BMW launches digital mobility experience based on the Open Mobility Cloud using Microsoft Azure

31 March, 2016

Imagine a future in which a personal travel assistant looks over your schedule, checks traffic for you, tells you when to leave for an appointment, ferrets out parking spaces and alerts people of your arrival time — all while learning your driving patterns to get more helpful over time.

That assistant will be BMW Connected, whose first version made its debut Thursday at Build 2016, Microsoft’s developer conference in San Francisco.

“Mobility needs are unique and personal and a very important aspect of our everyday life,” says Thom Brenner, BMW Group vice president of Digital Life. “We are really focused on how we can integrate our offerings smoothly and seamlessly into the digital life of our customers.”

Powered by the Open Mobility Cloud, which is based on Microsoft Azure, and available for iOS, BMW Connected is part of the automaker’s vision for the “future of mobility,” which includes digital services, automated driving and assistance, and interiors designed for digital seamlessness. BMW built the Open Mobility Cloud, a new flexible, scalable platform, using Microsoft Azure technologies and tools.

“BMW Connected is more than an app. It’s an experience on top of an intelligent platform that can learn about your driving habits,” Brenner says. “We are building this platform as a foundation for our future services and experiences … and Microsoft Azure and Azure services gave us the right tools.”

Azure’s platform-as-a-service products such as App Service give BMW’s platform resilience and scalability, while Azure’s global network allows for a seamless rollout of services worldwide. Service Fabric enables the automaker to build individual mobility graphs with personalized data and real-time context. Event Hubs handles data injections, HDInsight manages large amounts of unstructured data and Azure Machine Learning enables intelligent, scalable systems.

“We bring an enterprise-grade, trustworthy platform with Azure,” says Sanjay Ravi, Microsoft worldwide managing director of Discrete Manufacturing and Automotive Industries. “Its ability to ingest millions of transactions per second is critical, because a lot of these scenarios need to be processed in near real-time.”

For this first version of BMW Connected, journey management is the core service, with travel-planning before a trip and continued services afterward. To accomplish that, BMW’s platform captures data from different sources, including real-time traffic conditions, and makes it easy to add destinations from various sources like a user’s calendar, contacts, messages, apps and habits learned over time.

“It’s more than what you normally do in the car,” says Ravi. “BMW Connected is focusing on the overall consumer experience throughout the journey, and before and after the journey. This requires bringing intelligence into every digital experience.”

The flexible architecture of the Open Mobility Cloud will allow BMW to easily build new service experiences, incorporate partner content and integrate networked systems like smart homes. That means the experience will steadily grow and improve, and in the future be able to manage car-charging, make parking easier, or tell your house that you’re coming home, prompting smart lights and features to turn on.

Brenner says customers will see frequent updates of BMW Connected, currently available in the United States for the iPhone for BMW owners and ConnectedDrive customers. BMW Connected also integrates existing services, like BMW Remote services into one experience, making it easy and bringing everything at your fingertips.

“We think the future of sheer driving pleasure will go beyond driving,” says Brenner. “It will start before you enter the car, and it will end after you leave the car. And we will make sure BMW cars perfectly and smoothly integrate the way you live your everyday life and use your digital devices and services.”

For Microsoft, the announcement follows news shared at CES 2016 on its connected car partnerships.

“Microsoft is in the connected vehicle space, bringing all the elements around the intelligent cloud, reinventing productivity and creating more personal computing,” Ravi says.