By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
More signs of "live" content and Internet data heading for the car were announced at the SEMA show this month from CruiseCast, Autonet Mobile and Delphi.
AT&T and RaySat Broadcasting unveiled at SEMA the AT&T CruiseCast offering 20 satellite video channels for in-car entertainment throughout the U.S.
The CruiseCast uses a low-profile antenna (measuring about a square foot and 4 inches thick) with a magnetic mount for cars as well as SUVs and trucks. The technology overcomes obstacles such as interference from overpasses, buildings and tunnels, said a RaySat spokesman.
Programming will be aimed at kids and families and will include the Disney Channel, Toon Disney, Discovery Kids, Animal Planet, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network Mobile, USA, Comedy Central, MSNBC, CNN Mobile Live and CNBC. It will also include 20 audio channels.
The service will be sold though consumer electronics retailers and auto dealerships starting spring of 2009. Suggested retail is $1,299 with a monthly service fee of $28.
RaySat is providing the antenna hardware and AT&T is providing the content and satellite service for the venture, said RaySat. CruiseCast is currently setting up a distributor network for the product and taking advanced orders.
Delphi and Autonet Mobile announced on the eve of SEMA that they have agreed to develop and market new car-based Internet products, including a remote diagnostics and repair system that can be added to an entertainment system.
Autonet and Delphi are working on an Internet based product that integrates into the bus system of a vehicle to allow remote diagnostics and repairs of the car, including an instant answer to what a "check engine" warning references. Software problems with the car could be fixed remotely.
The Internet-connected diagnostics system could be added to a consumer Internet entertainment system at no extra cost. "We don't take up a lot of bandwidth to do this," said Autonet Mobile CEO Sterling Pratz.
With the diagnostics tool, "When you get a check engine light, you can figure out what it is. Then they can solve it in real time. They can understand if it's a faulty oxygen sensor and if it's a software issue … they can clear the check engine and fix that over the network." Pratz added.
In addition, the car makers, after monitoring one's driving habits, could run applications to optimize fuel economy.
Autonet Mobile also began selling Chrysler one of the first Wi-Fi hot spots for the car in August. The product, offered through Mopar to Chrysler car dealers is performing well, said Pratz "We've sold thousands," he said, adding that Chrysler will step up marketing for the product, called Uconnect Web, and will expand distribution from about 300 dealerships to 1,500 over the next 30 days.
Pratz said consumers are buying the device as an alternative to a DVD player. The hot spot allows iPod Touches and Sony PSPs as well as other Wi-Fi devices to connect to the Internet "so now [kids] can download games and music in the car," he said. Autonet is also selling the device, under the Autonet Mobile name, to select 12-volt specialists.
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