At the New York International Auto Show, BMWBLOG had an opportunity to sit down with Rob Passaro, Head of BMW AppCenter at Mountain View, California BMW Group Technology Office USA.

Rob oversees the development and integration of our digital lifestyle with the BMW cars. He is very passionate about those two aspects of our daily lives, a similar passion I share, therefore sitting down with Rob was one of my priorities of this year’s NY auto show.

BMWBLOG: There has been discussion of a need for a retrofit kit for BMW Apps and ConnectedDrive for vehicles produced prior to the BMW Apps option 6NR but with a USB port and “Comm box”. Will we ever see a retrofit kit?

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Rob Passaro: We know there is interest for a retrofit kit. We are looking at all the variations in vehicles but it will depend on the specific vehicles wiring configuration and certainly the USB port and Communication box (“Comm box”) needs to be present. We don’t have a solution yet but we are listening to our customers’ needs and desires but we don’t have a final word on when such a kit will be available.

BMWBLOG: It’s amazing that we can integrate our digital lifestyle into our BMWs via social media and many of the digital music services. Will we see more services come online, for example Foursquare or Google+?

Rob Passaro: For the apps integration, because it is such a flexible platform, we’re continually looking at other services that our customers would like in the vehicle that are automotive appropriate, or that can be made automotive appropriate. By no means are we limited to the services we currently integrate, and by no means do we focus on exclusivity of any one service. As our customers request services or as we see services that make sense, we’ll add them. The great thing about BMW Apps is its flexibility, and the cool thing is we don’t need to know what the next cool thing will be, we just know that we can act on implementing it really quickly. For example, if your readers have specific services they’d like to see in the BMWs, please list them in the comment section, we do read them and your readers’ feedback is very valuable.

BMWBLOG: Will we see Speech-to-Text in upcoming updates of the ConnectedDrive app?

Rob Passaro: So as you know, we do have voice recognition and text-to-speech functionality built in to iDrive. Right now, in terms of apps, we use that functionality to read out your social media feeds, your RSS news feeds, and the newest addition of WIKI Local Search. We utilize this functionality pretty heavily. We generally use the voice input functions for more of the native car features than the app features, but we continually evaluate how we can integrate more of the app features into the voice command. In general BMW Apps are a very flexible platform, and as we see the need for improvement, we will act on it.

BMWBLOG: Where do you see BMW Apps evolving to in the next few years? How much of our digital lifestyle will we be able to integrate with our cars?

Rob Passaro: We’re taking an approach that there won’t be a single technical solution to getting new services into the car. Today we have many different ways of getting services from the “Cloud” or from your phone to integrate with your car whether it is by Bluetooth audio, the BMW browser interface or the Apps platform. We currently see the Apps platform as the right solution for the moment, and we’ll continue to build on that. We’ll also continue to build on what “BMW Online” can do. We see BMW Online as having greater capabilities in the next few years. And when we get beyond 2 or 3 years, the vision gets foggier. We continually monitor what our customers are using and saying about new services, and we’ll adjust appropriately. It’s really more about having a flexible solution in place so we can follow the demand of the market and our customers. That’s the bottom line.

BMWBLOG: Thanks Rob for all that you do for BMW customers in making sure we stay connected with our digital media and social lifestyles.