AL-KO Vehicle Technology Electronics is making motorhomes smart

Everything in the motorhome that is electrically or digitally addressable can be accessed and controlled through the AL-KO VTE Gateway ONDA via an app. The only thing you still need hands at the wheel for is driving. 

IoT in the motorhome

More than just recipes from the fridge

When the toaster tells the fridge to please put another loaf of bread on the shopping list, that is pretty much the definition of a smart home. For campers, a smart home is primarily about getting the basics right: checking the fill level of the gas bottle, water tank or batteries from the living room or switching on the lights, auxiliary heating or air conditioning system on your way back to the vehicle.

Andreas Kling, Head of Electronics Development in Research and Development at AL-KO VT in Kötz, is responsible for close cooperation with the subsidiary AL-KO VTE: “Digitalisation opens a massive range of possibilities. It is important to us that we bring together as many vehicle components as possible – the various possible supplier components and measurement sensors as well as the base vehicle’s on-board information to make them accessible through a single app.”

Brain and nervous system

AL-KO VTE can be both

AL-KO Vehicle Technology Electronics, or AL-KO VTE for short, with its headquarters in Trento, Italy, is the result of the merger of CBE and Nordelettronica and brings essential expertise to the table. “AL-KO VTE not only offers everything to do with motorhome electrics, but also the wiring harnesses through which all information flows together centrally. It also provides the control and touch panels with the software that allows electrical control and data readout within the vehicle,” says Kling. This is how the company can supply both the brain and nervous system for the Internet of Things in the motorhome. This internal network can also be connected to the base vehicle’s data bus system via a corresponding interface.

Alessandro Chies, Head of Sales at AL-KO VTE, explains: “The network lets you control the charging management as well as the steady legs, the electric awning, the lighting or the wastewater level. The new interface now also adds the vehicle’s connection to the internet cloud.”

Remote control via app

A connection to the external digital world

Wireless control is possible via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or voice commands. Every function in and on the vehicle can be accessed using a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone and the AL-KO VTE app, whether from the driver’s seat, the settee in the living area or even the bathroom if required. Alexa can also travel with you as a helpful motorhome assistant. The Wi-Fi connection allows the controls to be used remotely. This does not change the control functionality or the accessibility of on-board data.

As Kling says: “When it comes to sensitive vehicle data in the internet cloud, we naturally comply with strict European data protection guidelines.” Customers decide which data packets end up online and who can access them there. Once the connection is established, the information can be used to create analyses of consumption and the use of individual components on your computer at home. And if those carefree holiday spirits lead you to forget where you left your vehicle, you can be guided back to it precisely using the app and geolocation. This function can also come in handy if your vehicle is stolen. 

Top Priority Cybersecurity

In-house software development

The software for the new gateway ONDA, including the smartphone app, demanded finesse from the development engineers. As Kling explains: “This is not an off-the-shelf product; it requires a lot of background knowledge. In-depth product expertise and security aspects are good motivations for us to keep these issues in-house.” Accordingly, AL-KO VT also employs its own cybersecurity manager, who keeps an eye on developments in data security at distinct levels of the company.  Another reason for programming in-house is what AL-KO VT sees as the future potential of the data topic.

“Our partners are just as enterprising and creative as we are when it comes to digitalisation. Having our own team allows us to react with extreme flexibility and deliver testable versions of a new function within a few weeks,” says Andrea Lombardi, Sales Manager at AL-KO VTE. “We are in close exchange with our partners and are resolutely driving the topic of digitalisation forward and using our expertise to open up completely new business fields.” Neither Lombardi nor Kling leave any doubt that AL-KO VT will continue steadfastly on the path towards further digitalisation and expanding in the direction of IoT. The current gateway called ONDA together with the app tows the company another step in that direction.