By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Alpine and Azentek showed prototype WiMAX car products at International CES, adding their names to a growing list of companies supporting WiMAX, cellular EV-DO or other high-speed Internet connections into the vehicle.
A third company, Odyssey Broadband, is also planning to offer a WiMAX car modem that connects to the CD changer port or auxiliary inputs of existing car A/V systems. These join WiMAX/EV-DO systems announced earlier from USTelematics and Mitek.
WiMAX is expected to help bring email and Internet browsing into the car, or it can serve real-time maps to a navigation system or stream video, audio or Internet radio to the car.
WiMAX is hailed as a Wi-Fi-pluslike service without the hotspot limitation or the security risks, said Sprint, which plans to offer WiMAX in various metropolitan areas this year, covering approximately 70 million people by the end of 2008. It uses cellular towers and has similarities to cellular service, but it is intended for data rather than voice delivery and it is expected to be faster and cheaper than cellular. It offers data speeds that are three to five times faster than the current wireless services, said Sprint.
A prototype in-car navigation device with a WiMAX connection, developed by Alpine with Oki Electric and Runcom, was shown by Runcom during CES. The prototype displayed WiMAX capability to stream maps, real-time traffic and other information to the device.
A similar "proof of concept" demonstration was shown by Networks in Motion (NIM) over WiMAX to an Azentek in-dash computer with built in navigation. (See p. 96.)
It allows real-time local searches for movie listings, events, ATM locations and real-time driving directions. The advantage of real-time maps is that many in-dash systems rely on DVDs printed 18 months prior to release and map updates on that format are expensive, said NIM.
Odyssey Broadband, based in Arlington Heights, Ill., is planning to ship in the second half a WiMAX/Bluetooth black-box modem called 16eworks to aftermarket 12-volt specialists. The device is also available on an OEM basis to car stereo brands and to car companies, said VP James Jeong.
The modem will effectively create a WiMAX network in the car using Bluetooth. When 16eworks is attached to an in-dash A/V unit, it can stream Internet radio or video from a laptop (with Bluetooth) to the head unit. Passengers also receive Internet connections on their laptops or other devices. A second version of 16eworks will add Wi-Fi capability, said Jeong.
A second feature of 16eworks is that it can connect to the OBD II port of the car (where technicians plug in a computer to read out car diagnostics). Odyssey hopes to align itself with car manufacturers and car dealers in a program that would let consumers use 16eworks to get their own diagnostic readings.
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.