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Summary:

Ford is turning to data culled from social media to make design decisions on its new vehicles, according to data scientist Michael Cavaretta.

Michael Cavaretta, Data Scientist and Manager, Ford Motor Company, Structure data 2014

The hands-free liftgate of the 2013 Ford Escape is proving to be a popular feature, but if it weren’t for data analytics it might have looked very different than it does today.

Ford designers were actually considering multiple concepts for interacting with the car with a wave of the foot under motion sensors, including a “flip glass” feature that opened the car’s rear window. To decide which feature to implement, they went to Ford’s data team, and that team in turn went to an unlikely source: social media, Ford data scientist Michael Cavaretta said at Gigaom’s Structure Data conference Wednesday.

From there, Ford’s data group was able to ferret out the biggest pain points drivers face when trying to load their cars while loaded down with groceries or furniture.

“We made some very targeted pulls from some social media and some external data sources,” Cavaretta said. “We were able to aggregate those all together, and we were able to present them with the revelation that it’s about a 4 to 1 advantage – 4 to 1 people really want to have a power liftgate, and they don’t really care that much about flip glass.”

During his talk with Gigaom Research’s David Strom, Cavaretta detailed all of the different data sources Ford has been drawing from: sensors in its factories and within its cars as well as sales data that identifies the features most popular in its vehicles. Soon, though, Ford will get even richer data sets driven by the developer community. Its OpenXC program exposes vehicle information from car speed to whether the windshield wipers are turned on.

“We’re really interested in how people use that data that comes off our vehicles,” Cavaretta said.

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Photo by Jakub Mosur

  1. Tudor Lapusan Thursday, March 20, 2014

    This is very cool.
    Reading this article, an idea came into my mind. Finding ‘good’ or ‘bed’ feature from my company’s product and other user’s needs, analizing social media.
    Let’s see what my boss will say about this :))

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  2. Best luck to FORD and i liked most is this article giving credit to social media.
    Of course, social media play important role in marketing and its strategies. It more like members focus their activities inside their own groups and different groups are inter-related so news is spread all over.

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