BMW Integrates Alexa and Cortana, Maintains Control Over the User Experience

BMW’s recent integration of Alexa and Cortana into their Connnected Car Vision has been called “A model for modern tech partnerships” by Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella.  This was mentioned in the opening of Microsoft’s annual Ignite conference this week, when Nadella stated

[BMW is] not letting anybody else just disintermediate them. That’s really I think strategy at work. They’re going to allow access to Skype. They’re going to allow access to Cortana. They’re going to allow access to Alexa. But, it’s all going to be under the terms of their brand experience. That to me is how every consumer brand needs to be thinking going forward to remain relevant.

BMW has been using Microsoft artificial intelligence and the Microsoft cloud as tools to build a platform that incorporates third-party digital assistants, such as Alexa and Cortana. Most importantly, noted Nadella, is that BMW is doing the in-house work necessary to maintain their independence in the development process, rather than out-sourcing the work to someone else.

Deep Integration into BMW’s Existing Voice Controls

Image Credit: BMW

Recently, TechCrunch also noted that BMW’s integration of Alexa had been done “really well.” BMW has long talked about the integration of voice assistants, saying the collaboration would need to be deeply integrated into the experience and other technology in the car. This ideal is seen well executed in features such as Alexa’s visual display in BMW models produced after March 2018, that shows additional facts or graphs when warranted. The display also activates when asked about weather information and the detail matches the style of the display from BMW’s own Connected Drive system.

It’s little details like the continuous weather display and restaurant bookings that underly Nadella’s point. BMW is in control of their collaborations. Creating this continuous weather display while maintaining control means that a lot of negotiating was required to have Alexa’s queries sent to BMW’s servers before being sent to Amazon. BMW’s deep integration uses technology already in the cars, like built-in speech recognition system that lets you set directions in the navigation system, and separates when a user says “Alexa,” to change where the query goes.

Integration of Cortana, Too

BMW has not just integrated Alexa, but Cortana as well, making use of the development of  their own system for routing commands. When asked why integrate both voice assistants, BMW noted that Cortana and Alexa offer different strengths to users. For example, Cortana offers a connection to Office 365. This allows drivers to check out their schedule, add new reminders, manage their upcoming events, manage their to-do lists, get news or just perform Internet searches.

Amazon Releases Alexa Auto SDK

Mercedes Adds Houndify Integration to MBUX