By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Airbiquity said it will offer a low-cost way for personal navigation device (PND) makers to turn their devices into two-way, Internet-connected models at "mass market" prices. The first of these devices could be available at International CES in January, the company said.
A PND using Airbiquity's platform connects to the Internet via the user's Bluetooth cellular phone without the need for a special data plan, the company explained. Airbiquity then provides back-end services, such as a local Internet search via Google or Yahoo; emergency roadside assistance; and weather, traffic and gas-price updates.
Airbiquity currently provides back-end service for OnStar, BMW and Ford Sync, said Ralf Hug, the company's new marketing and product management VP and former Navigon marketing VP. "What's really new is we're taking an end-to-end solutions approach, offering [a way] to make a connected PND a reality," he said. "It's low cost to implement — you don't need embedded GPRS, don't need a data plan. You get small microbursts that can be built in to your voice plan."
A total of 80 percent of cellular phones now offer Bluetooth, he noted.
"No one is offering this back-end service through Bluetooth. Those who have tried to offer embedded wireless have had trouble charging $9.99 per month," he added. TomTom, for example, uses Bluetooth in its TomTom Plus Traffic service, but it requires a wireless data plan and a $60/year subscription fee.
Airbiquity's software modem allows data to be sent over voice channels. It also allows voice and data transmission at the same time, so in its emergency roadside-assistance feature, users can press a button on the PND and connect to a call-in center to request help while the user's location is sent to the operator.
Airbiquity said it also provides an advertising-supplemented back-end model. PND makers choosing to offer this model might offer the product at a lower price, said Hug.
Connected PNDs are expected to be the next high-end segment of the PND market, analysts and suppliers contended.
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