Ford SYNC and Nuance Mobile enhance voice recognition, as Nokia Siemens Networks buys Motorola’s wireless networks business

Ford SYNC and Nuance Mobile enhance voice recognition, as Nokia Siemens Networks buys Motorola’s wireless networks business

Ford announced that the next generation of SYNC will take voice recognition to a new level for in-car infotainment. Ford worked with speech technology leader Nuance Mobile to create a vast library of possible driver requests. The library enables a SYNC speech engine to respond to more voice commands directly, including emergency requests, road clarifications, phone contacts (e.g. “Call John Smith”) or point-of-interest inquiries for the navigation system. The POI menu will recognize brand names and respond to direct requests, like “Find a shoe store” or “Find a hotel.” Additionally, drivers will be able to change the in-car temperature, tune the radio, and enter addresses into the navigation system simply by talking.

“The power of the SYNC voice control system is its ability to understand and respond to more natural language commands, and the advanced adaptability of the speech recognition technology enables the system to train itself with each successive use,” says Michael Thompson, senior vice president and general manager, Nuance Mobile. “Even if the car owner has a cold or someone borrows the car, SYNC will adapt to the changed voice and process spoken commands without missing a beat.”

The voice upgrades will be available on the next generation of SYNC and MyFord Touch, which launch this year on the 2011 Ford Edge.

BMW Australia launches in-car Internet

BMW Australia announced a new in-car wireless system that allows drivers to surf the Internet, check e-mail, trade tweets, and scan stocks, all on an embedded display screen. To operate the system, the driver needs an Internet-capable mobile phone. When plugged in, the smartphone screen is projected onto BMW’s iDrive screen, and the iDrive joystick becomes the mouse. BMW Australia says the system will be available before 2011 and will cost $200. Australian police authorities warn that because the system runs on a mobile phone, drivers will face tickets if they use it while driving, just as they would if they were talking or texting.

Navigon announces more connected services

Navigon upgraded the Live Services feature on its connected navigation devices with two new services, Fuel Live and Events Live. Fuel Live gives a snapshot of all gas stations within a certain radius of the car, with the cost of the gas listed alongside the distance to the destination. A driver can pre-define a preferred type of fuel. The Events Live feature informs drivers of all live events—concerts, parades, festivals, and grand openings—going on nearby. Both services will be available for the first time on the NAVIGON 80 Premium Live PND, to be released this September.

Vodafone shares its code

Vodafone transferred all of its navigation and LBS code to open source, which will allow any company or independent developer to use the code for new apps or navigation services. The free-for-all was prompted by Vodafone’s decision to abandon turn-by-turn location-based services as part of its core business. In 2008, Vodafone purchased navigation and LBS supplier Wayfinder, which it subsequently shuttered in March 2010. Rather than see the code go to waste, the firm elected to make it open source, which could hurt former Wayfinder competitors.

Cross Country opens call centers

Cross Country Automotive Services, which owns the ATX brand, launched a live GPS system that allows drivers to get directions with a simple push of a button. The button triggers a hands-free cell phone embedded in the car, which links up with one of Cross Country’s two new call centers in the US. There, the query is researched and results are fed back to the car’s GPS system. Cross Country hopes to grow the call centers to 40 employees each in the coming months. Call center operators also offer traditional roadside assistance service, similar to OnStar.

Nokia and Motorola

Nokia Siemens Networks bought Motorola’s wireless networks business for $1.2 billion. Nokia is hoping Motorola clients, including Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, will upgrade to new Nokia equipment, which would give the company a leg up on its competition (namely Ericsson) in North America and Japan. Meanwhile, Motorola is searching for cash as it intends to split its current company into two new ones—Motorola Solutions and Motorola Mobility—at the start of 2011. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2010.

Sistema and M2M Telematics

Sistema, Russia’s largest public financial corporation, acquired a majority stake in M2M Telematics, which held 9 percent of the Russian telematics market in 2009. Sistema paid $20 million for a 51 percent stake in M2M and says it plans to acquire the remaining 49 percent in the coming five years. The company also owns a 51 percent stake in Navigation Information Systems, which spearheads a national traffic emergency response system in Russia.

Ovi Maps incorporates user-generated material

Nokia introduced a new reporting function, Map Reporter, into its latest version of Ovi Maps, its free global navigation service for Nokia smartphones. The reporting function allows users to update the system about incorrect speed limits, erroneous street names, blocked intersections, missing corridors, and insufficient lamp lighting. The function is similar to TomTom’s Map Share feature and is available immediately.

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

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