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NextRadio Goes for a Drive

Local listening app combines with WebLink for delivery on in-vehicle infotainment systems

NextRadio has a new in-car business relationship that it hopes will help it provide a more interactive in-car experience for radio listeners.

TagStation LLC, a subsidiary of Emmis Communications Corp., developed the NextRadio hybrid radio app to enhance the mobile listening experience of radio chip-enabled smartphones by combining them with cloud services. Now, it says, the technology is linking up with in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems powered by Abalta Technologies WebLink software platform.

The first iteration of NextRadio for WebLink will be available in certain aftermarket head units from JVC and Kenwood and will begin shipping in early 2018. According to the company, NextRadio for WebLink enables drivers in any vehicle to have a rich in-dash AM/FM radio listening experience.

Abalta is a San Diego-based tech company founded by Michael O’Shea that focuses on the connected car business. Its contribution is to bring the pieces of the connected car experience together in one platform. Using its WebLink system, it says, carmakers and suppliers can “bridge the gap” between consumers’ smartphones and IVI systems, giving drivers access to favorite apps in a customizable and platform-agnostic environment. The SmartLink product uses a driver’s smartphone to bring connectivity to the car without adding new hardware.

The WebLink for JVC and WebLink for Kenwood applications will be available in the Android Marketplace and Apple App Store. Once the app is downloaded, users can connect to certain WebLink-enabled car head units to use NextRadio and other apps, including the traffic and navigation app Waze.

NextRadio President Paul Brenner said the relationship with Abalta and JVCKenwood Corp. makes NextRadio “the first enhanced AM/FM radio experience in the connected car.”