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Smartphone/Car Integration Is in Flux

The founder of Livio Radio says an industry standard is needed

The founder and chief executive officer of Livio Radio writes about a problem in the digital dashboard that affects radio broadcasters hoping to stream content on more platforms.

Detroit-based entrepreneur Jake Sigal founded Livio Radio in 2008. Imagine not having standards for anti-lock braking systems in cars, or if only luxury vehicles could offer it.

Imagine if ABS systems were controlled by the brake pedal in some cars, voice-activated in others and operated by the emergency brake lever in some other models. Like current iPod or iPhone cables for your car, ABS would be an optional $100 upgrade for a part that costs automakers $3 to install.

And if it’s raining, or if you want to use ABS outside of the United States on a trip to Canada, it’s an in-app upgrade to stop, as ABS is only licensed for optimum driving conditions within a certain country.

Sound farfetched? Believe it or not, it’s happening in the business and development meetings that your OEMs are having about integrating your smartphones with vehicles shipping in 2013–2015.

With the Internet in our pocket, vehicle safety is under threat like never before. There is a simple solution to this problem: an industry standard. If a standard existed, car companies wouldn’t compete with each other on a feature that comes at your expense and safety.

If you’re a typical consumer (and not in high school, or working in the radio industry), your first concern about a car isn’t its radio. People are still buying cars for the purpose of safe travel.

When it comes to entertainment options, users aren’t concerned with how it works; they just want it to work. If it doesn’t, end users break the rules, plug their iPods or smartphones into their auxiliary jacks or FM transmitters, leading to the texting-while-driving behaviors they’re trying to avoid in the first place.

It may also explain why J.D. Power and Associates reported that in-vehicle problems with hands-free communication devices have increased 137 percent in four years and whythe industry average for infotainment reflects 102 problems per 100 vehicles.

At Livio, we spent the first few years of our existence developing hardware that solved the problem of getting Internet radio into the home for everyone in an easy, simple way. Today, Livio is working on getting apps into cars with Livio Connect, aiming to create less work for car stereo manufacturers, automotive original equipment manufacturers and mobile app developers. Livio Connect is an application programming interface that uses a tethered connection to allow smartphone apps to run on the car, rather than an embedded solution built directly in the head unit. The middleware framework protocol enables hardware devices and mobile apps to connect to and interact with one another.

Livio Connect brings safe smartphone app interaction while driving, starting with Internet radio, mapping app controls to the built-in buttons on your car stereo.

Consumers want and expect new apps to work with their vehicle systems and smartphones. Integrating them all one by one would be unwise, according to Livio. The company says its technology keeps consumers and their products clear of such a mess. Just recently, we announced that Livio has joined the GENIVI Alliance, a non-profit industry group that advocates adoption of an open-source development platform for in-vehicle infotainment. GENIVI provides an industry standard, creating less work for automotive companies while simultaneously reducing development costs, accelerating innovation and meeting customers’ expectations faster.Livio is working to integrate Livio Connect on GENIVI platforms.

Instead of providing the actual content, car companies need to be focused on providing the technology APIs that allow all content to be safely accessed in the vehicle, and to continue doing what they do best: That is, making the cars we can’t live without.

As a broadcaster, join us at Livio in taking action with Congress, with automakers and with the mobile phone manufacturers to ensure that your content can be accessed safely in the vehicle, regardless of whether it’s AM, FM, or IP-based. Write your local representative to Congress to lobby for safer access in the car.

Providing standards and pushing legislation that allow innovation — protecting drivers of any age by giving them safe access to the content they love most — is just as important as ABS working in every car, in every country, and in every condition.

Entrepreneur Jake Sigal founded Livio Radio in 2008. The company has grown to 15 people and introduced more than 25 products on the market. Sigal sits on the Consumer Electronics Association’s Board of Industry Leaders. Reach Sigal at