Big Data

Toyota partners with Microsoft on new data science company, Toyota Connected

To advance its work in data analytics and connected cars, Toyota recently partnered with Microsoft on a new company based in Plano, Texas called Toyota Connected.

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Image: Antuan Goodwin/CNET

On Monday, Toyota launched Toyota Connected, Inc., a new company that will serve to expand the automaker's abilities in data center management, data science, and data management. Toyota Connected is a collaboration between Toyota and Microsoft, as the company will use Microsoft Azure to build and deliver its data-based tools and services.

According to a press release announcing the company, the services provided by Toyota Connected will be "predictive, contextual, and intuitive."

SEE: Research: Big data and IOT - Benefits, drawbacks, usage trends (Tech Pro Research)

Zack Hicks, CEO of Toyota Connected and CIO at Toyota Motor North America, said that could mean anything: "From telematics services that learn from your habits and preferences, to use-based insurance pricing models that respond to actual driving patterns, to connected vehicle networks that can share road condition and traffic information, our goal is to deliver services that make lives easier."

Toyota Connected will be based in Plano, Texas, and will house employees from both Toyota and Microsoft. In addition to delivering data-backed services, the company will also be using data across its product development chain. The new company began as a startup that was seed funded, with Microsoft taking a 5% stake in Toyota Connected as a strategic partner.

Toyota began restructuring back in March 2016, abandoning its function-based structure in favor of a structure that is product-based. Toyota Connected will continue Toyota's work in the connected car space, as well as advance its work in data analytics. According to the press release, specific areas of focus will be in-car services, telematics, connected home, IoT, personalization, safety, smart cities, and more tools for dealership and fleet services.

On a conference call discussing the announcement, Hicks gave an example of a contextual feature that could aggregate data on multiple anti-lock brake events in an area, and deduce that there might be ice on the road. It could then share information with other cars in the area to drive safer and with local government to get the ice removed.

Additionally, Toyota Connected will support existing artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics work being done by the Toyota Research Institute. As mentioned, Hicks will serve as CEO, and Toyota Motor Corporation senior managing officer Shigeki Tomoyama will serve as chairman.

Microsoft and Toyota first partnered up back in 2011 on a next-generation telematics system. Toyota's goal at the time was to establish a global cloud platform to provide better telematics services to its customers. The company's announcement today could be seen as the next step in Toyota's overall goal to leverage the cloud for its connected car initiatives.

SEE: CES 2016: Carmakers kick off the year with big moves in autonomous vehicles (TechRepublic)

Connected cars have been a growing trend for years, and the 2016 CES was evidence that connected cars, telematics, and autonomous vehicles are moving to the forefront in the automotive industry. At the event, major manufacturers such as Volvo, GM, Ford, Nissan, and Toyota announced their plans for embracing the trend. At the time, Toyota announced that it was going to adopt Ford's SmartDeviceLink (SDL) platform for connecting mobile apps in the car.

The announcement of Toyota Connected is a big win for Microsoft, which has been positioning itself as a key partner for some of the major manufacturers in the connected car space. At CES, Volvo, Nissan, Harman, and IAV all revealed new partnerships with Microsoft.

As automakers race to bring new innovations to the market, technology providers are working to be the de facto partners for those innovations.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Microsoft is partnering with Toyota on a new data science company called Toyota Connected. This new company will take over Toyota's efforts in the connected car space and in data management and data analytics.
  2. In addition to in-car services and telematics, Toyota Connected will provide connected personalization and contextual tools, as well as connected home and safety products. Toyota Connected will also work with Toyota Research on AI and robotics.
  3. The partnership is indicative of the race between automakers to stay innovative, and the war between technology providers to be the partner of choice for connected car manufacturers.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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