Mobility technology company ZF is to expand its collaboration with Microsoft to create a holistic data and integration platform, the ZF Cloud, to digitise its industrial and operational production and business processes on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
The new capacities of the platform will help to more effectively process the large volume of data generated by vehicles using ZF technologies.
"The data supplied by ZF products and our business processes will be integrated into a comprehensive cloud architecture in all areas,” said Wolf-Henning Scheider, CEO of ZF. “We increasingly think and act like agile technology companies, enabling us to better serve our customers around the globe. With Microsoft, we have an ideal partner who will make a major contribution to the digitalisation of the entire ZF company.”
Microsoft Azure machine learning capabilities will help ZF optimise the data exchange between cloud-connected ZF components, enabling the creation of new products using artificial intelligence (AI). This will include continuous data flow between autonomous ZF shuttles and their environment, which could enable mobile applications for shuttle services that use live locations for updates on availability, capacity, and estimated time of arrival. Integrating data from infrastructure partners and smart city services providers could also help make autonomous shuttles available to more people and address last-mile transportation needs. ZF will build on Azure cloud and AI services for its offerings to cities and regions, helping to reduce operational costs and improve safety with new digital technologies.
Digital product and development platforms within ZF’s research and development activities will be geared towards data transfer through the ZF Cloud. Working with Microsoft, ZF is leveraging development and operations tools to improve the collaboration across automation, testing, monitoring and continuous delivery.
In addition, Azure will help process data from ZF’s globally operating fleets for simulations linked to the height sensor in the chassis of each vehicle. This new solution can continuously send data about the condition of the roads to the cloud and use an algorithm to help protect the driver and other road users from hazards.
The standardised data platform will also be used for maintaining ZF wind turbine gearboxes. Components will send data to the cloud, generating automated notifications when the next maintenance interval is due. In operations, the new platform can help display the performance and production outcomes for both individual machines to entire plants. It can also map the traceability of production processes, as well as delivering analysis and forecasts of production output or quality.
Finally, ZF will launch a training initiative to encourage employees to engage in continuous learning, helping them to understand the new data platform and its capabilities.
“Digital transformation is reshaping the transportation industry, enabling mobility services providers to empower employees, enhance productivity and deliver unique customer solutions faster,” said Judson Althoff, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Microsoft. “In partnership with Microsoft, ZF is pushing its digital capabilities to the next level and using the Microsoft Cloud and AI solutions to accelerate the delivery of mobility innovations and streamline business operations through a digital work environment that helps its employees shape the future of mobility.”