Highlights from the Consumer Electronics Show

Highlights from the Consumer Electronics Show

More than 2,700 exhibitors and 170,000 attendees—some 30,000 of them from foreign shores—descended upon Las Vegas, Nevada, for the annual Consumer Electronics Show. The show featured 22 top CEOs in keynote addresses, many of whom hailed from the automotive sector and singled out telematics as the future of cars. “There is a revolution taking place,” said Audi chairman Rupert Stadler, who drove onto the CES stage in an E-tron Spyder concept car. “Some of the most exciting new consumer electronics aren’t the ones in your living rooms or in your offices. They’re the ones in your cars. We’re redefining what it means to be a really fast computer.” Audi was one of many companies to use the show as a platform for new product and platform launches.


Audi debuted a revised multimedia interface, the MMI Touch, which runs off a NVIDIA Tegra chipset and offers futuristic features like a fly-around tire pressure display coupled with a real-time 3D view of the car. The MMI Touch includes gesture and handwriting recognition; the system can even comprehend Chinese characters. Audi plans to integrate the next-generation MMI Touch into the 2012 Audi A3. In his keynote address, Audi chairman Stadler also laid out Audi’s vision of the “connected car,” which will require virtually no local data backup within the vehicle; it will pull all its information—from music to navigation—from servers on the Internet. To that end, Audi has created a new hardware platform, the Modular Infotainment System (MIS), and a joint venture company called e.solutions GmbH, which is developing custom software packages.


General Motors announced plans to begin selling its OnStar service for use in non-GM vehicles. The OnStar aftermarket product will offer the same services as traditional OnStar—accident alerts, navigation, and stolen-vehicle tracking—but will clip onto rearview mirrors, rather than be embedded in the dashboard. Best Buy and other retailers will sell the product for $299, plus installation. General Motors added some features to the OnStar aftermarket product, like voice-to-text-message translation to compete with Ford Sync.


Hyundai unveiled its new Blue Link telematics platform, which will offer more than 30 unique connectivity features on future Hyundai models. These features include a maintenance alert that helps drivers identify and schedule service; an Eco-Coach that improves efficient driving; remote vehicle start, which allows a driver to heat or cool the car before driving; geofence, which can send a text if a driver has ventured outside prescribed borders or time constraints; and stolen vehicle slowdown to help police recover a stolen vehicle.


Verizon previewed its newest navigation software for Android, VZ Navigator. The software displays buildings in 3D and offers lane assistance based on NAVTEQ data, among other features. Verizon plans to sell VZ Navigator for a $9.99 monthly subscription. The company believes drivers will pay for the better user experience, which integrates with other apps on the Android interface. Google’s navigation software on Android is currently free.


Airbiquity announced a new partnership with Ford, in which Airbiquity will provide connected vehicle services and infrastructure to Ford’s electric vehicle programs. Airbiquity specializes in Green Vehicle solutions, connected vehicle services that aim at environmental sustainability. Airbiquity's Green Vehicle solutions integrate seamlessly with an automaker’s back office systems, offering a scalable and flexible platform—an important criteria in a relatively young market with rapidly evolving requirements.

Airbiquity and Hitachi also announced the first commercial implementation of the companies’ connected services platform for Electric Vehicles, now available in the Nissan LEAF. The jointly developed solution will connect LEAF owners to the data and information they need to optimize their EV experience. Nissan LEAF owners will be able to track battery charging and use, and activate remote services and locate charging stations, among other essential EV activities.


Pioneer Electronics selected HARMAN’s cloud-based Aha Radio platform to be an integrated feature in Pioneer’s new dash navigation products. AVIC-X930BT and AVIC-Z130BT will connect drivers to the world around them with on-demand, interactive, personalized radio. Via an active Apple iPhone with the free Aha Radio App, owners of the Pioneer navigation systems will be able to quickly and conveniently access their favorite Web-based information and audio content directly through the touchscreen display of their in-dash units. Pioneer also debuted technology that can instantly stream YouTube videos to an in-car screen and announced a partnership with Total Traffic Network.


NAVTEQ demoed its new navigation application, iGO My way, in beta. Created by NNG (formerly Nav N Go), the iGO My way application utilizes NAVTEQ Natural Guidance content to generate directions the way a friend does, rather than linear instructions. With Natural Guidance content, applications can provide end-users with turn-by-turn guidance that is more intuitive and practical. Research shows consumers desire more intuitive and practical directions because they are easier to follow and allow the driver to keep their eyes on the road.

Clear Channel Radio

Clear Channel Radio’s Total Traffic Network launched version 8.2 of its TrafficNet platform. TrafficNet includes a Billboard Routing Interface, which ties the platform with Clear Channel’s Total Out Of Home Network. The new features of TrafficNet 8.2 will enhance the real-time traffic data service for consumers utilizing the service via broadcast, the Web, wirelessly, and through navigation devices. Clear Channel Radio also announced Yahoo!, JVC, and DICE Electronics as new partners for its mobile app iheartradio. These partnerships will expand iheartradio into home, aftermarket, and multimedia systems.

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

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