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Renault launches in-car tablet, R-Link [LeWeb]

French car manufacturing giant, Renault chose LeWeb 11 to launch its new in-car tablet device, R-LINK: A seven inch tablet that offers a multimedia experience for consumers on the move.

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The device is described as an “integrated, connected tablet” that enables drivers to control their car functions without “taking their eyes off the road”.

R-LINK has a large 18cm tactile display that steers wheel-mounted controls with speech recognition. The tablet also delivers comprehensive connectivity for automotive services and applications in a bespoke AppStore called the “R-LINK Store.”

“R-LINK Store will pack more than 50 existing useful and community smartphone applications adapted for use on the move. They will be downloadable directly to the tablet inside the car or via the My Renault account,” says Renault.

The tablet’s interface is user-friendly with easy access to all the car’s functions and data. The menu provides access to a variety of in-car multimedia, GPS TomTom LIVE navigation, social media and the R-LINK Store. Users will also be able to customise both their homepage and access their favourite applications.

Right now the tablet will roll out with all ZOEs and the new Clio but all upcoming Renault cars will have the device built-in.

One of the more useful and unique apps featured in the R-LINK store is Tourism Radio, a South African-based location based service that offers information on the go.

Memeburn tracked down Mark Allewell, the CEO of Tourism Radio, for a preliminary Q&A on the new app, featured below:

Memeburn: What does your product do and what makes it special?

Mark Allewell: The Tourism Radio technology plays location based information as the user passes a point of interest or is in a pre-defined area, be it on a mobile phone, in-car Tourism Radio device or buil-in navigation unit. The unique technology cues audio clips based on position and time. For instance, if a user is driving through the centre of Paris and an area has been defined as an audio area, the information will play until all the clips are complete.

It will then revert to a default stream of country and other tourism related information, guaranteeing a stream of information all the time. If during that time, the user passes a point of interest, the area information will fade and pause and the point of interest information will play. Once complete, the area information will continue.

The uniqueness of the technology is in its ability to seamlessly arrange thousands of audio clips and organise them into a coherent dialogue, based on location.

MB: What made you come up with this idea? Is there a personal anecdote worth sharing?

MA: As a qualified tour guide, I always found that some tour guides were better than others and some knew more information about areas than others. The initial idea of Tourism Radio was to level the playing field in terms of information and at what geographical point that information was given . Having one resource of well researched information delivered at the right time in a colloquial language was the ultimate goal.

Having travelled through the world, a good tour guide is one that can take you off the beaten path, make you feel special and make you feel like you have seen things that are rare to other tourists. The research and development of the audio in our products took years to develop and perfect. We had researchers travelling for months on end, finding the best places to visit that tourists ordinarily may have overlooked. Based on research that we did with 1000 Tourism Radio users, 76% said Tourism Radio affected the choices and places that they visited on their holiday.

MB: Who should/would use the product?

MA: The technology flows across three products – In-car Tourism Radio devices, in–car navigation devices and mobile travel guides.

The Tourism Radio product is used by all ages of travellers in our two markets, South Africa and New Zealand. Typically, the self-drive tourists hire the device from 4-14 days and listen to it for 2 hours a day, on average. Feedback tells us that the average user wants local information as they travel and don’t want to use guide books.

The built-in in-car guides would typically be used by a person travelling with their own vehicles, but doing cross border and in-country travelling.

The mobile guides for Android and iPhone are city guides. Typically the user would use their mobile and walk around a city, or search for local information so that they can plan their days.

MB: What is the significance of the Renault announcement at LeWeb for Tourism Radio/Hummba?

MA: The Tourism Radio expansion has seen steady growth in revenue across our two markets. The inclusion of the guides in Renault vehicles will not only help us to expand globally with a solid distribution platform and a well known vehicle partner, but the other parts of the business will benefit as well. The brand association with Renault and the technology that we are building for them will enhance all the product offerings that we currently have. The time to market and cost to market will is now also reduced drastically, as the hardware sits locally within the vehicle. Meaning that we can focus our attention on software technology and the quality of the audio products that we create.

MB: When are we going to see it in the market?

MA: The initial dates are by the 4th quarter in 2012 with this product offering.

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