Currently, the technology pairs a car to an owner’s smartphone to communicate with other connected devices, but BMW plans to directly pair its cars with other devices, such as an owner's house and heating system, to offer a wide range of intelligent connected services.
“All UK cars have a SIM card built into them, so that’s enabling every car to be connected,” said Andrew Furse, product manager at BMW UK. “That means we can keep the car connected throughout its life, not just new cars coming through.”
Furse explained that this SIM technology has enabled BMW to pair its vehicles with owner’s homes using something called smart home control, which was launched earlier this year and enables owners to adjust house appliance settings from behind the wheel.
“You can see if your smoke alarm has gone off because you'll get a notification in the car, or you can see if there’s a water leak and then speak to whoever’s in the house to find out what’s going on,” continued Furse.
BMW’s objective is to fully integrate its cars into people’s digital lives. “The car can learn where you go and what sort of times you travel, and make moving from the house to the car a seamless transition,” added Furse.
He explained that this transition can help to make a person’s life more time-efficient. One example centres on traffic: at present if a driver notices that their journey will be affected by bad traffic, it’s often too late for them to adjust their plans.
Furse said if the car was able to communicate with other devices in the home to inform the driver that their journey might be affected by traffic at an earlier stage, it might give them more time to rearrange their plans.
“One of the best things for drivers with online services is that we can keep enabling new features for their car,” Furse added. “It keeps the car fresh and keeps the customer engaged with the brand from our point of view, so you’re more likely to remain with us because we’re offering something you can’t get elsewhere.”
BMW said currently 500,000 of its UK cars are already connected, but that eventually it hopes all will be online. It admits that a more open approach to development will be necessary in order to maximise integration with other devices, but says that it would never open up development for the car's core controls - like the powertrain and brakes - making it impossible to remotely hack these areas.