has a number of benefits for M2M applications where the device is static. An ATM manufacturer might make a lot of machines globally but not want to negotiate separate M2M contracts for each country, especially those where they might not sell very many machines. Being able to put the same SIM into every machine on the production line is less hassle.
Macario Namie, marketing veep at Jasper Wireless explained to The Register: “Jasper does not 'own' any SIMs. These always belong to the mobile operator. Alliances among the operators allow for commercial leadership to an enterprise account and the ability to maintain a single SIM SKU in the manufacturing line that can be re-provisioned over-the-air from one operator to another. All for the benefit of the enterprise – enterprises want simplicity in the form of fewer contracts, fewer vendors and fewer manufacturing parts. Jasper's cloud platform enables these alliances to be managed seamlessly across all parties.”
What remains to be seen is how the mobile networks will sell M2M, which is traditionally 2G and low traffic on 4G. Perhaps they need the cars to be that much more talkative.
ET phone home – geddit? Oh, never mind...