IS Innovation Fair: Award-winning Associates Augment Reality, Get Social, Manage Monroney Labels
November 14, 2011
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Augmented Reality -- Vechicle owners could use their iPad or other mobile device to access information about a vehicle warning icon, one of many possible applications of this technology.
For each of the last five years, Information Systems (IS) has showcased innovative solutions to Toyota Motor Sales’ (TMS) most pressing business challenges, offered up by its own associates. The recently held 2011 edition of the IS Innovation Fair continued to build on this tradition, casting a spotlight on breakthroughs that might some day transform the way the company does business.
Some 29 teams demonstrated their work, much of which was categorized under the timely themes of Mobility & Telematics, Social Media and Workplace of the Future.
Two of the projects earned top awards from a panel of judges comprised of five Toyota Chief Information Officers (Barbra Cooper, TMS North America; Zack Hicks, TMS; Dan Priest, Toyota Financial Services; Tim Platt, Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America; and Pierre Masai, Toyota Motor Europe) and five TMS business executives (Bob Daly, senior vice president, Planning/Development; David Nordstrom, vice president, Social Media; John Kennelly, vice president, Administration, Customs and Taxes; corporate manager, Customer Retention; corporate manager, Advanced Technology.
In addition, attendees had the opportunity to honor one of their own with a People’s Choice Award.
Here are brief descriptions of three of the award-winning innovations, some of which have already begun to make a tangible impact.
Business Theme: Toyota Augmented Reality
Team: Engels Tang, Paul Rucker, Maria DelRosario, Mike Amano
A year ago, Engels Tang and Paul Rucker were members of a team that demonstrated the benefits of the ToyoTag, Toyota’s take on 2D barcodes that—when scanned by smartphones—link the user directly to digital data. This time around, Tang led a team that took the concept to the next level, showing how smartphones and tablet computers can not only scan a barcode but can also recognize virtually any 2D or 3D surface.
For example, the team demonstrated how a Toyota owner could point their phone at a warning icon that appears in their vehicle’s instrument panel and retrieve an explanation of the icon, instead of looking it up in the owner’s manual. Similarly, a customer in a dealership could point their phone at the Entune home page on a vehicle’s touchscreen, bringing up a video introduction to Toyota’s new in-vehicle multimedia system.
Marketing has already begun to leverage this technology, creating a 2011 Corolla promotion that uses augmented reality to trigger a 3D rendering of animated pop star Hatsune Miku.
“Our goal was to make this technology practical as well as fun,” says Tang, technology manager in the IS Consumer Portal group. “All that’s required is a smartphone or tablet and a special app that can recognize the images and map it to digital content. Some automakers have used it in Europe, but it’s still very new. The Corolla application was the first for a U.S. marketing campaign. There are all kinds of possibilities, in marketing and sales training. We could even create a virtual showroom.”
Breakthrough Award: Enterprise Social Media Analytics and Discovery
Team: Brian Kursar, Aaron Seligman, Mike Burkes, Neel Sekhon, Rick Detwiler
When Lexus expressed a need to get a handle on the rapidly expanding world of social media, Brian Kursar formed a team to respond. Expending just 60 hours in development, the team demonstrated how Lexus could track and analyze Lexus-related activity on such online channels as Facebook and Twitter against existing company data, such as sales figures, warranty claims and customer relations inquiries.
Social Media Analytics -- Brian Kursar and Neel Sekhon demonstrate their team's software that maps connections between social media activity and Lexus' sales.
To begin, the team culled a year’s worth of social media content—Facebook and forum posts, Twitter tweets and the like. Then it leveraged third-party software TMS already had on the shelf to sort all of the bits and bytes into useful buckets.
“The big challenge was to map the data using sentiment analysis,” says Kursar, an architect in IS Enterprise Architecture. “For example, do the person’s comments refer to a specific Lexus vehicle? Are they positive or negative? Do they raise a product quality issue? Are they comparing Lexus with the competition?”
Once the mountain of data had been sufficiently tagged and sorted, it was a relatively simple task to overlay it with the company’s existing quantitative measures. For example, if there’s a spike in positive comments about the IS sedan, is there also a jump up in sales? Or do negative comments about reliability correlate with an increase in warranty claims?
The tool also demonstrated how to piece together information posted by potential customers online so that Lexus could track their interaction with the brand. For example, one California customer tweeted that he was trying to decide whether to buy a Lexus or a BMW. The team’s tool followed that customer all the way to a Lexus dealership and the purchase of an ES 350 (by his parents) and beyond.
“More and more, people are documenting their lives through social media,” says Kursar. “It only makes sense that we pay attention to what they are saying about us and our products. It’s a pretty good bet our competitors are following the conversation.”
For demonstration purposes, the tool crunched only a year’s worth of data. But Kursar said it would be possible to process the posts in real time, if Lexus chose to convert the project into a practical application.
People’s Choice Award: Toyota Content Manager on Demand
Team: Gary Lew
For the past two years, Gary Lew has played a role in creating an award-winning IS Innovation Fair project. This time around he flew solo, with a little help from a third-party vendor.
Lew knew TMS had been wrestling with how best to store and catalog documents—such as Monroney labels that appear on every vehicle—
on an enterprise-wide scale. So he researched options and found a company that had a possible solution, called Content Manager on Demand.
Retrieving PDFs PDQ -- Gary Lew shows how TMS could use a third-party software tool to help manage its growing collection of electronic documents.
“This software tool stores documents, all kinds of documents, in PDF format and indexes them in such a way that it’s very easy to find them and retrieve them when you need them,” says Lew, a senior applications engineer in IS Vehicle Systems. “For example, banks use this tool to store cancelled checks so you can go online and pull them up on your computer screen.”
Lew used the IS Innovation Fair to demonstrate the software’s capabilities. It didn’t take long for others to envision the possibilities.
“I think that’s why I won the People’s Choice award,” he says. “People from Legal could use it to pull the Monroney label on a vehicle involved in a lawsuit and know exactly what was on it. Customer relations said it would be a big help to them when interacting with customers. TFS could use it to store and retrieve billing statements. We could even add it to the Toyota.com owner’s site so, for example, owners could print their Monroney labels when it comes time for them to sell their vehicles.”
TMS doesn’t currently own the tool. But Lew is hopeful that once he makes the business case, the funding can be secured—perhaps in the next fiscal year.
By Dan Miller