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Hands-Free Bluetooth Car Kit Adds Music Gateway Feature

11/13/2007 02:52:00 PM Eastern

Fremont, Calif. — A company that performs Bluetooth interoperability testing for automakers launched its first consumer product, a Bluetooth hands-free car kit that doubles as a music gateway to play back music stored in Bluetooth-equipped MP3-cellphones through a car stereo system.

The $129-suggested Venturi Mini, developed by NextGen Venturi, plugs into a cigarette lighter and uses an FM transmitter to send cellphone-stored music to a vehicle’s stereo system. It automatically mutes the music when an incoming call is received and reproduces a caller’s voice through the vehicle’s speakers.

The device will be available through a cellular carrier’s stores in early December and to other retailers in January, said Andor Board, marketing and business development manager. Although at least one other company has announced a similar device, NextGen will be first available to consumers, he claimed.

The Mini also features a 5-volt USB charging port to charge cellphones and other portable devices connected via adapter cables. A 3.5mm input connects MP3 players that lack stereo Bluetooth, and a 3.5mm audio output allows for wired connection to the front-panel audio input of a car stereo system in areas with congested FM bands.

The FM transmitter features RDS (Radio Data System) technology to send music metadata from a Bluetooth-equipped cellphone to the display of an RDS-equipped car stereo, which will also display a Bluetooth phone’s phone-number list, call status and caller ID information. Users can scroll through the contact list and control song selection via front-panel controls, which also let users select among four FM frequency presets that can be used to change frequencies in markets with congested FM airwaves.

In the future, a second-generation version will make it unnecessary for consumers to manually switch frequencies when they encounter interference while driving, Board said. A second-generation model due next year will scan the FM band in the background and, when it detects interference on the FM frequency that it is using, will automatically hop onto an unused frequency.

Other Mini features include OLED display with ambient light sensor, pairing with up to four Bluetooth devices, hands-free microphone and ratcheting base that allows for angling the device up or down by 135 degrees for easy viewing.

Next Gen’s world headquarters is in Swansea, Wales.