PARIS – With smartphones ubiquitous, what's the point of developing separate GPS, standalone infotainment and telephony systems in a car? A conventional proprietary in-car system simply duplicates smartphone hardware and functions.
What's missing, argues Henri Seydoux, founder of car telephony specialist Parrot, is a "universal receiver" that can link with any mobile phone. Parrot, based here, has developed what Seydoux describes as "a counterpart to a smartphone" that enhances voice quality for hands-free car phones while improving audio acoustics. A voice recognition feature provides access to the smartphone's address book.
Beyond in-car systems, the company is also targeting smartphone control of consumer gadgets.
Parrot's Android-based universal receiver is targeted at car makers and the auto aftermarket. The company claims a sizeable share of the German and Japanese car phone markets.
Bluetooth technology did not exist when Parrot was founded in 1994 and was a decade away from being installed in cars. Since then, Parrot has focused on developing a turnkey car telephony system via its vertical business model that includes everything from ASIC design to modular hardware units and application software.
Parrot CEO Henri Seydoux flying his personal drone.
Parrot's vertical model is unique, but Seydoux has also managed to flip the conventional concept for a proprietary in-car system. Rather than designing an integrated infotainment system that includes a cellular modem, Seydoux envisioned an in-car system to "leverage" cell phones rather than mimic them. “The car industry must embrace all the standard cellphone industry practices, including architectures and protocols of smartphones, so that they can bring the Internet and smartphones to their cars,” Seydoux said in an interview with EE Times. "That’s the only way" for the automotive industry to succeed, he argued.
Parrot's long experience in the car telephony market allowed it to gather details on most mobile phones, including their Bluetooth profiles, how address books are designed and they are accessed. The result was a company database of various use cases for each mobile phone that is updated with new product launches.
Hence, Parrot's database has become a vital tool for car makers seeking to install universal receivers. “We can bring value-added Bluetooth stacks, for example, which would work with every mobile phone,” claimed Seydoux.
Banking on embedded systems that leverage smartphones, Parrot is now applying the same concept to consumer devices like personal drones, high-end speakers and wireless headsets. Behind a set of seemingly random consumer products, Seydoux sees a common thread: All gadgets based on DSP software should be designed to work with mobile phones.
Those attending the Consumer Electronics Show may remember Parrot’s eye-catching personal drone flying around the Las Vegas Convention Center. The drone was Seydoux's way of demonstrating the link between smartphones and consumer gadgets. (The video below shows how the drone works.)