Volvo signs with Ericsson for cloud-based in-car apps, probably including Spotify

Volvo is getting into the connected car game, and it should come as no surprise to see Ericsson sign on to power the car manufacturer’s cloud-based systems.

The Swedish companies, which are already collaborating in an electric vehicle charging consortium, revealed their deal on Monday. It appears Ericsson’s ‘Connected Vehicle Cloud’ platform will be powering in-car communication, apps and infotainment services, and that the comms company will also be acting as systems integrator and managed services provider over the coming seven years.

Volvo enterprise architecture director Jona Ronnkvist told me that this will be an upgrade, rather than replacement, for the manufacturer’s existing Sensus in-car platform. It will be rolled out in all of the company’s cars in the coming years.

Volvo is Ericsson’s first customer to take on the Connected Vehicle Cloud. Interestingly, while Ericsson systems integration chief Paolo Colella told me the platform can be pretty open if the customer so wishes, it seems Volvo’s implementation will be semi-closed. In a release, Volvo said it will partner with “internet radio providers, road authorities, cities’ governments, toll-road operators and others” for functionality.

There have been reports that Spotify (also a Swedish company, of course) will be one of the first services to roll out on the system. I’ve heard this independently too, but when I spoke to Volvo enterprise architecture director Jonas Ronnkvist he refused to confirm or deny the tie-in. He did, however, say the first applications to show up on the system would be infotainment-skewed, rather than for aftermarket sales and services.

And those aftermarket sales and services are going to be a big part of Volvo’s upgraded Sensus. One of the great things about modern cars is the way in which their built-in sensors can pick up on problems before they become serious failures – Volvo is very keen to push the ability to then make online service bookings straight from the car, based on those diagnostics.

One interesting aspect of the deal is Volvo’s choice of Ericsson for systems integration and managed services. In the U.S., carriers such as Sprint and Verizon have been pursuing this role, but it seems Ericsson can offer something extra in terms of time-to-market.

“Ericsson is a global provider to operators,” Ronnkvist told me. “They are a perfect fit to support our global launch of connectivity services. We’re not focusing on this country-by-country.”

However, to some extent Volvo will be approaching different markets in different ways. In some countries the services may rely on built-in in-car connectivity, while in others the driver’s smartphone will provide the necessary internet access.

Either way, the system can always fall back to the customer’s phone – and in any case, it looks as though the apps will be mostly hosted in the cloud anyway, making the technology built into the vehicle less relevant than it might otherwise be.