BMW’s 4G LTE Hotspot Idea: Luxury car meet cheap technology


Image: by BMW

Sometimes we get so used to ‘always connected’. We carry out iPhone 5 or Android Galaxy around all the time, we walk with them, sleep with them, play with them. We happily indulge ourselves to this ubiquitous Internet availability brought to us by our sexy little mobile phone. Yet until recently, this is  mostly limited only to your mobile phones. Or is it?

BMW recently announced a new feature that will turn your beloved automobile into a moving WiFi hotspot. Leveraging the newest 4G/LTE technology, the feature creates a WiFi hotspot in your car and gets Internet access via the 4G/LTE connection.  The feature also makes use of the vehicle’s outside antenna to boost signal strength. Current BMW owners can buy a small accessory and install it in the car to enable the feature.

So you might ask, what’s the difference between this and my MiFi box? Big and small if you ask me. Why? Because technology wise there’s nothing new. The technology they use are standard 4G technology and the WiFi hotspot they use in-car won’t be any faster than your 50$ T-Link one from last year’s holiday sale. Maybe the outside antenna has some tricks in it about no rocket science there either. The big difference will be the experience they will be able to offer. We all know if you never drove a beamer you’ll never know how it felt like driving it. Why is that? Because you won’t know just by reading the spec and watching their commercials. You’ll need to BE THERE, to actually drive it, feel the push on your back, listening to the humming of the engine, let the seat warm you up in cold winter, and let the wind hit your face with the skylight on. All these little features by its own is nothing new, just like the new WiFi hotspot feature, yet adding them together, you get the unique BMW experience. And that’s where the most value comes from.

BMW has wrapped a bunch to hardware/software features to work together with the feature:

WPS fast WiFi connection. This uses standard  WPS technology to make it easier for the passenger to get connected to the hot spot.

NFC support. So passenger can also connect to the WiFi if they have NFC in their mobile phone/tablet.

BMW App Platform. Which is a bunch of BMW developed apps running on every new models of cars, that will allow user to use Twitter, connect to Facebook, or have the car analyse your driving habits and give you better driving suggestions. (‘Slower on this corner!’ Kidding, I never used it.)

So overall, with the WiFi hotspot feature, BMW will make it very easy to still stay connected sitting in the car, and let the mighty Internet enhance your driving experience. I believe this is only the beginning. We all know the theory of ‘three screens’: One is your computer screen, one is your TV screen, and one is your mobile phone screen. Well, maybe in the near future, your car screen will easily become your 4th screen. Average Americans spent 15 hours a week in their car after all.

I’ll try to elaborate the user experience potential in more details for applying Internet and apps into your car in another post some time in the future.


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