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IHeartRadio Is on Board With OnStar Go

The company is a charter brand in a developing GM ecosystem that uses IBM cognitive tech

Soon, General Motors cars with the new OnStar Go platform may be able to determine their drivers’ musical preferences and recommend that they tune into specific online stations or streamed audio services provided by iHeartRadio via the drivers’ web-connected mobile devices.

OnStar Go’s ability is not due to an in-car microphone system or software engine, capturing and deciphering whatever off-key songs drivers may be belting out during a commute. Instead, the GM platform uses IBM Watson’s application program interfaces to develop its recommendations based on drivers’ in-car selections over their mobile devices.

General Motors describes OnStar Go as the auto industry’s first “cognitive mobility platform.” GM and IBM collaborated to make the in-car service possible by combining capabilities of the OnStar AtYourService platform with Watson’s APIs, derived from the IBM question-answer computer, which is designed to reply to human-offered questions using natural language.

IHeartRadio is among the charter brands to join this evolving dashboard ecosystem and was featured prominently in the GM announcement of the service.

“With the customer’s consent, Watson will learn the driver’s preferences, applying machine learning and sifting through data to recognize patterns in their decisions and habits,” said Donna Satterfield, vice president of IBM Automotive. “This information will then allow brand and marketing professionals to deliver highly individualized, location-based interactions to directly impact their target audiences.”

Music preference detection and recommendations — streamed via 4G into the car — are one of many services supported as promised by the OnStar Go platform.

Satterfield said companies in sectors like retail, fuel, hospitality, media and entertainment, restaurants and travel can use OnStar Go to deliver individualized mobile, in-vehicle “experiences” to a growing population of connected drivers that opt in. “It also will provide deeper engagement based on personalization, traffic, weather and such telematics as fuel levels, tire pressure and parts/maintenance status.”

IHeartRadio was announced as the streamed audio supplier for the GM/IBM platform when OnStar Go service was unveiled in Detroit and Las Vegas in October. Mindful of OnStar Go’s sales possibilities, other vendors have signed onto the platform; these include ExxonMobil, Glympse (location detection and sharing), Mastercard and Parkopedia (parking spot locations, prices and availability).


As a radio industry spear carrier in the battle to build and retain listenership in cyberspace, iHeartRadio’s decision to join the OnStar Go platform makes sense. In doing so, iHeartMedia is ensuring that its online content is as readily available on GM’s automotive dashboard as its AM and FM stations are today.

“We are excited to be partnering with IBM and GM as pioneers in this innovative initiative and having the opportunity to define streaming audio in the auto industry’s first cognitive mobility platform,” said iHeartMedia Business Development and Partnerships President Michele Laven.

“Only radio can deliver live and local programming in real time, and now with the intelligence of Watson, iHeartRadio will create more personalized and relevant content for listeners and advertisers and extend our reach even further.”


GM and IBM said that with the consent of an OnStar Go user, “Watson will learn the driver’s preferences, apply machine learning and sift through data to recognize patterns in their decisions and habits. This information will allow brand and marketing professionals working with IBM and OnStar to deliver individualized location-based interactions that directly impact their target audiences.”

It gave examples of possible uses: The system might remind a working father to pick up diapers and formula at a pharmacy a few miles before his exit. A driver could be notified that an order is ready for pickup at a nearby store and one of its employees will load their purchases into the car. A traveling foodie could hear dining recommendations from celebrity chefs when driving in an unfamiliar city.

Among specific brands that signed on at launch, GM said that ExxonMobil will use the platform to help drivers locate fuel stations, recommend fuel and lubricant products for their vehicles, and authorize fuel or car wash payments from inside the vehicle.

IHeartRadio will use Watson insights “to curate personalized experiences that leverage on-air personalities and local content from radio stations.” Drivers will be invited to share information from their calendars, social graph, location and music preferences “to create dynamic and locally relevant entertainment experiences only available through the power of radio.”

Mastercard will enable occupants to make secure payments for goods and services from the car using a Mastercard “tokenization” platform and Masterpass digital payment service. And Parkopedia will provide parking spot information including opening hours, prices, booking and payment capabilities.

Intelligence is the word for it: “iHeartRadio will use Watson Personality Insights from OnStar Go to curate personalized experiences that leverage on-air personalities and local content from radio stations across the U.S.,” said IBM’s Satterfield. “Drivers will be invited to share information from their calendars, social graph, location, music preferences and more to create dynamic and locally relevant entertainment experiences only available through the power of radio.”

OnStar Go will know what its users like to listen to; iHeartRadio will be able to serve those preferences from their dashboards.


According to the GM/IBM partnership, millions of 4G LTE-connected vehicles will be on U.S. roads by the end of 2017, along with millions of mobile devices loaded with GM-branded apps. Add the fact that 12 million GM vehicles were predicted to be in use by 2016’s end, and the potential reach of the OnStar Go platform is substantial.

“Consumers will be able to start using the expanded OnStar AtYourService marketplace in early 2017,” said Satterfield. “The feature will be available in more than 2 million vehicles in the U.S. by the end of that year, including Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands. Merchants and brands, however, can sign up for OnStar Go now to start developing potential offerings and uses for customers.”

For iHeartRadio, having a place on the OnStar Go platform should provide an edge in the battle to keep internet-connected listeners tuned into broadcast radio content, rather than Pandora and the thousands of non-radio streaming services on the web. But it is worth noting that this is not an exclusive relationship.

“We are looking for ecosystem partners across a variety of industries,” said Satterfield. “Companies can connect with either GM or IBM to learn more.”