Ford has announced that it will partner with Microsoft Azure to automate updates to automobile software such as its Sync 3 infotainment system as well as functionality that enables owners to check battery levels and remotely start, lock, unlock or locate their vehicles. As a result of the partnership with Azure, Ford vehicle owners with Sync entertainment and navigation systems will no longer need to take their cars to the dealership for periodic software upgrades, but can instead leverage the car’s ability to connect to a wireless network to download enhancements to Sync. The Azure-based Ford Service Delivery Network will launch this summer at no extra cost to end users. Use cases enabled by the partnership between Azure and Ford are illustrated below:
Despite Ford’s readiness to use long-time technology partner Microsoft for the purpose of leveraging a public cloud, the Dearborn-based automobile giant prefers to use on-premise infrastructures for more sensitive data such as odometer readings, engine-related system data and performance metrics that reveal details about the operation of the vehicle. Moreover, part of the reason Ford chose Microsoft was because of its willingness to support a hybrid cloud infrastructure marked by an integration between an on premise data center environment and a public cloud such as Azure. As reported in InformationWeek, Microsoft will also help Ford with the processing and analysis of data given the massive amounts of data that stand to be collected for its fleet of electric and non-electric vehicles. Ford’s Fusion electric vehicle, for example, creates 25 GB of data per hour and subsequently requires the application of pre-processing and filtering procedures to reduce the amount of data to a point that renders its aggregation manageable for reporting and analytics purposes. Ford’s larger decision to partner with Azure represents a growing industry trend within the automobile industry to use cloud-based technology to push software updates to vehicles and gather data for compliance and product development reasons that includes the likes of Hyundai and Tesla. The key challenge for Ford, and the automobile industry at large, of course, will hinge on its ability to acquire internet of things-related automobile data and subsequently perform real-time analytics to reduce recalls, fatalities and facilitate more profound enhancements in engineering-related research and development. Details of which Ford vehicles stand to benefit from Azure-powered software delivery this summer have yet to be disclosed.