BMW Great Britain has announced the latest in-car technology that enables the owner of a very special BMW 5 Series to keep a watchful eye on their house - even if they are hundreds of miles away.
Thanks to the use of BMW’s innovative iDrive controller and display screen, a driver can access a menu that will display live pictures of their house, courtesy of internet-based webcams. The same security function can also be used to open and close windows or the front door with a few clicks of the controller for added peace of mind.
This unique concept is based on an advanced version of BMW Online, the internet-based in-car portal currently available as an option on the 5, 6 and 7 Series models. BWM Online allows users to access a raft of services, including exchanging e-mails and receiving information on hotels and restaurants, all via the iDrive controller and display screen.
Set up in May 2001 in Cham, Switzerland, BMW has been working with the Steiner family at the Futurelife House to understand the roles a car could play in future lifestyles. Initially using a 7 Series as the control vehicle, the first steps towards integrated car and house operation saw engineers work on enabling a BMW to control the Futurelife House’s lights, blinds and kitchen appliances. The second phase, this time using a BMW 5 Series, witnessed a fine-tuning of these capabilities and the addition of the security enhancements, including the possibility to access the webcams of the house via the car.
All technology in the house is linked via a central "bus" or communication system, the same style of electrical network featured on BMW cars. This then connects via the GSM mobile phone network to the BMW Online Server and can be accessed via the central control panel in the 5 Series.
Daniel Steiner, one of the residents in the Futurelife House, said: "Networking the house and the car really is the future. You can always check out your home to find out whether you have forgotten to switch something off, but it is the security feature that provides the greatest peace of mind."
Other unique features at the house include a solar powered automatic lawn mower that can be programmed to cut the grass at predetermined times and a shower that can be adjusted to the individually preferred temperature of each occupant of the house. An intelligent on-line shopping facility also permits the ordering and delivery of groceries at any time. Upon delivery the driver swipes a card to gain access to an outside store of the house complete with fridge. When the Steiners return home a revolving internal access point allows the same goods to be turned and displayed inside the property.
The Futurelife House project has proved so successful BMW technicians have extended the project for a further 12 months with a view to adding and evaluating further features. BMW is currently looking at extending the availability of technology from the project house to retail customers.
Note: The Steiner family (Daniel, 42, Ursi, 45, Grace, 15, and Carlo, 8) were picked from 80 other families who applied to live in the Futurelife House. Both parents resigned from their jobs to take part in the lifestyle experiment and assist BMW technicians to develop future applications.
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