Clarion Readies iPhone Controller, Telematics

By Joseph Palenchar On May 8 2012 - 4:01am




NEW ORLEANS — Car audio supplier Clarion of Cypress, Calif., is launching a transportable windshieldmounted iPhone controller that uses a 7-inch WVGA touchscreen to control iPhone music playback and select compatible iPhone apps.

The compatible apps, which include two Internet radio apps and a navigation app, will also display their user interface and graphics on the touchscreen.

Separately, the company said it would enter the telematics market with services for aftermarket in-dash head units and OEM infotainment systems.

The iPhone controller is the $269-suggested Next Gate, which plugs into a car’s power port for power, connects to an iPhone 4 or 4S via the phone’s 30-pin connector, mounts on the windshield of any vehicle, and plays back audio through an embedded speaker or through any car stereo system with 3.5mm aux in jack. The device also charges connected iPhones, doubles as a hands-free Bluetooth speakerphone, and enables voice dialing and voice activation of iPhone features.

Next Gate, unveiled on the eve of the CTIA convention at a Show Stoppers event, will be available June 1 at select major retailers.

Next Gate requires the installation of Clarion’s Smart Access app manager on an iPhone. That app, available as a free download in the iTunes store, manages iPhone communications with Next Gate and enables compatible third-party iPhone-downloaded apps to be displayed on, and controlled from, Next Gate. Compatible apps include the TuneIn and Pandora Internet radio apps, Inrix Traffic, Odyssey turn-by-turn navigation app and Vlingo. Additional compatible apps are planned. Users would be notified of new apps when they launch the Smart Access app manager, which would also list all compatible apps available for download.

Vlingo is a voice-recognition app with speech-to-text capabilities, enabling Next Gate to read aloud text messages, emails, social-media feeds and news feeds. Vlingo also enables users to make phone calls via speech recognition.

In detailing its telematics plans, Clarion said it will launch its Smart Access Cloud Telematics Service in June in North America and Japan and roll it out elsewhere in stages. The service will work with new OEM infotainment systems and car-aftermarket products.

The telematics service will enable dashboard control of smartphone apps, enable emergency calling, and deliver real-time information from a variety of sources, including FM RDS, satellite radio or HD Radio. For automakers and potentially for aftermarket products that integrate with a vehicle’s OEM databus, the services will also include vehicle relational management system (VRMS) services for vehicle maintenance and safety management, Clarion said.

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