Toyota Bets Big On Big Data

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Toyota announced today what it calls the “Big Data Traffic Information Service,” a giant mashup of data harvested from currently 3.3 million of telematics users in Japan, and 700,000 Toyota customers equipped with a Digital Communication Module (DCM), a gizmo that constantly monitors and transmits vehicle data. Combined with other telematics data, the harvest powers navigation and information services. Unlike other systems, Toyota’s on-line platform can also be used by local governments and businesses.

Being a Japanese system, the Big Data service is heavy on disaster management and relief functions. As long as the cellphone data network has not been wiped out, the system provides routes to and locations of evacuation sites, even the possible heights of a tsunami, should one strike. The system can communicate with on-board systems, smartphones, tablets etc. The system is relatively low-cost. An annual subscription by users costs $25. Disaster information is free of charge. Commercial users can book the platform and 100,000 transactions for $2,000 per month.

A system that uses cars as data collection sensors, or “T-Probes” as they are called here, is a natural for Toyota in Japan, where it enjoys a 40 percent market share. This makes for fine-grained data collection, even in locations off the beaten path. From ABS activations for instance, the system deduces that the road is slippery. From the speed of individual T-Probe cars, the system instantly knows the location of traffic jams or slow-moving traffic. It even knows your individual speed, “but we won’t sell that data to the police,” Hiroyuki Yamada, General Manager of the E-Toyota Division, promised to me today. Auto-supplied data is augmented by crowd-sourced information. Should I find a big obstacle on the road that was fallen off a truck, I can drop a “stuff on street” icon on the map and warn people behind me, a function that should make the system popular with 4chan.

The cloud-based system has been developed together with Microsoft, using MSFT’s Azure platform, a joint venture that was announced two years ago.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

More by Bertel Schmitt

Join the conversation
2 of 13 comments
  • Praxis Praxis on May 29, 2013

    Facebook and Google are also trying to acquire Waze at over $1 billion valuation.

  • Slow kills Slow kills on May 30, 2013

    I have no desire for tracking devices in my car. Japan doesn't have a vast array of traffic cameras to find this information?

  • Ajla I'm going to whine about it. It should have a V8 available. Preferably a new one but at least offering the old one as a mid-level option. That this brand new engine outperforms something introduced 2003 and last updated in 2009 doesn't impress me. Also, journalists seem to be unaware that it is possible to add forced induction to a V8.
  • Calrson Fan I'll say it again, terrible business model doomed to fail. If your gonna build an EV PU the only market that makes sense to go after is fleets. How many other BEV companies are making money pushing only truck type vehicles?
  • Kcflyer Well it's a better waste of my money than the 1.5 billion sleepy joe's handlers gave away this week to pay for gender studies tuition.
  • Dukeisduke SK Siltron - they make blank wafers, so this isn't really a semiconductor factory (wafer fab). Siltron just polishes wafers sliced from silicon carbide ingots. Sometimes these plants are located close to fabs, sometimes they're halfway around the world from the fabs.Wafer fabs take those wafers and run processes on them (photolithography, etch, deposition, etc.) to produce finished wafers. Those finished wafers go to an assembly/test (A/T) site, where they go through probe and other testing, they're cut up into individual chips and inserted into packages with lead frames. After testing on the finished chips, then they're ready to sell.
  • Argistat If China invades Taiwan (becoming even more likely thanks to DT's isolationist rants) , then the US is completely screwed. If someone tried to list all the manufactured items and manufacturing equipment that contain semiconductor chips, the list would be so long you'd never complete it. Finally a real effort to help bring this into the US.