Toyota teams with Salesforce.com to launch private social networkby
24th May 2011
Marc Benioff has an unusual wish: "I want a relationship with my car in the same way we have a relationship with our friends on social networks."
He's got a like minded individual in Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota who says he always talks to his car: "I hope cars can become friends with their users."
With such sentiments in common, it's hardly surprising then that Toyota Motor Corp has got together with Salesforce.com to develop what it is describing as a ‘private social network’ for customers of its forthcoming electric and plug-in hybrid cars.
‘Toyota Friend’ will be based on Salesforce’s Chatter collaboration tools and is intended to make it easier for the car manufacturer’s customers to communicate with it and its dealerships using mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet PCs.
The system will also provide car owners with product and service information, which includes maintenance tips and alerts. For example, if the car’s battery is running low, a tweet-like alert would be sent to the driver to remind them to recharge it.
In a demo at a Tokyo showroom on Monday, an owner of a plug-in Prius hybrid found out through a cell phone message from his Prius – affectionately known as Pre-boy - that he needed to recharge his car overnight. When the owner plugged in his car to recharge it, the car replied, "The charge will be completed by 2:15 a.m. Is that OK? See you tomorrow."
The exchanges can be kept private, or be shared with other "Toyota Friend" users, as well as made public on Facebook, Twitter and other services. Answers will be automated through sensors in the car. If a car is up for an inspection, for example, the owner will be notified through "Toyota Friend," which will in turn automatically link to a dealer to set up an appointment.
Toyota Friend will be offered to consumers in the domestic Japanese market first of all when the new electric and plug-in hybrid cars start shipping next year, before being rolled out worldwide.
Toyoda said: "Social networking services are transforming human interaction and modes of communication. The automobile needs to evolve in step with that transformation. I am always calling for Toyota to make ever-better cars. The alliance that we announce today is an important step forward in achieving that goal."
Benioff said he proposed the idea for the brand-specific social media network in January during a meeting with Toyoda in Hawaii. "Toyota Friend is an idea that I had when I thought about the changes in our industry today," he told reporters in Tokyo. "The car is the true mobile device.The car is going to become social. All our products are becoming social.”
Benioff said the network could enable Toyota to spot quality problems and market changes faster. The user might connect with the dealer and manufacturer, he said, to “learn about new features and functions "It becomes a Toyota society," he commented.
To seal the pact, Salesforce has agreed to invest 223 million yen in Toyota Media Service Co, a Toyota business unit that handles digital information services, while Toyota will put in 442 million. The development of other Software-as-a-Service-based offerings is expected to follow the release of Toyota Friend.
Microsoft likewise invested 442 million yen in TMS last month, when it signed a deal to build a so-called ‘Entune’ telematics system based on its Azure Platform-as-a-Service offering.
Entune, which will be incorporated into Toyota’s hybrid vehicles when they ship next year, will provide GPS, power management and multimedia services. Toyota views Entune and ‘Toyota Friend’ as complementary.