A Look Into Toyota's Smart Grid and Connected Car Strategy

  • Posted on: 29 April 2011
  • By: Patrick Oliphant

For many each industries focus on their respective products, the home builder would concentrate on building the best homes, car manufacturers, home appliance manufacturers and energy providers would concentrate on what they do best. At some point the Car and home appliance manufacturers come together give us better sound systems in our cars and that is how the industry remains for sometime until now.


Toyota has given us a glimpse into their plans to have the different areas of our lives converge trough the use of telematics technologies. As the largest car manufacturers Toyota have had their hands into many areas that has taught them about what we need as consumer and how they can make these desires possible.  Using the lessons learnt from its smart centre in Rokkasho, northern Japan, they have announced plans to use their expertise in green cars to sell computer systems that link homes, utilities and vehicles to reduce our energy use.

What have they done:
To date Toyota have been working with many companies in the connected home eco-system to adapt the technologies for our digital life styles.  They have been working with QNX, Alcatel-Lucent and others to create the Connected Car experience – as showcased CES 2011. Through its Smart Grid strategy Toyota wants to connect more and give us more information to manage our lives.

Going forward Toyota wants to give us different types of cars (plug-in hybrid); ones that uses alternative energy source and are smart grid aware; plus the software to monitor and manage our home electrical appliances. Come the early part of 2012, Toyota plans to release these Cars along with the Toyota Smart Center, a new solution that let us see on our TVs and mobile handsets to see how much electricity is being consumed in our home, how much our plug-in vehicle has charged and how much electricity has been stored in the home.

Toyota said, compare to regular home and gasoline car, the smart grid and plug-in will reduce household energy consumption by as much as 75 per cent.  They also believes if plug-in and electric vehicles become widespread, they and other automakers will be required to be more environmentally responsible, as these new vehicles will likely make up a third of household energy use.

The new Toyota Smart Centre, already being tested on the Toyota Rokkasho housing project in Japan, will calculate the most efficient way of using energy.  It will shut off appliances when they are not being used and where possible it will monitor energy use so that it is use more during the night when energy is at its cheapest.

Where are they going:
Since CES 2011 Toyota have moved its strategy further;  this month they announced a formation of a Strategic Partnership  with Microsoft. According to Toyota both companies will work to develop and deploy telematics applications on the Windows Azure platform for Toyota’s customers around the world.  Using Windows Azure and Microsoft SQL Azure Toyota’s new range of hybrid and connected cars, due out next year will have access to the cloud platform.

So what’s in it for us and how will this affect our lives?  According to Mr. Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor, he wants "Toyota to be a company that delights its customers with better products at affordable prices...exciting and inspiring vehicles and services that exceed customer expectations and bring a smile to their faces. I believe creating these more efficient, more environment-advanced products will be OUR contribution to society."

This means the new range of “smart grid aware hybrid connected cars” will move beyond the current GPS navigation and wireless safety communications and will change the way we interact with our cars. Using LTE (Long Term Evolution) 4G technology the new cars will be always connected to the telecom infrastructure, providing internet access. Other features include voice recognition, management of vehicle charging to reduce stress on energy supply and remote control of appliances, heating and lighting at home.

From the above it seems the car will be an extension of our living room; converging the different technology solutions we use throughout the day.  There will be no need to run from the car to the house to catch a TV program, send email, turn on the light at home or turn on the heating- if you are coming home earlier than expected.  I for one look forward to seeing these new and exciting technologies in action.