Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform Helps Automakers Transform Cars


By Peggy Johnson as written on blogs.microsoft.com

Renault-Nissan is first auto manufacturer to commit to platform to build connected cars
Traditional automakers, many of whom ushered in an era of incredible disruption nearly a century ago, now face disruption themselves from four modern forces — connected, autonomous, shared and electric cars. The infrastructure and scale required to build a connected car is incredibly complicated, expensive and resource intensive. At its core, it’s a software challenge, and a chief obstacle for these brands is integrating the complex cloud technology required to deliver next-generation driving experiences.
Today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we announced the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform, a set of services built on the Microsoft Azure cloud and designed to empower auto manufacturers to create custom connected driving experiences. 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.
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.
Available as a public preview later this year, 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.
Today, the car is more than just a ride between two places — it is a hub of activity for daily life. People are looking to have truly connected experiences in their cars so that they can get more done, save time and make life easier. While safety and security are baseline requirements, our services can help make a person’s work day more efficient. For instance, imagine that Cortana seamlessly connects you whether you’re at home or in your car. Let’s say you’re on your phone at home and tell Cortana to set up a meeting for you and your colleague the next morning at a coffee shop. The next time you get in your car, Cortana reminds you of the morning meeting and starts navigation to get you to that coffee shop.
Check out our video below to hear more about how the platform works and the benefits it offers to automakers and drivers.

Auto manufacturers embrace Microsoft’s technology
Our strength in building a global cloud at scale is the primary reason the Renault-Nissan Alliance chose to work with Microsoft, becoming the first auto manufacturer to commit to the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform. Today in Nissan’s CES keynote, the company announced that through our partnership with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, our platform will power next-generation, connected vehicles with advanced navigation, predictive maintenance, remote monitoring of car features and more. Nissan also demonstrated on stage how Cortana can enhance a driver’s experience. In addition, Azure offers the flexibility and choice to build a common platform for Renault-Nissan to deploy services to both Alliance brands by supporting devices and vehicles that run on multiple operating systems, programming languages and tools.
This partnership builds on our recent momentum with other automotive companies, such as our announcement this past week with Volvo to integrate Skype for Business in Volvo’s 90 Series cars, which will enhance productivity and make joining conference calls from the car a cinch. And we’ve partnered with BMW on BMW Connected, the automaker’s personal mobility companion service, to develop a scalable platform based on Microsoft Azure technologies to deliver in-car productivity services through Office 365, as well as intelligent personal assistance for drivers.
Microsoft a partner instead of a competitor
As you may have gathered, Microsoft is not building its own connected car. Instead, we want to help automakers create connected car solutions that fit seamlessly with their brands, address their customers’ unique needs, competitively differentiate their products and generate new and sustainable revenue streams. Our customers have shared that they want to work with a partner that not only offers the right tools, but also allows them to keep their data, has a secure and compliant cloud platform, and operates at a truly global scale (given that most automotive brands operate in more than one country). In fact, 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies already rely on Microsoft’s cloud for these reasons.
Using our platform, automakers and suppliers can benefit from the billions of dollars we’ve already invested in the cloud. Azure offers more than 200 services available in 38 worldwide datacenter regions, with robust measures for security and the global compliance and privacy regulations that are required to support connected cars, letting automakers focus on innovation rather than building out their own cloud-based infrastructure.
Ultimately, Microsoft aspires to empower automakers in their goals for fully autonomous driving, with sophisticated machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities, as well as advanced mapping services. In fact, just last month we announced that through new and existing relationships with TomTom, HERE and Esri, together we will create more intelligent location-based services across Microsoft.
As a company, it’s our mission to empower all industries and businesses not only to survive disruption, but to seize it as an opportunity. The investments we’re making in the automotive space extend to countless other industries, such as financial services, manufacturing and smart cities. Wherever there’s a “connected signal,” Microsoft wants to be the partner that can help its customers improve people’s lives — on the road, in the cloud and everywhere in between.

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How The Growth Of Mixed Reality Will Change Communication, Collaboration And The Future Of The Workplace

As written by Pete Sena (@petesena) on TechCrunch.com
Sci-fi tech, meet Wall Street.
A recent report from investment bank Goldman Sachs predicted that within 10 years, virtual reality hardware will be an $80 billion industry. This “base case” forecast assumed that adoption will be slow, as compared to that of smartphones and tablets, but, the report noted, “as the technology advances, price points decline, and an entire new marketplace of applications (both business and consumer) hits the market, we believe VR/AR has the potential to spawn a multi-billion dollar industry, and possibly be as game changing as the advent of the PC.”
While the conversation around VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) often focuses on gaming and video entertainment, the Goldman report theorizes that these use cases will account for less than half of the software market.


As a sometimes-gamer, it’s fun to think about strapping on a headset and diving headfirst into my favorite virtual worlds. But to limit our imagination to these applications is ignoring the unlimited potential of a hybrid reality created by augmented and virtual technology to affect every business and industry.
By combining analog, two-dimensional ways of working with new mixed–reality experiences, we can transform our ability to communicate, collaborate and create. The challenge for businesses will not be to provide a more immersive experience, but a more valuable experience.

The continued disruption of communication modalities

Message carriers were put out of work by the telegraph, the telephone was disrupted by the Internet and the good old-fashioned conference call was replaced by VoIP video conferences and screen-share-enabled unified communications systems.
Before the Internet, the historical evolution of long-distance communication technology was always toward replicating human connection in its clearest form: a face-to-face conversation. The telegraph may have missed the human voice, but its relative speed was a step toward an immediate verbal response.
Ironically enough, the first words spoken across a telephone line in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant Thomas A. Watson were, “Mr. Watson, come here — I want to see you.”
Most digital communication across the Internet lacks the verbal, facial and body language cues of a face-to-face conversation, but the reach of our messages and the media at our disposal (photos, videos, memes, gifs, articles, etc.) has made it a medium of undeniable allure and value.
Why would I call a friend on the phone and tell them about a great concert when I can post a status and let all my friends know at once, all while showing them a video of me belting out my favorite song with the performer?
That being said, to say there is sometimes communication breakdown across the Internet is an understatement that requires no further explanation for anyone that has ever read a Comments section.
Don’t get me wrong, a connected world is undoubtedly a better world. I defer to the mission statement of the Mark Zuckerberg-led Internet.org for a perfect summation:
“The internet is essential to growing the knowledge we have and sharing it with each other. And for many of us, it’s a huge part of our everyday lives. But most of the world does not have access to the internet. Internet.org is a Facebook-led initiative with the goal of bringing internet access and the benefits of connectivity to the two-thirds of the world that doesn‘t have them. Imagine the difference an accurate weather report could make for a farmer planting crops, or the power of an encyclopedia for a child without textbooks. Now, imagine what they could contribute when the world can hear their voices. The more we connect, the better it gets.”
But the more we connect, the more important it is that we connect better.
Virtual, augmented and mixed experiences that exist at the intersection of our physical and digital worlds will bring the humanity of the face-to-face conversation back into the evolution of our communication.
Don’t make the mistake of equating these virtual experiences solely with sci-fi and gaming applications in which you have a surrogate and exist in a different, alternative reality system.
Mixed reality, or hybrid reality, merges real and virtual worlds to produce new environments where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.
I’m not talking about plugging into the Matrix as a means for improved communication. I’m talking about the ability for two people across the world to put on a headset and share any experience they choose — whether it’s to sit next to each other and physically flip through a photo album or to visit their dream destination.
Five or 10 years ago, we used text to communicate. Today, we communicate and share with photos and videos. Tomorrow, with VR, we’ll be able to communicate with experience.

What does this mean for the future of the workplace?

For one, it means improved collaboration. Mixed reality has the potential to allow a global workforce of remote teams to work together and tackle an organization’s business challenges. No matter where they are physically located, an employee can strap on their headset and noise-canceling headphones and enter a collaborative, immersive virtual environment.
Language barriers will become irrelevant as AR applications are able to accurately translate in real time. Imagine Google Translate acting in real time between two or more people.
It also means a more flexible workforce. While many employers still use inflexible models of fixed working time and location, there is evidence that employees are more productive if they have greater autonomy over where, when and how they work. Some employees prefer loud workspaces, others need silence. Some work best in the morning, others at night.
Employees also benefit from autonomy in how they work because everyone processes information differently. The classic VAK model for learning styles differentiates Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic learners.
Visual learners will appreciate the immersion and optic stimuli of mixed reality. If nothing else, auditory learners will benefit from the reduction in auditory distractions that plague the modern open office space. Kinesthetic learners that learn best by moving, touching and doing will benefit from being able to explore and collaborate in mixed reality. Conference calls that cause kinesthetics to tune out can be replaced by interactive, tactile modes of work-like whiteboarding sessions.
This greater autonomy in where, when and how employees work will serve to maximize productivity by empowering them to complete tasks in the manner that is best for them. It will allow employees to enter and work in “flow” states of complete absorption.
Named by renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow refers to “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
Video gamers should immediately recognize this mental state, as game design is particularly adept at inducing flow states where hours and hours fly by and the player is completely enveloped in the game.
Csikszentmihalyi theorizes that in order to retain flow and “stay in the zone,” the activity must reach a balance between the activity’s challenges and the participant’s abilities. If the challenge is too great, it promotes anxiety — too easy, and it promotes boredom.
The seesaw between anxiety and boredom is far too familiar to the modern workforce. Without fail, we try to get heads down on a project, and the emails, slack messages and “do you have a minute?” desk drive-bys keep us from ever being able to focus. Anxiety rears it ugly head.
We finally get the project done and while we are waiting for feedback from the client or organizational leadership, the communication channels miraculously quiet down. This is where boredom comes in.
Mixed reality is conducive to inducing flow states because of its ability to immerse employees in designed experiences that match their learning styles, preferences for stimuli and ability. But perhaps more importantly, it can serve to limit the distractions that cause anxiety and the latency that leads to boredom.
Distractions are eliminated by the worlds we are able to design that only push the messages imperative to the work we are doing.
Latency, or the time between an action and its response, is eliminated when our work is memorialized digitally as we complete it. A client or supervisor is able to join our work process digitally at any time to track and review progress.
Last, but certainly not least, mixed reality creates solutions for the universal problem of finite resources.
Aside from eliminating the monetary travel cost and the opportunity cost of time spent on red-eye flights and in jet-lagged meetings that plague global business, mixed reality reduces an even more sparse resource — real estate.
On a macro level, population is increasing and space is not. Reducing the need for large offices by creating virtual workspaces will make the office park a relic.
On a micro level, just think about your own office. There are never enough conference rooms, and never enough workspaces. That awesome whiteboard you just covered with great ideas? Your colleague is coming in 30 seconds after you finish for a client call and needs it erased.
Mixed reality workspaces that memorialize our work while we complete it will not require furious note taking and cell phone picture snapping in those 30 seconds.
In fact, those 30 seconds will not exist, because whether we are sitting at our desk, in our home or in Starbucks, accessing a perfectly designed virtual workspace is as simple as putting on your headset.
The future of communication and collaboration at work will be defined by virtual, augmented and mixed reality experiences that provide economic value. To equate this collision of our physical and digital worlds solely with play and entertainment is to miss one of the great upcoming technological evolutions of our workforce.

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