Why is BMW betting on cloud services?

Ten years later, if Driverless vehicle makes up most of cars , The relationship between human and vehicle will be very different from now.
Although every automaker giant is well aware of this, not all companies are responding to this change that quickly. Not long ago, BMW held the "Innovation Day" event at the Chicago Technician's Office. During the period, the company announced the development status of the interconnection service and looked forward to the future prospects of the service.

Unlike other automakers, BMW hopes to take full control of the user's in-car experience, rather than outsourcing this service to other technology companies. Although BMW supports the operation of Apple CarPlay, in the short term it does not intend to join the Android Auto car features, besides, the support for CarPlay is not that satisfactory. Instead, BMW has decided to evaluate its high-end brand content to “master the user experience and integrate it perfectly into the driving experience”.

Currently, the BMW Chicago team has 150 employees and is another technical team after Shanghai, Tokyo and Mountain View, California. The core members of the team are all from Nokia. Since the acquisition of Nokia's Chicago-based software team, BMW has leveraged this core strength in mobile, cloud and Internet services.
“We are doing an unprecedented job in the automotive industry,” says May. “We have created new ways of working. It is true that due to the long vehicle development cycle and the short cycle of the Internet and consumer electronics industries, we face some challenges. But as a result, we have to bridge the gap between the two sides, which is our goal. In addition, the software cycle and development tools involved in the automotive industry are also very different from those used in the digital and Internet industries. It is also the reason why we introduce cloud technology."

The traditional and slow software update cycle in the automotive industry often leads many teams to never be able to apply the latest software development techniques. Although the Agile approach (agile development approach, a collective term for lightweight rapid development methods) doesn’t seem to be important in view of startup or young companies; But for traditional companies like BMW, the Agile method is used to develop software and adopt Jenkins as Software continuous integration with automated servers and tracking of development vulnerabilities in the JIRA environment are major technological innovations. In the past, in the communication with automakers, the word “scrum team” (rugby terminology, here refers to the squad that can quickly launch the finished software) is rarely heard, but from now on, this will be normal for the car dealer

Of course, BMW can directly adopt an available platform such as CarPlay, but this will run counter to the company's strategy. However, BMW chose to team up with Microsoft to integrate its products into the car. For example, the latest BMW iDrive vehicle entertainment system can display Outlook's schedule and email information (this feature has a good performance in BMW survey data). Support for Skype commercial video teleconferencing will also be launched soon. Of course, you will never see Microsoft's trademark when enjoying such services. Because this is a far-reaching plan, it is also likely to be applied to cooperation with other companies, that is, to maintain the user's direct interaction with the BMW brand.

This also means that BMW will focus on how to integrate voice assistants in the vehicle system. May believes that say "Alexa" or "Hey Google" when driving does not meet the orientation of BMW's high-end brands. However, car owners often want to use their favorite virtual personal assistant while in the car. How will BMW and other brands fix this problem, that will be a very exciting topic?
One day, when you own a connected car, you may suddenly receive an analysis from the back office about how users interact with the in-car entertainment information system. In the past, car manufacturers usually set up an infotainment system first, did some user tests when possible, and adjusted the system according to the test results, and then waited for feedback from users. If you are lucky, the new system version will be a little better than the original one or two years later.

Nowadays, with the data obtained from the user's car through cloud technology, BMW will continue to get real-time feedback information, and software engineers can immediately respond in a targeted manner. They can also upload the updated software to the cloud storage space and then download it to the in-vehicle system when needed. A BMW engineer told us that they actually uploaded 260 system updates this year.

In a chat with BMW engineers, “minimizing viable products” (from Eric Ries's book “Lean Entrepreneurship”, which refers to rapidly established and incomplete product prototypes) is also being mentioned. Of course, this doesn't sound so high-end, but May admits that BMW users will have to learn to adapt to these. In the face of rapid software development and feedback processes, companies like BMW need to think about these terms when developing new in-vehicle technologies.
In order to achieve all of this and serve a total of more than 1 million user groups on different platforms, BMW clearly needs partners in cloud services, and they chose Microsoft Azure Cloud as the technology cornerstone of the company's overall strategy. BMW has clearly studied Microsoft's development targets and is very much approved. It is worth mentioning that as China's main growth market for BMW, Azure provides services in two regions within the territory.

At present, BMW is mainly engaged in global operations through Azure's three data centers (each one located in the US, Europe and China). It is also working on integration of its core services with third-party vendor services, including's collaboration on weather data and collaboration with Twilio on sending reminder reminders to owners' phones. In addition, BMW's most used features include Azure's reporting capabilities and Microsoft Power BI (Interactive Data Visualization) graphics tools.
In addition, BMW is still running its own data center, but mainly for the maintenance of consumer accounts. For now, these systems work well, and according to a BMW engineer, there is no reason to switch to the Azure system. The system, which is part of BMW, is also responsible for handling remote service orders for its cars. The author believes that BMW completes some of works via Amazon's cloud service system AWS, but is not sure whether they use AWS as a backup, or for software development and testing.

Obviously, BMW is already preparing for the arrival of the era of fully automated vehicles. At that time, when the time spent in driving could be turned into productivity or used for entertainment, a huge market suddenly opened.
If car manufacturers do not try to control their relationship with consumers, there will inevitably be others to intervene. But in a future where the relationship between human and cars will be completely different, a company like BMW (with a vision) will earn a lot of money. In the car brand and the car's own characteristics have a certain purchase impact, in-vehicle software services will become the key factor leading the choice of different car purchases. Smart market players know this, which is why BMW is trying to add a "software supplier" title to the car manufacturer's title.


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