BMW expecting a strong reception at Mobile World Congress

BMW has a novel idea for dealing with mobile Internet reception black holes–turning cars into mobile digital radio wave networks.

At this year’s Mobile World Congress, which officially opened its doors on Monday, in Barcelona, Spain, BMW will be showcasing a new research project–the ‘Vehicular CrowdCell’.

The idea is simple. As more cars on the road become connected, mobile Internet hot spots, the demand for high-speed web access will also increase.

But the further away from a cell tower, the weaker the signal, unless there is a relay or booster, so why not turn cars into signal amplifiers for the benefit of all?

The project, in partnership with Peiker and Nash Technologies follows on from the concept that BMW unveiled at last year’s event, an in-car femtocell. The femtocell was developed to boost the signal and reception for occupants in a car wanting to use mobile devices for data-hungry applications, turning the car’s normal antenna into a magnet for high-speed Internet data. The new prototype concept piggybacks this technology in order to offer an on-demand signal boost for those near the car, too.


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“The “Vehicular Small Cell” will optimise in-vehicle connectivity of mobile devices for our customers,” explains Dr. Peter Fertl, project manager at the BMW Group. “At the same time, the integration into a network of “Vehicular CrowdCells” will enable the ubiquitous and seamless availability of high-quality mobile radio connections outside the vehicle.”

And as well as helping individuals access content more quickly while out and about–either on foot or inside a BMW–the company envisions the technology being integrated into vehicular services such as a fleet of ride sharing cars that cover a specific geographical region. When parked, they would be able to fill in all of the signal dead spots (or ‘white spots’ as they’re called in the telecoms industry) in the area. Capable of understanding the strength, peaks and troughs of data flow, they could amplify coverage automatically when it’s needed.