By on December 8, 2020

On Tuesday, BMW announced it would be partnering with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to develop a cloud-based IT solution allowing it to integrate data and analytics into literally every aspect of the business “from vehicle development to after-sales services.” The automaker said data will now be shifted around liberally between business units and operations in over a hundred countries to help create a more fluid and responsive way of doing business. BMW to hire and train up to 5,000 software engineers in the latest Amazon tech to “empower” its workforce to manage the data.

Though some of that will be handled independently by artificial intelligence. Along with the physical construction of the necessary data hub, the company plans on certifying roughly 2,000 in machine learning and data analysis. If that sounds a bit technical and vague, just imagine BMW building Skynet from the Terminator films and actually getting some decent work out of it before it decided to exterminate humanity.

“The BMW Group is driving digitalization and innovation in the automotive industry,” said Alexander Buresch, BMW CIO and Senior Vice President of Group Information Technology, in a statement. “We are making data central to the way we work and we look forward to collaborating with [Amazon Web Services] to merge our talents, continuing to raise the bar for innovation among automakers and delivering exciting new experiences for our customers around the world.”

From BMW:

The BMW Group has launched a major qualification program for cloud technologies. With the support of [Amazon Web Services] Training and Certification up to 5.000 software-engineers will be trained globally. Around 2.000 of these will become AWS certified with an emphasis on machine learning and data analytics. This enables global teams of the company to prepare existing data in a structured manner, use it intelligently and generate added value for the company and its customers. AWS Professional Services and the BMW Group’s data experts will work with BMW Group employees to identify business challenges and develop new cloud-enabled solutions for the automotive industry. For example, the companies plan to develop a natural language processing solution, optimized for terminology used in the automotive industry, that can automatically extract, process, and translate data from diverse text sources.

Despite being cloud-based, practically everything will be controlled from a singular hub platform responsible for managing company-wide data. Entitled the “Cloud Data Hub,” employees will be able to utilize numerous Amazon services already available, “interrogate and enrich development-, production-, sales- and vehicle performance data in the order of several petabytes and to gain insights through the application of machine learning.”

Offering an example, BMW suggested it could more easily predict demand for an array of vehicle models and equipment options on a global scale. That number can then be used to decide what kind of purchasing and production schedules the firm needs to implement. Historically, there had been a person responsible for making these kinds of decisions. Now there will be a giant room feeding people numbers on everything from how many orders were made on a specific trim to the frequency at which drivers use their air conditioning and tabulating it to help make meaningful choices.

There was also lots of talk about the value of transparency but we’re fairly dubious on that front. The hub is literally supposed to track just about every data point BMW has access to and compile it into something useful. No company in the world would willingly open that up to public scrutiny. There’s bound to be gigabytes of sensitive data BMW doesn’t want shared. But they have to say they’ll be totally transparent because it looks like the company is building a data-acquisition lair for a James Bond villain otherwise.

“AWS provides the most comprehensive suite of cloud offerings to enable automakers to build applications that touch every point in the customer journey,” said Matt Garman, Amazon Web Services’ Vice President of Sales & Marketing. “By combining the domain expertise of the BMW Group with AWS’s demonstrated leadership in the cloud, we’re expanding our impact across the automotive industry so that stakeholders, from parts manufacturers to mechanics, can benefit from greater visibility and insights.”

[Update 12/10/2020: Donny Nordlicht, Vice President of Transportation at Ketchum Inc. representing Amazon Web Services Automotive, reached out to us to clarify what he considered some factual inaccuracies in our article.

“Data will not actually be ‘shifted around’ but will be in a centralized repository, which the different parts of BMW Group’s businesses will be able to access and leverage for their needs and uses,” Nordlicht explained. “AWS calls this a ‘data lake’ because all the data is pooled together in one place and can be easily tagged, searched, shared, transformed, analyzed, and put into specific subsets, as needed.”

So it sounds like BMW will be able to draw data siphoned from its consumers only after it’s been deposited into Amazon’s “data lake.” I’m not sure how that’s supposed to make us feel better, but there you have it.]

[Image: Sklo Studio/Shutterstock]

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