Got a BMW i3, Smart Appliances? You Can Now Interact With Your Smart Things Home From Your Electric Car

With the occasional exception here and there, we think it’s safe to say that the majority of electric car owners out there today can be considered not only early-adopters of electric cars but also early-adopters of the latest technology.

Demographically speaking, electric car owners tend to have a higher interest in the latest technology and computer hardware, be it the latest Apple product of the newest household gadget to connect to the Internet of Things. You only have to look at the thriving communities and Internet forums where tech-literate electric car owners discuss their latest modifications, home-made apps or custom-built charging systems to understand that as a whole, electric car owners love their tech almost as much as their cars.

Your BMW i3 and Samsung SmartThings can now play together.

Your BMW i3 and Samsung SmartThings can now play together.

So when we tell you that BMW i3 electric car owners can now communicate with their home from their car’s touch-screen infotainment system, we think you’ll appreciate how excited some owners will be. But unless you were paying super-close attention to last week’s CES coverage, you may have missed the announcement altogether.

That’s because last week at CES 2016, Smart Things — a fast-growing home automation startup which was acquired by electronics company Samsung in 2014 for an estimated $200 million — announced a new integration between its services, Samsung connected devices, and all ConnectedDrive-enabled BMW cars.

What’s more, if you have any SmartThings equipment, a SmartThings-enabled device or Samsung Smart Home appliance in your home and you happen to own a BMW car with ConnectedDrive, the feature is available for you to try today via a free update to the SmartThings App. At least, if you live in the key market areas where SmartThings allows you to register via the Android app: North America, the UK, and Ireland.

If you've linked your SmartThings account, there's now a new item on your i3's Menu.

If you’ve linked your SmartThings account, there’s now a new item on your i3’s Menu.

While the announcement was ignored by many media outlets in preference to the massive number of other innovations and products being unveiled by Samsung from its massive booth at CES (the largest booth in the entire show, to be precise) we were lucky enough to experience the new integration between BMW’s popular electric car and the smart home of the future first hand.

Once users have updated their SmartThings App and connected their BMW ConnectedDrive account to the SmartThings portal, they’ll find a new menu item on their car’s navigation screen. From there, they’ll not only be able to access the status of all SmartThings-compliant sensors and actuators in their home, but even program specific actions based on SmartThings events.

In the demonstration we received, (which followed the same storyline as the video above,) we were shown a scenario where a BMW i3 owner could run a pre-programmed routine from their car when leaving the house in the morning, turning down the thermostat, locking all the doors, closing the garage door, and turning off the lights as they depart. All from one click of the ConnectedDrive system.

When a SmartThings sensor detects something wrong with the home, such as a water leak or an unauthorised entry and you’re in the car, the SmartThings system will automatically send a notification to your car, allowing you to take appropriate action. In the demonstration we witnessed, a water leak had caused the a SmartThings sensor to send a report to the demonstration BMW i3, warning us of possible damage. Since the SmartThings smart home is also aware of who is home at any time, the car helpfully suggested someone to call to investigate the flood, ensuring no damage was done to the house.

Our Samsung SmartThings guide then explained that the car could be set to trigger a geofence action when it reached a certain distance from the home, allowing the house to turn on the heating, boil the kettle or even turn on a connected cooker to start preparing the evening meal so that it would be ready and waiting for you on your return. Presumably, a similar set of macros could be set upon departure, such as delayed light behavior or setting the robotic vaccum to clean the house after you leave.

At home or away, Samsung SmartThings and the BMW i3 are a powerful combination.

At home or away, Samsung SmartThings and the BMW i3 are a powerful combination.

For the moment, control is one-way, meaning that it’s only possible for BMW owners with ConnectedDrive cars to interact with their SmartThings Home devices from their car. But in the coming weeks, BMW is expected to release an update for its ConnectedDrive system that will make it possible for BMW i3 owners to control their cars from the SmartThings platform, accessing important information like vehicle range, battery state of charge, location and car lock status.

They will of course also be able to set climate control, and remotely start charging, just like they already can with the official BMW i3 remote app.

What’s the benefit if you can already do the same things from a different app? In a word, connectivity. By integrating the BMW i3 and BMW ConnectedDrive systems with SmartThings, we’re guessing it will be possible to leverage existing SmartThings connected services — like IFTTT — making it possible to program automatic actions based on both your car’s location, things going on in your home, and external influences such as the weather.

For example, you could program your BMW i3 to automatically turn the climate control on in the morning before you leave for work if the outside temperature is below a certain value. You could check to see if the range of your car is enough to make your next appointment and if not, automatically charge if it’s plugged in.

The possibilities are endless.

If you’ve got a BMW i3 and you already use SmartThings, we’d love to hear from you. Have you tried the service yet? Does it behave as you’d expect? Or are there some concerns you have about connecting your home and your car together?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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