Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sent BMW into the shop -- but it was a server problem

Thinking about The Internet of Things, as IBM is promoting it, it struck me that my recent automotive service experience was a telling landmark in the coming of the new order.

My new 3-series has a BMW Assist feature with its navigation system that lets you find a destination on Google Maps in your home or office, and then send it to the car, so the guidance system can take you there.

I tried it several times, but could find no messages in the car from Google Maps (which said they were successfully sent to my car). BMW Customer Service remotely fixed some errors they had in my account email address, but it still did not work days later, so they said I had to take it to the shop. Seemed like a server-side problem to me, but that is what they wanted...

After a couple phone calls while working on my car (over the course of 3 days), the dealer service rep finally called to say the messages were there, but that it was hard to find them (he had never worked with the feature before). We assumed I must have been looking in the wrong place. He suggested I come in for instructions, but I suggested I call from the car when I could. BMW needs to hire some people from Apple to work on UI, but wait, there is more..

After getting the car back and sending it a new destination to look for, I got in and looked around, starting with the same menu selection I had looked into before ("BMW Assist/Messages"). Lo and behold: there were my previous message, a couple dealer test messages (opened), and my new message (unopened) -- right where it kept saying "No messages" before.

I can only conclude that the car had been fine, I had been using it properly, and something changed on BMW's end (either in some server, or in the setup entered into some server by BMW Assist staff.

Imagine the cost of sending thousands (eventually millions) of cars into the shop for problems that could be diagnosed and fixed remotely! BMW does not yet realize they are in the network services business (and selling network node devices). I hope they realize it soon.

Internet of things, Internet of computers, Internet of people. ...Convergence every which way ...I can't wait for the next release.

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