‘Play Misty for Me’ but only if the passengers like it too!

“Smartphones are at the centre of personalisation because they are very personal devices,” says Brian Hamilton, senior vice-president and general manager of music and auto for Gracenote. “They have the ability to understand what we’ve been doing unlike any other device. By bringing them into cars, we enable cars to understand us better.”

Down the road, fingerprint scanning on the steering wheel, linking car key fobs to mobile devices and even retinal scanning in the car could help differentiate between drivers and passengers. This would open up all new personalisation opportunities.

Currently it is possible to look at the stored music on all mobile devices connected to the car via Bluetooth, then find commonalities among those libraries and automatically play songs that sit in the sweet spot of everyone’s collective taste.

“Today, connected music solutions do not differentiate between a car driver and passenger to aid in personalisation,” says Hamilton. “That said, this is technically possible – there are ways to understand who is in the car but we’re not quite at the point where we can isolate each person’s role in the car. Think of a Venn diagram with the music at the very centre presumably liked by all occupants in the car who have it on their phone.”

Existing solutions have the ability to consider the music a driver has stored on a mobile device in the car, the car infotainment system itself or from online music services. They can also consider recent play history from all sources in the car including FM radio, which is still the most commonly used source, and even podcasts. Further, they can recommend FM radio stations by preferred genre as drivers cross geographical areas and pass in and out of radio signal ranges. 

Speed, weather, time of the day and day of the week are the data points that can be taken by from automakers by application program interfaces (APIs). These inputs help to influence personalisation and serve up the music that best fits the context of the listening session for the individual listener.

The challenges to personalising infotainment services include consumer privacy and always-on connectivity. Carmakers today are paying for bandwidth so they are very careful about what to send up and down the data pipeline. In an ideal world, there would be a constant flow of data from various sources that would inform entertainment recommendations in the car and actually help them to get smarter and more personalised over time, Hamilton explains.

Security is also another issue especially when it comes to a single sign-on. In order for single-sign on to be effective in the connected car, it would need to be driven by a very secure means such as biometrics.

“This raises the issue of who owns and maintains the biometric database. We believe that, for consumers, the ability to sign-in to multiple music service apps, video subscriptions and ecommerce sites offer a great deal of convenience and value.”

The combination of smartphone information and car statistics including speed, weather and distance will result in the highest level of personalisation. Smartphones provide an additional signal or a view into an individual’s activity outside of the car.

“I believe that smartphones are one important ingredient of in-vehicle infotainment but not the single key,” says Hamilton.

Stephanie Lesser, director of marketing and business development for Cinemo explains that smartphone integration is the key requirement for any in-vehicle infotainment solution, from entry to high systems.

“In an era of wireless communications and increasing access to the Internet, smartphones have become part of every life,” says Lesser. “As smartphones enhance their functionality in very fast cycles and new iOS and Android versions are rolled out on a regular basis, continuous updates and upgrades of in-vehicle smartphone integration middleware is very important, with a direct impact on the end user satisfaction.”

Its Distributed Connectivity allows any passenger to remotely index, search, access and play the multimedia content of any device. This middleware can abstract personal devices and also access them remotely.

“This revolutionises the way passengers can consume content in a car, starting with playing commercial music CD, DVD-Video or Blu-Ray titles remotely on their personal tablets or smartphones from an in-car optical drive, to global searching and playing mixed content from any or all devices in a car including smartphones.”

Many of these use-cases have not previously been possible, so connectivity technology is powering innovation in upcoming vehicle infotainment solutions combined with Apps of the carmakers. With autonomous driving set to become prevalent, an enjoyable digital lifestyle in the vehicle will also be critical increasing the importance Infotainment systems will have on sales of new cars.

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