Monday, August 14, 2006
BlueConnect - Hands-Free with a Factory Fit Look
By Phil Magney
TRG had the opportunity to evaluate the BlueConnect system from AutoIntelligence. BlueConnect is a Bluetooth-based Handsfree interface (HFI) designed and developed by Johnson Controls. BlueConnect is the same system as the factory-installed UConnect System from DaimlerChrysler.
BlueConnect is a robust system that is powered by Intel's X-Scale processor, IBM's voice recognition software, Broadcomm's Bluetooth chipsets, Harman's noise cancellation and speech enhancement software (formerly Wavemaker), and a QNX operation system. TRG calls HFIs "non-monitored" telematics solutions as they are based on a control unit and are embedded (or installed) into the vehicle electronics system.
BlueConnect is an "automotive grade" system that requires professional installation and is sold exclusively through AutoIntelligence. The unit carries the AutoIntelligence Brand on the packaging although the BlueConnect name is a registered property of Johnson Controls.
The embedded voice recognition found in the BlueConnect works as well as any VR tested by TRG - OEM or aftermarket. Even when the test vehicle happens to be a 2004 Dodge RAM diesel, the BlueConnect system has no trouble understanding commands, with windows open and traveling at 60 MPH!
BlueConnect uses voice recognition as the main interface for operation, setup and phone book management. The voice recognition works well in part because of noise reduction and echo cancellation technology.
Unlike most aftermarket solutions, BlueConnect is designed to be installed in a vehicle and look like original equipment. Basic installation is made in the headliner where the control interface and control unit reside. Since most headliners have access to a power source (via interior light) there is generally no trouble getting power to the device. There are three bezels in different colors so the installer can best match to the interior color.
As the photo shows, the installation of BlueConnect is designed for the headliner and this proves to be one of the best places for an HFI. For microphone placement the headliner is optimum because it is close enough to the driver. The headliner placement accommodates easy reach to acceptance or termination of a call or adjustment to volume settings on the control panel.
When a call comes in, BlueConnect does not startle the driver with an annoying ring, rather it is a tone followed by a voice saying a call is coming in. You are also given a voice confirmation when a phone is available (by name since multiple phones could be paired with the system).
The BlueConnect system is also the same system used in Acura (HandsFreeLink) and Mitsubishi (UConnect). And while BlueConnect is the same as the OEM-installed UConnect, it is not the same system as the Mopar-branded UConnect system available from the Dodge/Chrysler dealer channel. The Mopar unit is made by Peiker Acoustics (
Setting up BlueConnect could not be easier. There are 7 commands that are part of the basic menu. "Call" accesses the phonebook, "Dial" facilitates continuous number dialing. "Phonebook" is for management and editing of voice tags. "Emergency" "Setup" and "Help" are also part of the main menu.
BlueConnect will store only 32 names but can take up to 4 numbers per name (office, cell, home, pager). There is a call transfer feature to switch between phone and HFI. There is a radio mute connection depending on headunit support which will mute your calls automatically when a call comes in.
How BlueConnect Gets to Market
This story would not be complete without some mention of the distribution strategy behind BlueConnect. The device is branded by AutoIntelligence and sold through their network of distributors and installers. At the moment you will not find this system in retail stores unless they are part of a new breed of custom automotive installers - a growing business opportunity.
The installation of our BlueConnect system was handled by Michael Cohen at LLC Enterprise (
Telematics Research Group
Telematics Research Group tracks, analyzes, and forecasts the market for automotive telematics. For more information, go to www.telematicsresearch.com, or contact Phil Magney at (952) 935-0400.
Selected images, product names, and diagrams may be registered properties of their respective manufacturers and are used for reference purposes only.
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