Winnebago Connect a ‘World-Class’ Smart RV System – RVBusiness – Breaking RV Industry News
After over two years in development, Winnebago Industries has redefined what it means to be a smart RV with the launch of its Connect system.
Debuting on a View 24T Class C motorhome at the 2024 Florida RV SuperShow – which boasted a shiny new interior in its own right – the Winnebago Connect is, according to the company, an “intelligent RV system empowered with intuitive control that proactively manages on-board systems according to user preferences.”
The Connect development team puts it another way, calling it a “world-class experience that’s easy to use and intuitive.”
While other RV platforms simply monitor certain RV systems and controls them via a mobile app, Winnebago Connect intuitively controls those systems according to pre-determined preferences as well as analysis of the user experience.
For example, Connect doesn’t just tell owners how much power is left in the batteries, it will also tell them, based on their typical usage, how many days they have left before they run out of juice. And if the owner has the right setting enacted, Connect will automatically turn on and switch over to the generator if the batteries run out of power.
Another example is Connect might alert the owner that the black tank is 83% full – notice the detailed measurement – and then add that, based on typical usage, there’s another 36 hours before it reaches capacity.
In addition, Connect integrates seamlessly with the Winnebago app to make RV operations and maintenance more convenient than ever. Like a proactive assistant, it also keeps you in the know with smart messaging and timely alerts. The app
Furthermore, Connect can perform a full system diagnostic scan and its remote diagnostics capability can help expedite any needed service work, while over-the-air software upgrades automatically enhances the RV systems as updates become available.
Also, Connect’s PetMinder feature means the pets can be taken care of in climate-controlled comfort while their owners are off taking a hike.
And that’s only the highlights. Indeed, a full rundown of everything the Connect can do would fill a book.
The key to Connect, explained Kim Wecket, Winnebago’s vice president of digital transformation, was that she and her team – which includes Chris Kuelbs, product manager for the Connect mobile app, and Marc Fecker, product manager for the Connect – were laser-focused on the user experience.
“Over the last two-plus years we’ve taken our customers’ feedbacks, we’ve done user groups and those sorts of things, to ensure that we’re creating the best experience for our customer. And one of the pieces that I think is super important is we made it easy,” she told RVBusiness.
Picking it up from there, Fecker said the main idea is Winnebago has taken all of the systems and the vehicle and integrated them into one consolidated experience, that can be accessed through a touchscreen display mounted inside the RV as well as accessible through the mobile app.
The integrated message center, he added, is a key component to Connect because it is easy-to-understand and easy-to-use. As one might expect, the message center provides important information about what’s going on in the vehicle.
“Really, for us, it was a paradigm shift that we were trying to address,” Fecker said. “When customers are operating their coach, you’re constantly having to monitor everything. What we wanted to do is enable you to just set your preferences and instead of you having to keep an eye on everything, don’t worry, the coach will tell you when it needs something.”
“And we do that through this message center. Plus, when we have alerts that are important and you have your phone paired to it, you’ll get pushed notifications through the app to let you know when you’re away.”
Another key component Fecker mentioned was the platform’s smart energy management. Connect will seek the greatest efficiency when it comes to the RV’s energy consumption, he explained – and, because it’s a smart system, it does this automatically and behind the scenes.
“I’ll give an example,’ Fecker noted. “This vehicle has tank heating pads and they only run when it gets cold and you’re freezing. But when they’re hooked up, they have a parasitic draw of power off your battery – and there’s lots of equipment that has that. So, what we did in our system is we don’t let the pads draw power until it gets below 40 degrees. It will turn on when it gets close to freezing. It’s those little things that make the difference, and there’s lots of them.”
But wait; there’s more.
Diving further into Connect’s diagnostic capabilities, Fecker mentioned how the system can assist Winnebago’s customer care team as well as front-line dealers. Connect can remotely transmit the appropriate data so techs can get a head start on a potential service need.
“They could be able to look at the health of the vehicle, any issues that the vehicle’s reporting, so that they can remotely troubleshoot problems without the customer having to bring it into the dealership every time there’s something going on. That’s going to be really helpful when and if there are any issues that arise.”
Connect can also offer owners a home-like internet experience, Fecker mentioned.
“We have a built-in system that’s going to be a best-in-market opportunity for customers,” he explained, adding the dual carriers are AT&T and Verizon. “So, you’ll get broader coverage and better throughput. It’ll move to the network that has the best coverage or the best speed for you, and you’ll be able to enroll through the mobile app really easily.
“And one of the nice things is you’ll be able to stop your subscription when you’re not using your vehicle and it expires at the end of the month,” he added. So, if you’re not using it for six months of the year, which is common in a lot of our customers, you just pause your subscription and turn it back on when you’re ready to use the coach again.”
As mentioned, the Connect made its debut on the View 24T. It will eventually find its way across other models, Wecket added, and most likely in several variations.
The bottom line, Wecket, Fecker and Kuelbs said, is the Connect is “all about less time managing your coach, and more time enjoying the experience.”