Robert Schlesinger Volkswagen We Booth MWC Barcelona 2019 Top View vivid large
© Robert Schlesinger

The Mobile World Congress (MWC) is an event for mobile technology but what does that really mean and entail? Mobility is more than just telecommunication and ICT is more than mere boxes and antennas. I was surprised to see that this year Volkswagen had a great booth at the MWC in Barcelona with their Volkswagen We solution. I was surprised – but it did make sense.

The Volkswagen We solution is about enhancing the user experience for drivers riding a Volkswagen We enabled vehicle. A lot of smart mechanics and ideas are included in this innovation to go further than “just” giving you navigation or calling your spouse. I was lucky enough to get some time together with Christoph Hohmann, Head of Customer Engagement at Volkswagen, to tell us more about what they are doing

Christopher Isak: Hi Christoph, and thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us during the very busy MWC this year. First things first, what is Volkswagen doing at a congress and exhibition event focused our mobile communication?

Christoph Hohmann: Hi Christopher! I’m happy to meet you here at the Mobile World Congress! To answer your question: Volkswagen is transforming into a mobility provider, offering digital and connected services in and around the car. Therefore, Volkswagen We is a perfect match for a congress for mobile communication.

Moreover, Spain will be the first market outside Germany to launch our digital services such as We Park and We Deliver. The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona is the ideal place to introduce these services together with our local importer.

CI: Beside all the marketing, buzz-words, corporate identity guidelines and press releases, how would you explain Volkswagen We in your own words to our readers?

CH: The “Volkswagen We” ecosystem is the centerpiece of our digital realignment. Based on the digital platform, it will be the host for services and value-added offerings. It also has open interfaces and encourages third parties to participate in creating a Volkswagen community by contributing their own software.

Strategically, Volkswagen We is extremely important in terms of our transformation from an automobile manufacturer to a mobility provider with a networked vehicle fleet. In the near future, the car will become an everyday object that is networked, always up-to-date, and it will enrich our customers’ lives and meet their specific mobility needs.

Volkswagen We Booth MWC Barcelona 2019 Man Walking Unlocking Car With Smartphone
© Volkswagen We

Collaborating with others for greater results

CI: The concept of Volkswagen We intrigues me. Working closely together with tech giant IBM through their startup-esque digital agency Aperto must have been an interesting experience for building this new digital user experience?

CH: We create with Volkswagen We an ecosystem for mobility of the future and fact is: An ecosystem means cooperation! That is one of the reasons we are at MWC, to add partners. Everybody’s invited to join We and create new services and work on the success of this ecosystem with us.

We already have started many partnerships, with IBM for Watson artificial intelligence technology or with Microsoft for our operating system. So we’re partnering with big tech companies but also with startups.

CI: Why do large enterprises pursue to work like a startup? Do you think that solutions can disrupt the market sooner if they are built based on agile development methodologies?

CH: We opened an office in Berlin and launched our incubator program where startups get space in our offices, free housing and financial backing to work on their ideas with us. Last year, the new company campus in Tel Aviv was Volkswagen We’s next step towards embracing the startup community and joining hands to work on the future of mobility together. And this really is what We is all about: being joined up.

CI: Enough with the methods for now. Let’s get to the meat of Volkswagen We. How does it all come to work together? Are you crowdsourcing data for the AI through the user behavior? Are you making use of sensors? Tell us a bit more of the technical specifications of the solutions. We want to hear everything.

CH: The technical specification varies among the services. In general, the We ecosystem pools all the digital mobility services provided by the Volkswagen brand: We Connect includes all built-in online services such as mobile key to natural speech recognition. Volkswagen Connect turns nearly every Volkswagen into a connected car via data-plug and App. We Park is our parking app with integrated billing. We Deliver makes your trunk a delivery address and We Experience offers recommendations in the vicinity of your parking space.

In the future, we will bundle numerous service offerings to give customers even easier access. Keywords: single-sign-on and the user account Volkswagen ID. However, we have a clear goal in sight. Volkswagen vehicles will become personal devices on wheels. Volkswagen customers represent a strong community and, as a mobility provider, Volkswagen will provide the platform for a new, integrated mobility experience.

Robert Schlesinger Volkswagen We Booth MWC Barcelona 2019 Small Bully Bus Logo Brand Large
© Robert Schlesinger

CI: Users, or drivers in your case, are increasingly concerned about data privacy. Have you encountered difficulties while rolling out your solution? I can imagine that it might not be easy to manage both the legal matters that are enforced by regulators and lawmakers and making the user feel positive about letting a “system” learn with their data – especially location-based personal data. Is there anything you could share with us about this subject?

CH: Data is the foundation upon which the mobility of tomorrow will be built. Personalized mobility offerings and a seamless transition to these services are only possible on the basis of information. Nevertheless, data security, data transparency, and self-determination of Volkswagen customers are our most important principles. Volkswagen handles personal data with the utmost sensitivity and protects the rights of the individual, in particular those arising from the General Data Protection Regulation. And of course: All customers that want to use the benefit of these services need to give their consent beforehand that we can use their data.

CI: I can understand that mining data and letting machines “learn” with artificial intelligence can definitely enable a truly problem-solving user experience. This allows for a series of premium services that are really useful for the drivers. Is it possible to upgrade your car to enable the Volkswagen We experience or is this a solution only for newly built cars?

CH: You are right, our services will be integrated into the newly build cars and I am very proud that We Connect starts with the new Passat. That’s a big step forward for us. But we also offer solutions for even more customers: Current models as well as vehicles up to model year 2008 can get an upgrade with Volkswagen Connect. You only need to install the free app, insert the DataPlug into the diagnostic interface in the footwell of your vehicle and make your Volkswagen a connected car. It’s so easy. 

CI: Looking at the MWC this year from a higher level, which are your personal favorite subjects, themes, and news that are most talked about and showcased?

CH: This is the first time Volkswagen joins the show, but of course we’ve been here several times to watch and scout. From my own perspective: 5G has been promoted so many years at the MWC. This year it’s clear to see that things are speeding up and mobile phones with 5G are coming into the market. This is very interesting and I am looking forward to how 5G will accelerate the mobility solutions for the customer.

CI: Thank you so much for taking the time for us today. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our audience today? Do you have a personal message to our readers?

CH: Everybody is welcome to join: “We” really means We because we can only build a new mobility offering by working together with our partners worldwide.

Find more information at: https://www.volkswagen-we.com/en.html

Thanks so much for your time, Christoph. Seeing the potential on the connected future not only in smart homes but also in smart cities, it makes absolutely sense to me to also focus on cars to enhance the driver’s experience. What do you think about this new type of augmented ride experience? Make sure to drop us your comments and thoughts below. Many thanks for reading!

Photo credit: All images shown are owned by Volkswagen Group and used with permission.
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