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Tmall Genie device and BMW Connected app
(Image: BMW)

BMW, Daimler, Audi and Volvo have all announced that Tmall Genie, Alibaba AI Labs’ smart voice assistant, will be integrated into their digital ecosystems for Chinese consumers.

Users with Tmall Genie-equipped devices at home will be able to remotely access information or data relating to their car such as fuel levels or whether its doors are locked. They can also check appointments, routes and recommended departure times, and activate functions such as air conditioning or heating. This is done by voice commands and asking specific questions.

Dieter May, BMW Group senior vice president for digital products and services, said in a statement: “BMW Group customers in Europe and the USA already have the ability to check their cars’ status and functions from the comfort of their home via Alexa and Google Assistant. And now we’re extending our digital ecosystem into China as well, with the integration of BMW Connected into Alibaba’s Tmall Genie."

And he added that the move "sees us incorporating another important customer touchpoint and, in so doing, giving customers greater flexibility.”

BMW’s announcement follows the confirmation that Daimler, Audi and Volvo are also to add Tmall Genie to selected Chinese-market vehicles; for Volvo, the XC90, S90 and XC60. Daimler, meanwhile, is to leverage Alibaba Cloud’s geofencing technology for the automatic activation or deactivation of home appliances, lighting, thermostats and other such household functions when the car passes a particular point near the home.

Lijuan Chen, head of Alibaba AI Labs, said in a statement: “Cars are an environment, alongside the home and the office, where individuals spend a significant amount of time, and which through connectivity can become an important part of life. Identifying how to serve car users with our smart home assistant Tmall Genie is one of our top priorities.”

Alibaba is also working on the integration of its AI platform into vehicle operating systems, so Tmall Genie-compatible home appliances can be controlled from the cars, Chen added.

-Farah Alkhalisi