Honda to offer in-car web radio with HondaLink and Harman's Aha Radio

Thursday, July 19, 2012 - 12:40pm

HondaLinkHonda has become the latest carmaker to offer in-car web radio.

The company yesterday announced a new system called HondaLink, which incoporates Aha Radio (from audio-equipment supplier Harman) and includes built-in support for Pandora.

Like the systems offered by Ford, GM and other automakers, HondaLink reportedly relies on a smartphone to connect to the web. It's controlled via voice commands and in-dash buttons.

The system reportedly includes an in-dash app for Pandora, Slacker and Shoutcast streams. Besides web radio options, HondaLink includes podcasts, audio news feeds from Facebook and Twitter and other offerings. It will first be available in the 2013 Accord.

It's a good first step for Honda, but the company "has a long way to go," writes Wired. "There’s still a lot missing from HondaLink to make it competitive... for now this is just one small step for Honda, while the competition is already on its second lap."

You can find more coverage from Engadget here, The Verge here, Wired here and AutoWeek here.

About 1 in 4 female radio listeners access web content in their cars weekly

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - 1:20pm

In-car web radio listeningAlan Burns and Associates have more to share from their survey of women radio listeners (find RAIN's earlier coverage here), and it has to do with in-car web music listening.

Nearly one in four women said they access web content in their cars weekly and 16% do so every day. Among those who have built-in web access, around 50% use the Internet in-car daily. It's not clear if that includes systems like Ford SYNC, which technically don't connect to the web without a smartphone.

Women surveyed cited not having web access in their cars as the #1 reason for not listening to Pandora and other web radio services more.

Alan Burns and Associates says the female radio listeners they surved "who already have in-car access still listen to [terrestrial] radio more often than anything else in the car, and just as often as other women."

Alan Burns and Associates will present more info in a free webinar, presented by Trition Digital, tomorrow at 3:30pm Eastern. Registration can be found here.

Company will deliver custom local deals to car dashboards

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - 12:00pm

Ford SYNCRoximity aims to bring personalized, local deals and offers to drivers through dashboard systems like Ford SYNC. In fact, the service even won the Ford SYNC App Developer Challenge last year.

The service recently raised $500,000 in investment, reports The Next Web. And it says to look forward to "big announcements" coming in early August.

An interesting service, Roximity may prove to be another example of digital services edging in on territory traditionally held by AM/FM radio.

You can find more coverage from The Next Web here.

Study finds in-car tech systems frustrating; Microsoft may aim to find a solution

Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 12:40pm

In-car iPhoneA new study from J.D. Power and Associates found that dissatisfaction with new in-car technology -- including audio systems and voice-control options -- is growing. Problems with audio, entertainment and navigation dashboard systems grew 8% year-over-year.

"For the first time in the 26-year history of the study, owners report more problems related to audio, entertainment, and navigation systems than in any other vehicle area," J.D. Power stated. Voice-control options are apparently the biggest frustration for users -- a service touted by many carmakers as a way to control in-car web radio playback.

"It’s not the technology that’s the issue, it’s the execution," writes Wired (here). "Growing pains are inevitable," and we're still in the very early days of smartphone integration and other next-gen in-car services. Users want these services, but carmakers must find the right way to present them.

Meanwhile, Microsoft may be planning an in-car system integrated with Windows 8, Windows Phone and Kinect, according to a job listing from the company. Windows 8 is the upcoming new desktop/tablet operating system from Microsoft, Windows Phone is its line of smartphone devices and Kinect is its motion- and voice-control system for Xbox.

"It all sounds very forward-looking at the moment, so don't take this as a guarantee just yet that your future Ford Focus is going to come equipped with a Kinect," writes The Verge (here). "Still, none of this is too far out there."

Apple's iPhone voice-control system coming to 9 automakers' dashboards within 12 months

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 11:35am

Siri in carsApple yesterday announced a series of partnerships with automakers to bring the voice-control system Siri into cars witin the next 12 months. Drivers will be able to press a button on the car dashboard, then speak a command (like "launch Pandora" or "open iHeartRadio" or "play AccuRadio").

"With the Eyes Free feature, ask Siri to call people, select and play music, hear and compose text messages, use Maps and get directions, read your notifications, find calendar information, add reminders, and more," Apple said (according to PC Mag here).

Automakers on-board with the new integration include BMW, Mercedes, GM, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda. The system will require a connected iPhone.

"By leveraging Siri's natural language voice control platform, theoretically drivers will be able to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road to minimize distracted driving," comments CNet (here).

The Verge notes that cars won't sport a custom "Siri Button," but instead Siri will just use the "already built-in general voice activation buttons." Apple also announced new features for Siri, including the ability to launch third-party apps, perfect for firing up Internet radio apps safely while driving.

The Verge has more coverage here and here.

GigaOM: Automakers' bring-your-own-connection strategy may be more beneficial to consumers

Monday, June 11, 2012 - 11:40am

In-car stereoThe current in-car Internet radio landscape is dominated by dashboard systems that let users control services like Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn...provided there's a smartphone connected.

Lately, Verizon has reportedly pushed aggressively for a different future, one where cars connect directly to the web via 4G LTE. GigaOM reports Verizon Wireless' parent company recently purchased a machine-to-machine telematics company, while Verizon itself has formed a 4G Venture Forum for Connected Cars.

BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Kia have joined the forum, but absent are automakers from Detroit. GigaOM writes their absence "might be attributable to the fact that U.S. automakers’ visions for the connected car aren’t entirely aligned with Verizon’s."

That is, they would prefer the current bring-your-own-connection set-up.

"The logic is sound," comments GigaOM (here). "Consumer vehicles have long replacement cycles. Meanwhile consumers trade in their smartphones for more-sophisticated models every 18 months. Any radio, processor or platform technology an automaker embeds in a car could become obsolete within a few years."

But might requiring a separate device end up being a roadblock to in-car web radio adoption? Perhaps not. Nielsen recently found that more than half of mobile users in the U.S. now own a smartphone (RAIN coverage here). Meanwhile, Forrester Research has predicted U.S. consumers will own 257 million smartphones by 2016 (more here). 

As Auto Magazine commented last year (here), "Millions of drivers already pay for powerful mobile devices and data plans, and most new cars, even those as inexpensive as the Kia Forte, are set up to connect with them via Bluetooth and USB inputs."

But it will be up to automakers to make the integration between their dashboards and the increasingly diverse world of smartphones as seamless and painless as possible.

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