BMW climbs into IBM Watson's cloudy connected charabanc

Hey, insurance firms! We've got smart car data to flog you!

IBM's partnership with German carmaker BMW has resulted in a contract to supply cloud-based data management services.

The deal, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, is a victory for IBM Watson, the American tech firm's Internet of Things (IoT) product line.

Connected cars is one of the areas where IBM, along with the world's other large technology companies, is keen to spread its Watson-y goodness.

Running on IBM's Bluemix cloud, the latest deal will have data from BMWs collected into what both companies hope will become a "global data hub" known as CarData. In the medium term, BMW hopes "encrypted" telematics data from its ConnectedDrive app can be shared with local car dealers and the like.

Mildly worryingly, IBM also hopes insurance companies will take advantage of this pool of data, paying for even greater access to your driving habits and the state of your car than current driving telematics "black boxes" can transmit.

"The concept of a neutral server fosters innovation by establishing a single point of contact for multiple parties to access vehicle data from various manufacturers, thereby reducing integration cost whilst ensuring fair competition," said Dirk Wollschlaeger, general manager IBM Global Automotive, Aerospace and Defence.

The deal has its roots in an R&D arrangement made between IBM and BMW last December. At the time, IBM said the two companies would "work together [and] explore how to improve intelligent assistant functions for drivers".

That hookup was worth $200m. Four BMW i8 hybrid sports cars were based at IBM's Munich HQ for tests and trials over the past six months.

Watson was previously IBM's natural-language question-answering system. It has given its name to a broader unit within the company, of which the IoT division is just one part. ®

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