BMWBLOG Exclusive Interview with Rob Passaro, Head of BMW Apps.

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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 …

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.

20 responses to “BMWBLOG Exclusive Interview with Rob Passaro, Head of BMW Apps.”

  1. Fdg says:

    BMW apps needs some updating so more can be done from iDrive and less from the iPhone. For example, one should be able to switch from BMW Connected apps to Pandora from iDrive with the program(s) running in the background. This is safer than trying to change the programs on the phone. Also, the functionality of the BMW Remote app could be updated to do more (similar to ONSTAR) and from a greater distance than 0.6 miles. The calendar feature is very nice; would be useful if other office functions (email, texts) were accessible from the iPhone.

  2. I love the Apps functionality in my new 1-series. High on my wish list are a Spotify app (preferably with the option to search for artists/albums/tracks via the iDrive system) and more functionality to the Facebook app, including the possibility to view you profile, messages, wall posts, etc.

  3. Gras says:

    Apps from BMW is really great. What i would like to see for the countries who don’t have the ‘Online’  option is to be able to read email, text messages and a weather forecast application as well. Also, what about the possibility to feed some data from ‘engine’ or ‘vehicle information’  to the phone such as the fuel consumption graph, or your last route recorded on google map along with performance entries such as speed , consumption, breaking, etc. short of telemetry where you can read on your phone after driving. Something like the M meter but more complete. Another good idea would be the Siri option from iPhone put to the BMW Apps, where you can speak anything like appointments, sending text messages, questions about anything, etc. 

  4. Rockeytoptn says:

    First things first, I just purchased a 04/2011 328i and am excitedly waiting for the BMW Apps retrofit. There are already numerous “outside” vendors offering retrofits that work. On the Apple App store, the latest update to BMW Connected states that a retrofit to add BMW apps has been available since January 2012. After contacting my local BMW dealer and talking with BMW of North America customer relations, this is not the case.

    I realize I purchased a model without the option. However, the confusing verbiage used in your BMW Group designed apps is misleading to those of us anxiously waiting for the official retrofit. If outside vendors are able to do it, so can you. I’m on my eighth BMW. My first car was a BMW, so it’s obvious I’m a BMW loyalist and enthusiast.

    Let’s get this ball rolling. Thank you!

  5. Victor Aros says:

    I’d like to know if they are working on an Android version of this awesome platform. 

  6. Josemd01 says:

    Would be great to see real time weather with a weather map, maybe overlapping the existing navigation map. Apps such as The Weather Channel can show you a precipitation map of your location and you can zoom in and out. Maybe you can do this with the help of the I drive controller. I would imagine that people would find it helpful to avoid a specific route if they find themselves driving right into a thunderstorm.

  7. Gren says:

    1. Only one way for this purpose that the Apps would develop and didn’t die – open API

    2. To speak about that that to equipment it is impossible – a lie. All not official services easily to retrofit combox, apps etc

  8. @m5manny:twitter  Great interview, thanks. BMW has made great progress with safety, convenience, and integrating our digital and social lives with in-car infotainment apps through the ConnectedDrive program. Any idea if BMW has plans to offer a built in WiFi hotspot like Audi connect? 

    • Manny Antunes says:

      Thanks Misha. Rob and I did discuss in car Wifi, but it wasn’t anything he wanted going on the record about at this time. But stay tuned.. 

  9. ron cooke says:

    android version way overdue. there are alot of iphones out there but thats only a part of the market.

  10. payman says:

    love bmw

  11. Morpheus58 says:

    No damn answer on txt MSG text to speech

  12. Morpheus58 says:

    It is crap that BMW connected cant have text message to speech if they can do it for idiotic FB or twitter.

  13. Marek says:

    Rob, BMW apps is a great vision but to be really succesful the platform should have open APIs to third parties developers. When do you plan to publish APIs, ? Why it takes so long to integrate Spotify?
    Since few months I drive BMW 320d and I really enjoy the apps (I described my experiences in ‘Enjoying BMW apps’ blog) however I would like to share with you my concerns about safety: such apps as Facebook or Twitter should be disabled while driving ! Do you agree ?

  14. Stas says:

    Bria or other sip telephone would be great

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