By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Mitek introduced at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show this month one of the most radical factory add-on car A/V systems to date.
The Civita, shown as a prototype here, is the first to use mobile WiMAX to connect to the Internet while driving. It will offer such features as the ability to read back email aloud and to search by voice command through Internet radio.
The system will also be the first to connect directly to the General Motors bus, rather than requiring reverse engineering, said Mitek. Eventually, it will be offered for all factory radios, connecting to the bus in each case, said the company.
Civita uses a voice-driven search engine that recognizes complex verbal commands such as "Play me something by Frank Sinatra," or Make a playlist of 1960s jazz" or "Make a playlist of 1977 Billboard hits," allowing simple search and control of the Internet while driving, said spokesman Andrew Carrington. The verbal search engine may also be used to access podcasts, or Audible.com newspapers and magazines that can be "read" to the driver, and to download videos from the Internet that can be streamed to rear-seat monitors.
Civita will be shown in commercial form at International CES in January with shipping in the first quarter of 2008, said Mitek OEM integration VP, Chris Cook.
For an Internet connection, Civita will use WiMAX, a technology that is faster than cellular and will carry lower monthly service fees. But as WiMAX won't be widely available until 2008, Civita will also offer a cellular EV-DO Internet connection. Mobile WiMAX service can deliver data at speeds from 2MBps to 4MBps. It will be available through Sprint Nextel in the Chicago and Baltimore/Washington markets by the end of the year, followed by additional markets in 2008.
Users will be able to communicate with their home PC with Civita, to allow a near limitless amount of entertainment. "So now you can ask it to call up ABC 'Nightline' from last night and Jay Leno's opening monologue," said Carrington.
Mitek founder and CEO Loyd Ivey said at SEMA: "This is not another patch. This is new technology." He also invited other suppliers to join Mitek in supporting the technology. "We're interested in partnering with other companies to help re-grow our industry. We have to push the reset button on our industry and I challenge others to join us."
At SEMA, Mitek also entered the expeditor market with a standard OEM integration modular kit for factory radios under the Avstarr brand. The integration platform will add iPod, choice of satellite radio service and a dedicated auxiliary input to any General Motors radio that has satellite radio capability at a suggested price of $169. Additional modules for HD Radio, Bluetooth and USB may be purchased for $49 to $150 each.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.