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Chinese EV Startup NIO Partners with Xiaomi on Remote Car Smartwatch App

Chinese EV Startup NIO Partners with Xiaomi on Remote Car Smartwatch App

Author: Eric Walz   

Vehicle smartphone apps are an easy way for drivers to stay connected to their cars even when its parked. However, as more people start using smartwatches strapped to their wrists, connecting and communicating with their car with them seems like the next evolution for the auto industry.

According to Chinese media company 36kr.com, Chinese electric automaker NIO announced a new partnership with electronics company and wearable device maker Xiaomi on a NIO smartwatch app. NIO will be one of the few automakers to offer a smartwatch app for a production vehicle.

The use of smartwatches has grown steadily over the past five years, boosted by the April 2015 release of the Apple Watch. Advances in technology are making the watches more appealing for consumers as a way to always stay connected in their digital world and to their cars.

NIO owners will only need to download and install the Nio App to the Xiaomi Mi Watch to turn the watch into a smart remote control for their vehicle. According to reports, every NIO car model will support the Mi Watch NIO app.

Via the app, NIO customers can check the vehicle's battery charge level, open or unlock the doors and windows, or turn on the air conditioning using the app. The app can also help NIO owners find their vehicle in a crowded parking lot by activating the lights and horn. More intelligent functions such as near-field communication (NFC) may be supported in the future.

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NIO is considered by some industry insiders to be the "Tesla of China", producing electric vehicles packed with high-tech features, so the launch of the NIO smartwatch app is inline with the company's goal of building the most intelligent and connected electric vehicles.

Many automakers today, including Tesla, already offer a companion iPhone or Android app for their vehicles, but few offer a smartwatch app. However, the idea is starting to gain ground.

In Sept 2015, Ford Motor Co updated its "MyFord" app with support for the Apple Watch and Android Wear smartwatches. The app allowed owners of some Ford models to access their battery charge status, lock and unlock their doors.

Also in 2015, South Korean automaker Hyundai announced a smartwatch app as part of its cloud-based Blue Link platform, allowing features such as remote start and service information to be quickly accessed through smartwatches. Hyundai drivers can execute commands such as "Start my car," "Lock my car" or "Find my car" right from their smartwatch.

Last year, NIO was named number 5 in Fast Company's annual list of the Most Innovative Companies in China for 2019. The list recognizes businesses making the most profound impact on both industry and culture.

"We are focused on shaping a better lifestyle for our users through thoughtful design, innovative services, and cutting-edge technology. We are honored to be included in this year's list," said NIO Founder, Chairman and CEO, William Li last year after the announcement was made. 

NIO introduced its first flagship vehicle in June 2018, a seven-passenger electric SUV named the ES8. The company followed that up with a smaller five-passenger version called the ES6, which was unveiled in Dec 2018 during the company's "NIO Day." 

On February 25, 2020, NIO announced that it entered into a collaboration framework agreement with the municipal government of Hefei, Anhui province, where the company's main manufacturing hub is located. As part of the agreement, the Hefei government will provide funding for the long-term growth of NIO in Hefei. The agreement includes an investment of US$1.4 billion. 

NIO's third electric model will be the EC6, an electric coupe that slightly resembles the Model Y from Tesla, its biggest rival in China. 

The EC6 will be manufactured at the JAC-NIO Advanced Manufacturing Center in Hefei. Pricing and specifications are expected to be released in July 2020 with deliveries beginning in September.

Global shipments of wearable devices totaled 84.5 million units in the third quarter of 2019, a year-over-year increase of 94.6% and a new record for shipments in a single quarter, according to data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide.

Last year, Xiaomi ranked second globally behind computer giant Apple for wearable device shipments. The company shipped 41.7 million devices, a 79 percent increase from the previous year according to IDC.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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