Panasonic automotive systems division acquires webcaster Aupeo! for in-dash music

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - 2:15pm

Panasonic did more than talk about in-car Internet radio at RAIN Summit West this weekend.

Panasonic Corporation of North America and its Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America have acquired Berlin-based webcaster Aupeo, with the aim of "enhanc(ing) the leading-edge technology and customer relationship tools Panasonic is able to offer its automotive customers."

"Conventional consumer-focused music and content services do not address all the needs of car manufacturers," said Tom Gebhardt, president of Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America. "Aupeo’s technologies and content delivery platform provide a solution that is complementary to Panasonic’s automotive, business-to-business and business-to-consumer product lines."

Holger Weiss is CEO of Aupeo. Hakan Kostepen is Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America Executive Director of Product Planning & Innovation. Both took part in discussion panels Sunday at RAIN Summit West in Las Vegas, just a day before the acquisition was announced.

Weiss commented on the deal, "Aupeo was founded with a clear vision to deliver online and seamless content services to internet-connected devices. At that point, we saw the car as our most important focus."

Summit panel examines the steep challenges the "connected dashboard" brings

Monday, April 8, 2013 - 1:00pm

Delivering Internet audio to the car is hard. Everyone on the "Dashboard Discussions" panel, which led off yesterday's RAIN Summit West in Las Vegas, agreed on that.

So far, implementations are all unique and different, and it's expensive to work with carmakers. Entercom Director of Digital Operations Amy Van Hook (top right) explained that's why her company is sticking with aggregations like TuneIn, or Entercom's mobile apps, to connect to cars for now. Chia-Lin Simmons, Aha by Harman VP/Marketing & Content, said it can cost a million dollars to get integrated into the car "head unit." Moderator Roger Lanctot of Strategy Analytics verified that automakers make hard to "scale" integrations.

But it's incredibly important to be in the car. Broadcasters can't walk away from this vital listening "theater," and newer audio sources need that audience to grow. jacAPPS president Paul Jacobs reminded the crowd that the car is both radio's number-one listening location, and carmakers are radio's number-one client.

Simmons said we're living in a world now where customers expect their content to be delivered everywhere (and introduced the concept of "round tripping," where a listener can bookmark a place in their listening in the cloud, and pick it up where they left off once they're in the car).

"The DVR has changed consumers' expectations," agreed Van Hook. She also reminded the crowd that radio's dominance in the car won't be a given.

Of course, safety is a top priority. TuneIn's VP of Business Development Carl Rohling (lower right) explained his company's "car mode" interface, which simplifies and limits the controls to only the most basic (like "favorites"). But Panasonic Executive Director/Product Planning & Innovation added some historical perspective: in the 1930s, authorities were afraid audio entertainment in the car (that could travel at speeds of 40 mph!) might be a dangerous distraction. He predicted many of the safety concerns of Internet-enabled cars will be addressed by very exciting -- and somewhat futuristic -- advances in dashboard displays in just a few years.

So what are the strategies? Simmons' company is trying to bring the interactivity we've learned to expect from the desktop and mobile, in a safe way into the vehicle. The data her company collects can help content providers like webcasters better program, and better target ads. Rohling's TuneIn is also working at ways to help broadcasters monetize streams outside their local market.

But it's still that "local imperative," Jacbos said, "that makes radio important."

Look for more coverage from RAIN Summit West 2013 later today and in the coming days.

Expert Summit panelists will discuss competing in "Darwinian" battle of content

Monday, March 25, 2013 - 1:15pm

In today's USA Today "Money" section (here), journalist Chris Woodyard suggests the very existence of AM/FM radio may be endangered by a wave of Internet-delivered audio entertainment in the car.

Most of us closer to the webcasting, broadcasting, and automotive industries doubt IP-delivered content in cars spells doom for American broadcasters. But that's certainly not to say it's not a crucial issue. Jacobs Media president Fred Jacobs wrote last week (here), "The automakers are perfectly content to give consumers lots of choice and let Darwinian-driven choice take over. May the best content win. And that’s where radio needs to rethink its assumptions and givens."

RAIN Summit West (now just two weeks away on April 7 in Las Vegas) leads off by picking up this very important discussion. Moderated by Roger Lanctot from tech-focused research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics, the "Dashboard Discussions" panel will hash out some strategies for competing for the attention of drivers and passengers with a world of media options at their fingertips.

Paul Jacobs is president of jacAPPS, the mobile development division of Jacbos Media. At January's Consumer Electronics Show, Ford Motor Company named jacAPPS a "recommended mobile app development house" for its new Ford Developer Program. This means jacAPPS will develop, as well as work with other third-party developers, to create voice-activated smartphone apps for radio to work with Ford's SYNC AppLink (RAIN coverage here). Paul (pictured top-right) returns to RAIN Summit to share his insight on this topic. (Another panelist from the application side is TuneIn Radio's Carl Rohling.)

Chia-Lin Simmons is VP/Marketing & Content for electronics maker Harman International's Aha unit. Aha delivers entertainment and information content to connected vehicles, mobile phones, and in-home devices. She's responsible for all marketing strategy, she works to secure content partnerships, and she co-markets the Aha service with affiliate car makers, OEMs, and electronics makers. Simmons (left), who also co-hosts the On Digital Media podcast, will be a part of the panel. (Panasonic is another electronics manufacturer innovating in-car integration of mobile content. Panasonic's Hakan Kostepen will join us too.)

Obviously, we wouldn't have this discussion without hearing from broadcasters. Entercom Director/Digital Operations Amy Van Hook (lower-right) is a seasoned radio and digital veteran whose experience includes time as COO of radio-focused streaming media company Liquid Compass and Susquehanna Radio as Group Director of Interactive. Entercom makes its streams available in the TuneIn directory, works with social radio service Jelli on more than 100 of its stations, and is experimenting with on-air/online royalty deals with record label groups.

Read more about our "Dashboard Discussions" panel in RAIN here.

RAIN Summit West is Sunday, April 7 in Las Vegas. The annual full-day Internet radio conference is a co-located education program of the NAB Show. Now in its 12th year, the Summit focuses on the intersection of radio and the Internet. Keynoting will be RAB president and CEO Erica Farber (more in RAIN here) and Rhapsody International president Jon Irwin (more here). Register today, while space is still available, via the RAIN Summit West page. And look for the RAIN Reader Discount Code in the P.S. of your RAIN Daily e-mail (subscribe here).

High speed in-car connectivity could be a threat, but also an opportunity, for radio

Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 11:45am

This week we reported GM will equip several 2014 automobiles with 4G mobile connectivity, enabling data speeds of up to ten times that of 3G connections (see RAIN here). American Public Media's "Marketplace Tech" covered it too, and focused on the implications for traditional AM/FM radio. Its headline: "GM's Internet cars: The end of FM radio?"

Show host David Brancaccio spoke with CNet executive editor Molly Wood, wondering if the new tech would be a "big opportunity, or a big pain-in-the-neck, for regular FM and AM radio stations that also cherish the in-car audience."

"Once this becomes readily available and the price for it is built into the price of the car," Wood said, "I think radio's got a pretty big problem."

Her prediction did come with some caveats. The first is cost. 4G is currently pretty pricey. Next, 4G coverage can still be spotty.

As Brancaccio suggested, however, there's also opportunity here for terrestrial radio. "Some existing radio stations are very strong brands, and if they get ahead of this... it might mean new listeners, not just in their traditional listening area, but across the country," he said.

Wood concurred: "And that is definitely the opportunity. If the content is there, and people want it, I think that's absolutely a huge opportunity. And I do think that there will always be a place for local."

Listen to the full inteview from APM's Marketplace Tech here.

Gracenote hack tailors music to driving conditions

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 8:20am

We reported yesterday on metadata and music ID company Gracenote launching their developer program and giving access and tools for others to build services using Gracenote's data. Today GigaOm reports on Gracenote hacking a Ford Focus to get access to vehicle performance data -- and using that data in the car's entertainment system. The result: a car audio system that musically responds to your driving conditions!

At the Music Hack Day event in San Franciso last weekend, Gracenote engineers tapped a Focus' "Control Area Network." Using that info, Gracenote triggered the audio system to play different songs based on what the car was doing (windshield wipers on, accelerating over 50 mph, etc.).

While this "is hardly a mood-sensing stereo," GigaOm writes, "Where Gracenote takes this technology next will be very interesting. Imagine if you could plug this info into Pandora’s music recommendations algorithm... Once Pandora learns you like to listen to the Rolling Stones when on the open highway with the top down, it effectively starts learning your driving moods."

Read more in GigaOm, and see a demo video, here.

Chevy, TuneIn, Rhapsody, Ford announce CES in-dash deals; Livio demo's new FM Connect

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 12:10pm

Yet even more deals announced at CES this week to bring Internet radio to cars!

Chevrolet has added web radio tuning service TuneIn to its MyLink system to bring the app to MyLink-equipped Chevy Sonics and Sparks. The automaker demo'd the new feature at CES.

And we've mentioned Ford and its SYNC Applink system a few times today. The automaker announced it's adding streaming music service Rhapsody to more than a million Ford and Lincoln vehicles, via SYNC. This is Rhapsody's first full integration with an automaker. Last month (and thus, not related to CES), Spotify announced it would connect with fellow Swedish company Volvo for in-dash operability.

Finally, Livio demonstrated its new technology, called FM Connect, designed to allow in-car FM radio listeners to safely interact with FM broadcasters and sponsors from the dashboard via a Bluetooth-connected smartphone. Livio is reportedly exiting the car radio kit market.

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