Weekly Brief: Ford takes standardization to new level by acquiring Livio

Weekly Brief: Ford takes standardization to new level by acquiring Livio

In this week’s Brief: Ford, Livio, Mazda, Aha, Apple, Nissan, Harman, BMW, Sprint, Zubie and Jaguar Land Rover.

Automakers have been loath to adopt an industry standard for in-car connectivity for fear of surrendering a unique brand experience. It, therefore, came as a surprise when Ford announced the acquisition of in-car connectivity specialist Livio, which builds products and software tools to support standardized smartphone-car connectivity. Livio works with an array of auto OEMs, and its software is compatible with commonly used apps and all major smartphone devices.

Ford says it will harness Livio’s expertise and solutions internally to enhance its connected offerings but also allow Livio to continue to function in an independent, entrepreneurial fashion. “Ford is acquiring Livio to advance connectivity for our customers and to lead the way in in-vehicle connectivity for the entire automotive industry,” says Bill Coughlin, president and CEO, Ford Global Technologies.

Last week, the two companies withheld details of the acquisition, although various reports suggest that Ford will purchase Livio for less than $10 million.

In other news, Mazda introduced its new infotainment platform, Mazda Connect, which is based on a head-up display concept that creates different zones for different types of information. The first zone, an Active Driving Display, sits above the steering wheel and projects info like vehicle speed and turn-by-turn navigation. The second zone sits atop the central dashboard so that drivers don’t have to look down to engage with their infotainment system. Mazda Connect will feature Aha by HARMAN’s web content platform for automobiles.

Apple continued to push iTunes Radio, its Internet music streaming service, into the automotive sector with an exclusive advertising partnership with Nissan. Nissan says that it will integrate iTunes Radio, Apple’s answer to Pandora, into a number of its 2014 models, including the Nissan Versa Note and the Nissan Leaf. Nissan will also include Apple iAd, which allows targeted advertising to certain demographics. “It's a great way for Nissan to reach the right audiences in the right markets,” says Jon Brancheau, vice president of marketing at Nissan North America.

Harman says that BMW is set to improve its infotainment offerings for 2014 vehicles with 3D city models and location-based services like real-time weather information, Google Street View or local search within Google’s online POI database. Vehicles will also come with the new iDrive Touch controller that includes an integrated, touch-sensitive pad to enable written character entries such as telephone numbers and address information.

Sprint released its Sprint Drive First app for Android-powered smartphones. When users are traveling faster than 10 miles per hour, the app disables phone functionality, directs incoming calls to voicemail and silences email and text message alerts. Anyone texting the driver will receive an automated, customizable message indicating the recipient is driving. Emergency personnel can override the lock feature as can the user if he or she is a passenger in another vehicle (although parents or account holders can choose to receive notifications when the app is overridden). Users can download Sprint Drive First for free from Google Play.

On the aftermarket front, mobile app company Zubie launched the Zubie App, a free download from the Apple App Store that allows users to stay apprised of where other family members are on the road. Users are notified when family members leave specific destinations — e.g. school, home, work — or when they travel outside of a set boundary. The app also includes a car-pooling feature. The full-priced solution, due out this fall, also includes an OBD2 plug-in device that enables vehicle diagnostics and tracking.

Finally, Jaguar Land Rover unveiled details of its future plans for advanced R&D in the U.K., which will focus on new connected technologies and cutting-edge innovation. The company plans to invest £50m into a new National Automotive Innovation Campus (NAIC) in Warwick, where it will collaborate with academics from leading British universities and members of its supply chain. Jaguar Land Rover expects that it will more than double the size of its advanced research team to 500 people by the time the NAIC opens in 2016.

"We will announce the details of the specific research projects on which our NAIC research team will collaborate in due course, but these will be long-term, multi-disciplinary challenges — such as electrification, smart and connected cars and human machine interface — which will help us create some key new technologies that will deliver a low-carbon future,” says Antony Harper, Jaguar Land Rover's head of research.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics Japan/China 2013 on Oct. 8-10 in Tokyo, Telematics Munich 2013 on Nov. 11-12 in Munich, Germany, Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2013 on Nov. 20-21 in Atlanta, Georgia, Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco, Consumer Telematics Show 2014 on Jan. 6, 2014, in Las Vegas. 

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013The Automotive HMI Report 2013Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.

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