Vodafone McLarenMobile phone giant Vodafone is to buy Italian vehicle security and telematics specialist Cobra Automotive Technologies for £115 million in a deal believed to be part of its expansion into the connected car market.

Cobra is a Tier 1 supplier to the automotive industry for security, safety and telematics solutions: by buying it, Vodafone has an instant link into the European and Asian new car supply chain.

“The combination of Vodafone and Cobra will create a new global provider of connected car services,” Erik Brenneis, director of M2M at Vodafone, told Reuters. “We plan to invest in the business to offer our automotive and insurance customers a full range of telematics services.”

Vodafone-Cobra: thinking Internet of Things?

M2M, or ‘machine to machine’ communications – or ‘the Internet of Things’ – is believed by many to be the next big technological growth area. It has particular potential in the automotive world, where reliable car-to-car communications has big potential to improve road safety.

Many manufacturers are already working on car-to-car safety systems and the Vodafone-Cobra deal, bringing together the world’s second-largest mobile phone company with Europe’s leading stolen vehicle tracking and location services company, will be seen by manufacturers as a significant development.

10% of cars currently offer built-in internet connectivity, says British firm Machina Research. By 2020, it predicts this will rise to 90%.