Spotify, Ford team for voice-activated audio streaming


FordFord will be the first car maker to launch “Spotify in the Car,” a voice-activated music service, the two companies announced 2/25 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The partnership has been in the works for a year and a half, according to the Forbes story.

For now only people with an iPhone, a Spotify Premium account and a Ford vehicle with SYNC AppLink (there are 1 million on the road in the US) will be able to use the feature, and neither company has given a firm date when Spotify will release the necessary update to its app on Apple‘s App Store.

“We’re targeting the first quarter of this year,” said Douglas VanDagens, the director of Ford’s Connected Services division.

Among the useful features on offer: users can share playlists with friends by using voice commands, and instantly switch to a playlist they have received on their Spotify account. Ford’s SYNC service, which uses voice-recognition technology from Nuance, will read the alert aloud, with “You have been sent a new playlist. Would you like to play it?” Answering “yes” starts the new playlist. Drivers can also tell the app to add a track to their playlist, pause a track, play similar music or start an album, track or track radio. Voice commands do not control volume, though.

Spotify currently has 20 million active users and 5 million paying subscribers (with Premium accounts). It is available in 20 countries including the United States, and claims to have 20 million tracks available across its markets.

Ford’s decision to collaborate with the app through its SYNC service crucially requires an iPhone to work, and marks a contrast to the strategy preferred by General Motors, which has partnered with AT&T to deliver wireless service directly through the car’s dashboard.  In other words, while Ford relies on a smartphone to be the wireless hub, GM is focused on putting that connectivity inside the car.

General Motors had also announced Monday that its OnStar subsidiary was partnering with AT&T to launch new wireless safety, security, diagnostic and infotainment services in a range of GM cars in 2014. The partnership will see AT&T give fast, 4G mobile access to millions of cars, which will include audio streaming, mobile apps and video for backseat passengers.

See the Forbes story here

RBR-TVBR observation: As much as this is compelling technology, we have to think what GM is doing will be the way of the future. With your vehicle sporting its own IP address, much more functionality can be achieved down the road (no pun intended). Not to mention the GM solution will have a much more robust antenna to receive cellular signals, rather than the smartphone encased inside the metal box of your car. It will mean much less signal (and music) dropouts.