Livio

Livio, Ford, and the pursuit of connected dashboard standards

Friday, September 27, 2013 - 12:45pm

The ability to pivot, moving in a new direction from the same vantage, is crucial in basketball and business. Livio, whose acquisition by Ford has lit up the connected-car niche, pivoted adroitly from making internet radio devices to writing car connectivity software. Ford, for its part, appears to be pivoting on its Sync and AppLink assets, adding Livio’s branded technology as a wholly-owned subsidiary living side-by-side with Ford’s digital-dash solutions.

Livio’s flagship product is a universal platform that links consumer devices to car dashboards. The scenario: You bring your smartphone into the car, and your favorite Internet listening apps get connected to the dashboard’s head unit where you can more easily and safely control them. Ford’s AppLink performs the same basic function -- Scott Burnell, Ford’s global lead of business development, describes AppLink as a snippet of code written into infotainment apps such as Pandora and TuneIn.

Matching the ease of AM/FM radio in the car with the programming variety of Internet radio is the brass ring for users and app providers. But that mission does not appear to be shared among car builders, most of which provide independent solutions. Questions of who provides the Internet connection, the apps, and the operating system are being answered in multiple ways, reflecting many marketplace approaches.

RAIN talked with Tim Stevens, Editor at Large of CNET and noted car-tech expert, about creating dashboard standardization out of the deep fragmentation which currently exists. Stevens pointed to Livio’s existing relationship with Chevrolet as an interesting deal point. (Livio Connect is implemented in the Chevrolet Spark.)

“It’s interesting to see Ford acquire somebody who has third-party relationships with other car companies, GM in this case. And I’m guessing that GM is planning to expand that out to other models. Ford has been pretty open about wanting to establish some kind of standard of smartphone connectivity and infotainment in general. This is a pretty strong indication that they are serious about wanting to define that standard.”

Burnell, who appeared on RAIN Summit’s “Race to the Dashboard” panel ten days ago in Orlando, explained why Ford’s “brought-in” solution to dashboard standardization, in which the user provides the apps and the Internet connection, is favorable to users and app developers. 

“The life cycle of developing and launching a vehicle is about five years. If you embed Pandora into the head unit, going through the OEM’s [development] cycle, it might be obsolete when it comes out. With Ford and the brought-in solution, it’s the user’s app and they are already using it. It can connect to the vehicle, and work.”

Stevens notes that car companies have become more adept at separating dashboard development cycles from the rest of the car model’s evolution, quickening the creation of new dashboard connectivity features. But that isn’t moving the industry as a whole toward a standard infotainment dashboard, according to Stevens. “I don’t think the OEMs are motivated to play nice together. They ultimately are focused on delivering what they think is the best product for their buyers. Making any concessions in the interest of keeping their developers happy is not on their radar. Ford is the only one that is thinking about that.”

Livio’s mandate, as expressed by founder Jake Sigal, is “More connectivity with less hassle.” That ideal is certainly foundational to dashboard standardization, but there are many paths forward through a thicket of technologies. The mobile device companies like Apple and Google are not (yet?) significantly involved, and the competitive landscape could get more complex than it already is. A universal listening system in the car, one that approaches the simplicity of AM/FM receivers, could be a mirage for years to come.

Industry announcements from Livio, Abacast, StreamGuys, Triton Digital, and more

Monday, June 10, 2013 - 12:15pm

Here are some new developments from industry firms (who aren't Apple) we think you may find interesting:

Livio has announced Livio Keys and the FM Traffic Button, two new products they say can generate new revenue for car manufacturers and app developers. Livio Keys is a "communication solution" that links carmakers and software developers with tools and customizable services. The FM Traffic Button uses code added to an embedded app on an in-dash infotainment system to provide up-to-the-minute, on-demand traffic reports for U.S. markets.

Abacast has announced a new partnership with Cue.AD, the first Israeli ad network for digital radio. The deal, says, Abacast, will provide that nation's first solution for digital radio broadcasters and advertisers along with a complete online radio streaming and monetization service.

Industry research firm Reportlinker has a new study out called "Global Internet Radio Industry," which it says provides comprehensive analytics for the U.S., Canada, Japan, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and more, with annual estimates and forecasts for 2010-2018. The report covers 45 companies like Pandora, Clear Channel, Slacker, Rhapsody, SomaFM, Digitally Imported, and AccuRadio. Read more (and purchase the report) here.

StreamGuys will now support the open-source Ogg Opus codec, which it says will give webcasters more options for high-quality, low-latency audio streaming. The Ogg Opus codec is free to use, offers broadcast-quality reproduction, and doesn't lag behind real-time broadcasting (like streaming MP3 can).

Triton Digital announced it's successfully deployed its Advertising Platform including Ad Injector to Sao Paulo, Brazil-based broadcaster Kiss Telecomunicações LTDA.

Marketron has expanded its partnership with Saga Communications. The broadcaster will now use Marketron's Insight reporting product, Proof of Performance, and Network Connect.

Streaming services provider and app-maker Securenet adds Livio API for easy in-car smartphone connection

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 11:25am

Radio streaming services provider Securenet Systems announced it has integrated Livio Connect's "smartphone-to-dashboard" solution into its mobile streaming app platform. Securenet Systems provides third-party apps for Internet radio, with more than two-thousand listener apps on the Android and iOS platforms.

Senior Managing Director for Securenet Systems Kerry Brewer said, "With Livio, we simply add the Livio Connect API to an app, upload the code library, and once enabled, any one of our apps will now work with car dashboard buttons or listener device commands."

Read more on Livio Connect in RAIN here. Securenet's press release is here.

Livio founder Sigal wins "Entrepreneur of the Year" in Automation Alley awards

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 6:45pm

Livio Radio founder and CEO Jake Sigal was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the 12th annual Automation Alley Awards Gala in Troy, MI. Automation Alley is a technology business association for tech professionals and engineers in southeast Michigan.

Livio creates mobile apps, a Bluetooth device, and manages Livio Connect, its "APIs" that work with car companies and app developers -- all designed to connect the mobile phone experience to the car dashboard.

General Motors announced in September its plan to work with Livio for in-dash radio functionality for the 2013 Chevrolet Spark equipped with MyLink Radio (here).

Read more in Crain's Detroit Business here

Livio Connect tech will integrate TuneIn app in MyLink Radio for 2013 Chevy Spark

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - 12:35pm

General Motors today announced it will work with both Livio and TuneIn for in-dash Internet radio functionality for 2013 Chevrolet Sparks equipped with MyLink Radio.

Livio's "Livio Connect" technology, used here in the company's first OEM integration with GM, will connect the TuneIn music smartphone app with the MyLink Radio. Livio Connect is a middleware framework protocol that enables hardware devices and mobile apps to connect to and interact with one another.

A press release says all of the TuneIn buttons and controls from the mobile device will be available on MyLink’s seven-inch touch screen, while the app on the phone itself will be disabled to help promote safer driving.

In-car tech development may soon speed up as prices "continue to drop" for consumers; radio should take note

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - 12:00pm

Tesla Model SFor the past few years, the tech world -- much like the Internet radio industry -- has been focused on mobile. From touchscreens to apps to voice command systems, "the hottest tech" has been on our phones, GigaOM writes. "But that may be about to change...our vehicles have a brighter future. The chip industry is betting on automotive in a big way."

As RAIN readers will know, many new cars already offer somewhat easy access to web radio services. Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda, BMW and others all offer in-dash apps for Pandora, iHeartRadio, Slacker, TuneIn and other web radio services.

But development in auto tech may accelerate. Companies like Nvidia, Texas Instruments and others are building new processors for cars to run more apps and offer more functionality on dashboards, GigaOM reports. Such developments are driven in part by "steadily rising" revenue derived from putting new entertainment and connectivity technology into cars.

"In the next year or two we’re going to see cars with services that redefine technology," GigaOM comments.

But connecting to the web may be a problem. Most car systems now rely on smartphones, but others take a different approach. The Tesla Model S (pictured above), for example, connects directly to the web -- no smartphone required. It will also come with TuneIn's web radio directory built in to the dashboard's whopping 17" touchscreen (and also happens to be TuneIn's 200th distribution platform).

Still, such systems -- regardless of how they get online -- run into the same issues of data costs and network capacity. While "the jury is still out" on such issues, GigaOM writes (here), "it's clearly a platform of interest to carriers."

Toyota EntuneCompanies like Livio are looking to make it easier for carmakers to adopt and include web radio technology in dashboards. Livio has just announced it has joined the GENIVI alliance, a Linux-based infotainment platform used by automakers as "a common framework" (more here).

For consumers though, access to such digital connectivity is getting cheaper. "The price of entry continues to drop," writes Jacobs Media president Fred Jacobs. He points (here) to the sub-$18,000 Ford Fiesta (equipped with Sync) and the $27,000 Toyota Tacoma (with Entune, pictured left) as examples.

"The automakers and the after-market manufacturers are looking for ways to make the digital dashboard a cheap, easy entry point." And, as Jacobs has found in his own Techsurveys, "about one-fifth of those who have vehicles equipped with these systems [like Sync and Entune] indicate they are listening to less broadcast radio as a result."

"It all points to the need for broadcast radio to do what it does best – serve local communities with programming and personalities that you just can’t get anywhere else with a great consumer experience."

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