Global partnership puts Aha streaming radio into Mazda's best-selling model

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 11:40am

In-car infotainment platform Aha by Harman announced that the new 2014 Mazda3 (for American and Japanese markets, as well as select other North American and Asian countries) will offer access to Aha's free service of more than 40,000 audio and information stations.

Aha will be Mazda's in-car solution to access podcasts, radio stations, news, entertainment, audiobooks, music, Facebook and Twitter feeds, and personalized location-based services.

Station partners include AccuRadio, CBC, EMF, NPR, CBS's, SHOUTcast, Slacker, SomaFM, and others.

The "connected car" a persistent topic at RAIN Summit Orlando

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - 12:40pm

Marketplace demand is growing for digital interactivity in the car. This trend has longer legs in the navigation/traffic category, but the headlines now are turning to the infotainment section of automobile control, driven largely by the penetration (if not saturation) of smartphones and the streaming-audio apps that live on them.

The changing configurations of "car radio" touched down several times, in several sessions of yesterday's RAIN Summit Orlando, including Entercom CEO David Field’s keynote address, a research presentation from GroupM Next ("The Internet Radio Marketplace") (see more Summit coverage here), the rapid-fire Pecha Kucha dazzler from Harman's Toby Trevarthen, and the "Race to the Dashboard" panel which provided a topical deep dive on the topic.

Toby Trevarthan set the table by declaring that 2013 was "ground zero" for development of connected car solutions. Of course, many ad hoc solution have been underway, cobbled together by users from one direction, the car companies from the other direction, and the aftermarket sitting between them. One of the most important questions in this space is whether a standardized infotainment platform is possible in the car, and if so, when. And how. And whether all stakeholders agree on its desirability. In other words, the big question mark is as fragmented as the present-day solutions.

The "Race to the Dashboard" session feature perspectives from Ford (Scott Burnell), Pioneer's aftermarket products (Ted Cardenas), Pandora (Geoff Snyder), TuneIn (Kevin Straley), and Slacker (Steve Cotter). Ford’s Burnell articulated Ford's plug-and-play dashboard philosophy, represented by the company AppLink functionality built into many popular streaming apps. The solution transfers control of a music-streaming app, for example, from the smartphone to the more accessible and safely-accessed dashboard.

Safety is a persistent issue, not an easily solved one, dependent as it is on state laws that form a regulatory patchwork sanctioning when and how phones can be used in the car. (More fragmentation.) Initiatives are underway, though, in the product development of app code from both the providers and the car companies -- e.g., blacking out the phone when control is transferred to the dash.

One of the most powerful built-in advantages of broadcast car radio is its intuitive, time-tested, push-button ease. Ideally, users want access to a big PLAY button in the car that picks up the station/stream/programming where the driver left off. Furthermore, also ideally, a standardized experience with similar essentials across all car types and models. After a day of circling around this topic, that holy grail of unification seems a long way off, as car builders, mobile service providers, streaming music companies, and the aftermarket innovators each pursues its individual path to stakeholding a piece of the digitally connected car of the future.

Toyota makes touchscreen in-dash entertainment system standard across Scion line

Friday, August 16, 2013 - 12:15pm

Toyota will offer a touchscreen in-dash audio entertainment system standard across its entire Scion line, making it the first carmaker to do so.

The standard Scion set-up includes a 6.1-inch touchscreen, HD Radio, CD player, and an auxiliary input to feed audio from a mobile device. Throw in an extra twelve-hundred bucks, and you get the Scion BeSpoke Premium Audio system, powered by Harman’s Aha Radio dashboard platform with access to 30-thousand free streaming radio stations (including AccuRadio).

Read Inside Radio's coverage here, or AutoBlog here.

October DASH conference to focus on radio and "the connected car"

Friday, July 26, 2013 - 12:50pm

Industry consultants Jacobs Media and Valerie Shuman, along with news source Radio Ink, will present a seminar focusing on radio in cars, called DASH: The Connected Car AudioTainment Conference.

The conference, October 23-24 in Detroit, is "designed to bring the automotive, radio, and advertising industries together to explore partnerships, exchange information, and learn from one another in a collaborative setting," according to an announcement.

"Changing technology in the digital age is redefining the decades-long connection between these two storied industries," the conference organizers say. "At the center of this change is the 'connected car'..."

Read more about the conference here.

Mobile industry group GSMA says 32 million "connected cars" will be sold worldwide in 2018

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 12:20pm

Last year 4.3 million cars sold supported in-car infotainment services that connect the car to online news, weather, social networking, and music streaming. Mobile industry group GSMA (with research firm SBD) has a new forecast out that predicts that number to be over 32 million in 2018.

The researcher predicts nearly 36 million new cars will feature "embedded telematics" (e.g. BMW ConnectedDrive) will be shipped worldwide by 2018, from 5.4 million last year. That's 31% of all new cars.

Systems that rely on a connected smartphone (like Ford Applink or Toyota Entune) aren't going away yet, however. SBD thinks nearly 21 million cars sold in five years will have "smartphone integration" -- that 18%. Last year, it was less than 2 million. These systems rely on intelligence hosted on the owner’s smartphone.

A hybrid of sorts, called "tethered solutions" (like Mercedes Command), apps run using the computer in the car computer, but use the owner’s mobile phone for connecting to the network. SBD says 10 million of the cars sold in 2018 will be fitted with tethered solutions (9% penetration), up from 2.6 million cars in 2012.

Read "Connected Car Forecast: Global Connected Car Market to Grow Threefold Within Five Years" here.

Connected Car experts say the future is mobile apps embedded directly in dashboard

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 9:15am

The future of radio in the car is the "embeddable app."

That's reporting from Mashable on a panel yesterday at the Connected Car conference in New York.

Apps that reside inside the car's dashboard (as opposed to being run and connected to the network via a tethered smartphone) to control mobile content will help keep drivers' eyes off of their smartphones. But they'll "need to look like AM and FM radio to drivers," said Chia-Lin Simmons, VP of marketing and content for Aha Radio.

TuneIn VP Carl Rohling sees embedded Net radio apps as the standard in a few years, reports Inside Radio. But the new technology needs standardization.

Auto analyst Roger Lanctot, speaking at the conference yesterday, said, "There is a groundswell of innovation - so you're getting a proliferation of audio apps - but increasingly the challenge facing the industry is how to manage all this content."

Read Mashable here and subscribe to Inside Radio here.

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