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Cloud Computing and your Car – Part 1

Cloud Computing and your Car – Part 1

Cars define America. If a non-American were asked to define the nation, skyscrapers, cars and Hollywood would definitely be part of the definition. For long, automobiles have been at the forefront of American innovation, giving rise to the Big Three of American Auto – General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. However, ensconced in their secure market, they failed to realize the challenges posed by foreign automakers until it was too late. Consequently, Toyota unseated GM as the world’s leading automaker. The recession that followed next dragged down sales for all automakers, even Toyota, while pushing GM towards bankruptcy. However, things have improved since then and automakers are looking to give customers a more complete driving experience. And cloud computing is looking to help automakers achieve just that.

Even in this, Toyota seems to have stolen a march over its rivals. Back in April, I had written about how the Japanese automaker had tied up with Microsoft to introduce cloud technology in its vehicles (See: Cars on the Cloud: Microsoft and Toyota Join Hands in Cloud Computing Space). Although still a work-in-progress, it did open up a world of myriad possibilities, from remotely controlling home equipment to scheduling charge-ups for an electric vehicle. This article builds on the earlier one, and includes some expert observations as well.

Here’s what Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff had to say about cars and cloud computing: “The CEO of Toyota came over to my house and he said, ‘What am I supposed to do with my company?’ And I kind of was, ‘Well, I’m not exactly sure.’ I looked down and I grabbed my hat and I pulled a rabbit out of it, and I said, ‘You need a friend and your friend should be your car in the way of a Toyota Corolla and a Toyota Tacoma.’ And the Toyota Friend should be a car on the social network that is talking to you. Then as we start to build it out for him, I started to lay out all the things that he should do for Toyota – build the Toyota Friend, put in Chatter and build an employee social network, get your sales force aligned, custom build his customer service, get his dealers onboard, get it rebuilt with these kind of legacy factory applications, and build this integrated environment. At the end of it, I’m like, ‘Wow, what is this?’ And after we looked at it, we’re like, ‘Well, are we building a customer Cloud? Is that what it is?’ And we’re like ‘Well, that’s not exactly it.’ And then we’re like, ‘This is really the social enterprise. This is the next step in business‘.”

As is evident from Mr. Benioff’s anecdote, he envisions the creation of a social network exclusively for Toyota, connecting owners, dealers, customer service representatives, etc. As a Toyota customer, this should greatly enhance your driving experience by allowing you to interact with other Toyota owners, your dealer and the Toyota customer service seamlessly. For the company, not only will this lead to greater customer satisfaction, it will also allow optimization of resources to ensure those customers are satisfied with maximum efficiency and minimum cost.

In Part 2 of this two-part article, I will explore what Michael Kogeler, director of cloud strategy for Microsoft, has to say about this meeting of cloud computing and automotive technologies.

By Sourya Biswas

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