Monday, November 1, 2010

Revolution is coming for in-car entertainment and information

ENGLAND: From the 1930s and for many years afterwards, the humble car radio was the only electronics system in a car. Even today, it is normal for a car to have a conventional radio receiver, usually combined with an audio playback device such as a CD player, located as ever in a head unit just in front of the driver.

A recent report from IMS Research “In-car Audio, Infotainment, and Driver
Telematics/Information Systems” forecasts a strong rise in the deployment of new forms of car radio over the coming years. The report suggests that vehicle manufacturers will start to use on-board entertainment and information systems as a way to differentiate their brands.

Jack Bergquist, an analyst in IMS Research on automotive markets comments, “Many new vehicles may feature screens in the instrument cluster, head-up displays, and colour screens in the centre stack; however, the conventional discrete audio head unit may
disappear from view.”

Three areas of advance are making this possible, and freeing car designers from some of the physical constraints of the past: wireless connectivity, low-cost navigation devices, and mechless audio head units (audio units without a CD drive, but connected to flash drives or other consumer devices).

IMS Research forecasts global sales of connected telematics head units will grow by 20 percent a year for the foreseeable future. It further predicts that mechless types will account for half of all new car audio head units by 2017.

The role of the vehicle manufacturer in car navigation is also forecast to increase. Renault’s success with its TomTom integrate SatNav system, offered as standard on some trim levels, has demonstrated there is a large market for low-cost navigation units fitted to B and C category cars.

Consequently, IMS Research has forecast that fixed navigation will win the most revenues in the segment in the coming years, soaring to over $9 billion by 2017.

Jack Bergquist further comments “The rise in navigation systems will be driven in two ways: with vehicle manufacturers offering lower cost factory-fitted systems; and with the high end of the market being served by connected systems with advanced functionality, such as live traffic information, live map updates, and online points-of-interest (PoI) databases.”

In summary, the borders between in-car entertainment and information systems are becoming increasingly blurred. Suppliers and vehicle manufacturers are pressing ahead to release devices that over better value and connectivity; to become leaders of the coming revolution in new car entertainment systems.

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