Forty-six teams demonstrated the amazing art of the possible as the Connective Vehicle Analytics Challenge wrapped up at the Ford Research & Innovation Center in Dearborn on June 26.
The purpose of the challenge was to take a raw data set from the vehicles of more than 100 Ford employee volunteers and come up with ideas of how this data might be used to add value to the business and Ford customers.
Each team presented their idea at the Challenge Fair, which ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., to employees and panels of judges. A brief awards ceremony followed. Winners are also invited to present their ideas to Ford executive leadership. (Go here for a list of the winning Challenge Teams).
Don Butler, executive director, Connected Vehicle & Services, sponsored the challenge and congratulated all of the participants for their support of Ford’s culture of innovation.
"This event is living, physical evidence that a culture of radical collaboration and innovation exists, it’s going to grow, and it’s going to thrive. And I just know from the response we got in terms of your participating in this challenge that we are definitely on the right path," said Butler.
The 46 teams came from many organizations, including PD, IT, Marketing, FCSD, and Ford Credit, a point, Mark Johnson, IT Executive Technical Leader, highlighted in his comments to event attendees.
"What’s particularly amazing is you don’t just represent one function or one technology area. You represent folks who are really interested in innovation and driving some new ideas and helping to get into an area that is Ford’s future. This is Ford’s future."
Bill Coughlin, president and CEO of Ford Global Technologies, commended participants for their inspirational concepts. He also encouraged employees to fill out an invention disclosure form if their concept was truly new so Ford could begin to protect it and move it closer to being in Ford vehicles. "The process doesn’t stop today," he said. "This is just the end of the beginning. We need to look beyond this to how we can protect the concepts and then implement them."
Butler helped kick off the final phase of the contest on Friday, June 20, when access to the official data set was turned on to participants. The entire data set represented 14 billion messages from more than 7,000 driving hours; however, to make the contest manageable, the challenge set represented a single month – April 2014.
Participants had access to tools such as Hadoop, and support from members of the IT Enterprise Technology Research (ETR) team, but that didn’t make the challenge less demanding.
"These tools and technologies make the problems solvable, but they don’t make them easy," said Tony Bailey, ETR’s lead on the challenge team.
Several teams impressed Bailey; some because they seemed in a bit over their heads, but didn’t give up. "They had multiple chances to back out, but they didn’t. That’s pretty impressive," he said.
One team captured their own data from their personal vehicle to supplement the data set. Another team had an idea of using baseline data from multiple vehicles to detect when a vehicle’s sensor is malfunctioning.
Hsin-Hsiang Yang, a challenge participant from PD, found the event inspiring. "I look at other people’s ideas: some of them are very similar to ours, and some of them can help out our idea. I think this is a very good opportunity for people to share ideas and even inspire each other."
For IT’s Matthew Holmes, the contest represented an opportunity to step outside his normal responsibilities. "It’s been a lot of fun. For me, I’ve really enjoyed getting to work with this type of data and getting to do something this technical. I’ve been in a more business oriented role and this has taken me outside of my day-to-day work." His award winning team explored how to use the data to detect potholes and pass that information along to the State so the potholes can get fixed.
"The Connected Vehicle Analytics Challenge event was one of the most interesting events I have ever participated in," wrote challenge participant Deborah Harrell, in a note to the challenge organizers. "It was so fun to work with a small team, have the chance to think creatively, and to learn something about some new tools. I think this was a fantastic way of getting people involved."
Mike Cavaretta, a technical leader in Research and Advanced Engineering, told participants at the kickoff that efforts like theirs are about looking at data with the intent of driving value back to Ford. "I think the key piece in any data analytics effort is to bring the value of the analytics and the patterns that are found into the enterprise. This challenge is a lot of fun, but behind it is something that’s serious, which is finding value in data itself."
The challenge represented a different approach to innovation "contests." The ETR team held two global, broad themed, large scale innovation contests previously; now they are encouraging more targeted, regional activities, such as challenges and hackathons.