Microsoft’s annual Build developer conference just wrapped up and it was an exciting display of the next evolution of digital disruption, which is all about intelligence. New technologies like big data and machine learning are helping applications, conversations, and computing to be more intelligent, creating what we call Conversations as a Platform, which builds on and extends the power of the Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Windows platforms. This is opening up new opportunities, experiences, and services.

And one of the segments that stands to benefit the most from these possibilities is the automotive industry. 

Intelligence takes the wheel

It’s clear that everything about the car is changing: the way consumers interact with the car and the nature of what they expect from the car is changing. Even in just months from now, the auto industry will look dramatically different than it does today. As the car becomes a core part of the broader IoT ecosystem, everything about our daily routine will become connected and work together in new and exciting ways. Just as we can pick up our phones to talk with family, colleagues and friends, it will be mainstream for people to use their cars to communicate with their smart homes, smart devices, and other smart infrastructures, such as other cars, city transportation systems, and more.

People are looking for a seamless digital experience that maximizes their time, whether that’s in the office, during their leisure time, or in their car. The lines are starting to blur as intelligence takes the wheel in a safe and balanced way to enable new kinds of productivity and mobility capabilities that can assist users throughout their day, as well as enable new smart mobility services.

To get ahead of these trends, automakers need to think like digital companies, taking into account the concepts of connectivity, of consumers’ digital behavior, or productivity, and of changing mobility needs—essentially all of the key factors that are driving today’s automotive disruption. 

BMW: in the driver’s seat with digital

At Build, we made an exciting announcement around the work we are doing with BMW to help them deliver exciting context-specific and personalized mobility experiences by infusing intelligence powered by Microsoft Azure. BMW announced BMW Connected, a personal digital assistant for individual mobility and productivity. This is part of BMW’s vision to shape the future of automotive services and experiences on an intelligent platform that learns and grows as consumer patterns evolve. Putting consumers and their personal needs at the heart of this vision, services will be available anytime, anywhere – in or outside of the vehicle.

BMW Connected runs on the Open Mobility Cloud, a new flexible, scalable platform—powered by Microsoft Azure and Microsoft’s platform of intelligent services—that connects networked systems such as the all-electric BMW i3 and a smart home with personal devices like a smart phone or smart watch. The first version of the new personal mobility companion is now available at the Apple App Store to BMW ConnectedDrive customers in the U.S. for iOS devices. BMW Connected accompanies you throughout the day and perfectly integrates into BMW vehicles, providing solutions in the right place at just the right time.

The news was well-received in the industry, with positive reviews from Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Next Web, Engadget, WinBeta, SlashGear, to name just a few. 

These kind of pioneering capabilities are allowing the car to interact with people in personalized and intelligent ways and continue the momentum from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show where we showcased how several leading automakers are partnering with us to transform the consumer experience with differentiated tools and platforms—like Microsoft Azure and Office 365—to drive the next generation of the automotive experience.

While we are not in the business of manufacturing vehicles and competing with automotive brands, we are passionate about engaging deeply with automakers to bring intelligence, productivity, and mobility into the car in a meaningful way that goes beyond just the driving experience. Using advanced technologies like cloud services, machine learning and data analytics, automakers have a huge opportunity to provide branded, personalized experiences for consumers that’s seamlessly integrated into their digital lifestyle.

By Sanjay Ravi, Managing Director, Worldwide Discrete Manufacturing, Enterprise and Partner Group, Microsoft