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BMW’s vision for a world of connected cars

Brandon Butler | May 24, 2016
Cars will connect to your smartphone, drive themselves and be at your beck and call.

Connecting cars to a broader Internet of Things is still in its infancy. “You need a connected home to be able to connect your car to it,” notes Kent. While one in four consumers said they’re interested in a connected lifestyle, the technology to support a broader connected world is not yet ubiquitous.

BMW’s Connected Car

BMW’s location based services manager Stefan Butz says enabling the connected car is a core strategic pillar of the company. BMW has 5,000 employees working on digitalization initiatives, including 300 employees working at the company’s in-house software division called BMW Car IT. BMW plans to recruit another 500 IT specialists this year to help develop its connected car plans.

A key piece of the strategy has been developing the BMW Open Mobility Cloud. Through a partnership with Microsoft the company has created a platform that powers the connected lifestyle. “The idea is to enable a connected experience in the car, in your home or on your mobile phone,” Butz says. “It will be a seamless experience across all of these.”

Within the vehicle, much of this technology will be supported by Electronic Control Units (ECU), which are processing systems in cars. ECUs control everything from the vehicle’s electric systems in the engine to powertrain, steering assist and even the locks on the door. “The ECUs will evolve, will reduce in number but become more powerful individually,” Butz says.

bmw iot copy 
Credit: BMW Group

A connected world

BMW and other car manufacturers will work with other technology companies to plug into a broader world of connected things. One company that hopes to play a key role in that is Cisco.

Barry Einsig, the networking giant’s transportation executive, says about 80% of the technology needed to enable a world of connected cars and roadways will use existing systems. Intelligent transportation systems and connected signage needs back-end data centers to process information, an MPLS wide area network that provides high availability connections and edge-network routers and switching gateways; all of which is technology currently on the market. The remaining 20% includes new sensors and systems specifically for roadway and connected vehicle systems.

Cisco offers a package of systems, which Einsig calls a “Blueprint” for IoT in the automotive industry to enable this functionality.

Coming soon

At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, BMW showcased the i3 electric vehicle as the centerpiece of its vision of a connected car. It also displayed a concept performance Spyder car with even more advanced features, such as having no mirrors, just sensors and cameras around the entire vehicle.

Sam Abuelsamid, a senior research analyst at Navigant Research who tracks the automation technology industry, says BMW along Audi, General Motors and Daimler are the leading manufacturers enabling connected cars. Expect to see this technology rolled out in the coming years.


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