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SAP, BMW research project will connect drivers with real-time offers and services

SAP and BMW have created a prototype that uses SAP’s HANA in-memory database platform to send personalized services and offers to people as they drive around in their cars.

“Imagine your car advising you where to fill up, and inviting you to a free cup of coffee,” a narrator intones in a promotional video released for Wednesday’s announcement in conjunction with the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona. “And all you need to do is agree and the navigation system takes you there.”

The system could also provide real-time advice to drivers on where to find an available parking spot, or whether there is time between appointments to fit in a round of golf, according to the video.

Drivers will be able to minimize distractions by throttling the number of offers on display, which come from a virtual marketplace powered by SAP’s software.

BMW’s ConnectedDrive system “securely and anonymously” matches the offers with the driver’s preferences, according to the video.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the project would emerge from the research labs as a commercial product.

SAP and BMW’s venture ties into the Internet of Things trend, wherein devices and sensors communicate with each other as well as with humans. The Internet of Things is moving “from abstract concept to a living and breathing machine-to-machine mesh network interfaced with humanity,” according to a recent report from Constellation Research.

The world is seeing the onset of “big data business models,” said analyst Ray Wang, founder and chairman of Constellation Research, in an interview.

Imagine if your car could make offers to gas stations, Wang added. You might be willing to pay US$1 a month for an application that could alert you to the closet gas stations based on your preferred criteria such as the availability of diesel fuel or a bathroom, he said. In turn, the gas station might pay $50,000 a year to send advertisements and offers to drivers through a virtual marketplace like the one SAP is developing.

“The money is in the data,” Wang said.

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