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BMW to watch over your children

Eye spy: Investing in the Life360 app gives BMW the potential to pinpoint where children are at any time (BMW i3 Concept Coupe pictured).

Luxury car maker’s investment arm reaches out to smartphone tracking app

12 Mar 2013

GERMAN luxury car brand BMW wants its cars to keep a watchful eye on your children, and even guide you right to them.

The company’s venture capital arm, BMW i Ventures, has announced it has tipped an undisclosed amount of money into a mobile phone application that allows parents to see in an instant where their children are.

“We are very excited to announce the investment from BMW i Ventures, and are looking forward to all the ways we can partner to develop integrated services,” Life360 chief executive Chris Hulls said announcing the cash injection.

“Life360 has always had a strong interest in the connected car space, and this allows us to explore those ideas like never before.”

According to BMW i Ventures, the car-maker and Life360 “will explore ways to co-operate on innovative, location-based and integrated services for families”.

“One in-car possibility could be a smooth and seamless navigation to family members in multiple locations,” BMW said.

BMW plans to introduce its “i” brand of electric cars to Australia mid-way through next year, with a key part of the launch including increased integration with the internet as part of an upgraded BMW ConnectedDrive system.

BMW Australia spokesman Scott Croaker said a similar level of connectivity would be available when the i brand arrives here next year, although it would need to comply with local privacy laws and ensure it did not distract drivers.

"Before the launch of BMW i here (in Australia), we’re going to be launching a new platform within the cars that allow for the addition of these particular applications with more ConnectedDrive features,” Mr Croaker said.

“At the moment our cars don’t come standard with what’s required for that to be added to it in the future, so from 2014, I believe, all our cars - whether it be BMW i or standard cars - will allow BMW ConnectedDrive and these added apps to come into play.”

Mr Croaker said local laws would put a hold on app rollout until the car-maker was sure they complied with all local laws, including the ability to access people’s private data such as their location.

One thing BMW is yet to decide is if the system will integrate a mobile phone-like SIM card to allow the car to act like a rolling smartphone, or piggyback a connection off the driver’s personal smartphone.

“These are all questions we have yet to decide,” Mr Croaker said.

Holden has become the first local car-maker to introduce a smartphone-based system to its cars, rolling out an internet radio and music streaming app as standard kit on more expensive versions of its Barina small car.

The car-maker has also said the system, which can chew through about two gigabytes of data a month under heavy use, will be available on the radically redesigned Holden Commodore large car, due out in showrooms soon.

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