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Accelerating innovation: why the future of connected cars is data driven

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In the vast, ever-expanding ecosystem of connected devices we call the Internet of Things, where does the humble car fit? Smart sensors, software and connectivity into cloud-based systems are increasingly turning our mundane “A-to-B” vehicles into giant mobile computers. But to what end? What do consumers really want from their connected cars? And where are the opportunities for manufacturers and ecosystem players?

Microsoft believes it has the answer. And its Connected Vehicle Platform, launched at CES last month, is already helping industry partners to accelerate innovation and develop differentiated in-car experiences for their customers.

Driving innovation

We might still be some way off Back to the Future-style flying cars, but the rapid pace of technological innovation is finally beginning to match ever-rising consumer expectations in the automotive industry. Gartner (Michael Ramsey and James F Hines; Master the Four Stages of Connected-Vehicle Evolution to Lead the Renaissance of the Automobile; Gartner; December 30, 2016) estimates that by 2020, 80% of all new vehicle models in mature markets will have data connectivity, and 30% of connected-vehcile models will have built-in, function-level,over-the-air (OTA) software capabilities.

Even policy-makers are on board. The UK government recently pledged £390 million in funding for the development of autonomous vehicles, while EU commissioner Gunther Oettinger has claimed he wants Europe to be a global leader in connected cars. It’s no surprise that the global market for connected car technology is forecast to reach $141 billion by 2020.

In this context, Microsoft launched its Connected Vehicle Platform – an effort designed to offer car makers and industry partners all the building blocks they need to create “custom connected driving experiences”, according to Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice-President of Business Development.

“This is not an in-car operating system or a ‘finished product’; it’s a living, agile platform that starts with the cloud as the foundation and aims to address five core scenarios that our partners have told us are key priorities: predictive maintenance, improved in-car productivity, advanced navigation, customer insights and help building autonomous driving capabilities,” she explained at its launch.

“Microsoft’s cloud will do the heavy lifting by ingesting huge volumes of sensor and usage data from connected vehicles, and then helping automakers apply that data in powerful ways … It brings Microsoft’s intelligent services from across the company right into the car, including virtual assistants, business applications, office services and productivity tools like Cortana, Dynamics, Office 365, Power BI and Skype for Business.”

Clive Longbottom, founder of analyst house Quocirca, argued that the platform should go some way to overcoming users’ frustrations with proprietary in-car technologies.

“It is now time that all car manufacturers adopted a far more open approach using a…

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