OTA and Telematics: The Building Blocks for Software-Defined Vehicles

iWave Systems
4 min readAug 31, 2023


OTA and Telematics: A Building Block for SDV

The Rise of Software Defined Vehicles

Connectivity has come a long way since the invention of the cell phone and the internet. From hot tubs to doorbells, climate systems, and refrigerators, almost every device that contains electronics has the potential to become connected. But perhaps one of the most impressive developments in connectivity is the software-defined vehicle (SDV).

The automotive industry’s shift to a software-first approach comes with a multitude of benefits including personalized features, enhanced safety, and improved functionality. Additionally, the experience of the end user becomes more and more important in the design of SDVs. Automakers need to implement supportive technologies and solutions, such as over-the-air (OTA) technology and powerful telematics units to keep up with this accelerating rate of change and feature development.

The Importance of OTA

OTA updates not only expand the realm of what is possible for automakers in regards to enhancing the customer experience; they are also instrumental in maintaining the safety, functionality, and security of the next generation of software-defined vehicles. With OTA, manufacturers can communicate directly with each vehicle in their fleet and perform feature upgrades and enhancements via the telematics unit.

OTA Updates in ECUs
Block Diagram of OTA Updates in ECUs

While most manufacturers have some type of OTA solution, many are ill-equipped to support more robust updates, commands, and diagnostics. As such, most software faults and glitches still require a trip to the dealer to be diagnosed and mediated. In other words, OEMs have a limited view of what is happening in their vehicles and a limited ability to fix issues that arise.

However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Sibros’ Deep Connected Platform is an out-of-the-box solution that enables safety-critical updates to all electronic control units (ECUs) and deep vehicle diagnostics to proactively identify faults during every part of the vehicle lifecycle — from design to decommissioning. This approach provides automakers with a single source of truth, holistic visibility of vehicle health and functionality, and a means of maintaining and enhancing their products once they’ve left the lot.

Importance of Powerful Telematics Units for OTA Updates

The telematics control unit (TCU) is the gateway or bridge between the cloud and the different ECUs or subsystems that exist within the vehicle. It receives OTA updates, which are transmitted from the cloud via wireless and cellular networks, and then executes distribution and installation. The telematics unit also provides access to in-vehicle data, which can be logged to the cloud and used for troubleshooting and advanced data analytics.

To ensure the connection between the vehicle and the cloud server is secure, TCUs must be equipped with several key features:

  • Long-Term Evolution (LTE) connectivity to ensure a stable connection to the cloud and retrieve firmware update packages from the server.
  • Multiple CAN ports to access vehicle ECUs
  • Ability to store packages for efficient updates and data collection
  • Security including the ability to sign and certify images and updates

Having a powerful Linux telematics unit enables automakers to harness the value of connected vehicle data with greater intelligence and improved analytics. It also provides a base for OEMs to build and integrate custom applications that work seamlessly with existing vehicle hardware. Finally, Linux TCUs maintain data integrity by providing a secure execution environment and preventing unauthorized device access.

The Future of the SDV

If there is one thing we know for certain in the automotive industry, it’s that technology is constantly changing and evolving. Many vehicle features of today will be out of date in five years and customers will always want the latest and greatest. The combination of a robust telematics unit and dependable OTA software is crucial to an OEM’s future success.

This dynamic combination of hardware and software provides automakers with the data required to improve vehicles and the means of executing those improvements. Together, Sibros’ Deep Connected Platform and iWave’s TCUs:

  • Ensure functionality and reliability throughout the vehicle life cycle
  • Mitigate and even prevent software-related recalls
  • Improve the customer experience
  • Enable faster time to market
  • Update vehicles with the latest features and software versions
  • Diagnose vehicle health issues and faults
  • Support maintenance and calibration efforts for safety-critical systems such as ADAS and AI-based features

OTA and TCUs are the building blocks automakers need to build better, safer, more efficient, and more reliable software-defined vehicles. To learn more about iWave and Sibros’ solutions contact us at mktg@iwavesystems.com.