In part 1 of this blog series, I spoke about how dependable mobile connectivity keeps vehicles on the road longer, and some of the benefits it can offer enterprises managing fleets. Dependable in-vehicle connectivity allows businesses and organisations to better serve their customers and in some cases, save lives.
I now want to discuss the challenges and best practices of connected vehicles, says Hubert Da Costa, VP EMEA at Cradlepoint, and how to ensure network reliability and security.
Challenges & best practices
Decision makers need to move strategically when deploying mobile connectivity solutions. Following industry best practices is important, but viewing the fleet network not as a separate technical endeavour, but rather as an extension of the organisation’s existing systems is central to long-term success. The mobile network should be deployed to integrate seamlessly with existing infrastructure, extending the same control, visibility and security of the branch network to the road.
For instance, monitoring, maintenance and updates are often a problem for fleet managers. For optimal operation, wireless routers require regular software and firmware updates, configuration, maintenance, and troubleshooting. Many organisations, however, are logistically unable to dock their fleet several times a week in a centralised location to install updates, fix issues, or transmit data.
A software-defined, cloud-based remote management platform can be deployed to enable firmware updates, configurations, security patches, and maintenance of wireless devices from a remote location while ensuring that sensitive data always stays safe. Mobile routers on a cellular network use dynamic, private IP addresses, so fleet managers will need a management platform that does not require a static IP to connect to the router.
The router and antenna need to be placed correctly in a vehicle to maintain reliable connectivity. It is vital for routers to be installed with an understanding of the physical and virtual barriers that may hinder or even sever connectivity. The number of devices needed to best serve passengers should be calculated based on anticipated usage.
How to ensure network reliability and security
Many organisations use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to give their mobile employees access to important data and applications housed at the organisation’s data centre. For fleet employees, from truck drivers to police officers, every minute counts; connecting to a VPN wastes precious time.
The need to connect to the VPN can become a significant source of frustration and wasted time if the vehicle must reconnect every time the LTE signal temporarily drops. Instead, fleet enterprises could consider deploying a software-defined virtual overlay network that can function as a mobile Local Area Network (LAN) — keeping vehicles authorised on the network even when the LTE signal is temporarily interrupted.
For organisations offering guest Wi-Fi to passengers and requiring applications that carry critical data, it is best to implement a Parallel Network, or physically air-gapped network, for maximum network security. This will stop hackers from gaining access to sensitive applications within in-vehicle networks by pivoting from other areas, such as the guest Wi-Fi or digital signage.
These technologies can help businesses overcome the challenges faced when deploying in-vehicle connectivity. The network is no longer limited to the four walls of the branch. It extends to every road and street an organisation’s vehicles may traverse. It’s elastic, and needs to expand and contract effortlessly.
Those tasked with implementing these Elastic Edge networks need to consider a wider framework with connectivity for the vehicles, people and devices it now houses. For many, the most effective route will be a solution that provides a ‘single-pane-of-glass’ overview of their whole network — and extends the control and security enjoyed at the branch, to the road.
The author of this blog is Hubert Da Costa,VP EMEA at Cradlepoint