As Aupeo builds new paths to connected cars, we speak with CEO Holger Weiss

holger weissYou might know Aupeo Personal Radio as a web and mobile Internet radio service. Last year the company was acquired by Panasonic, the leading tier 1 infotainment supplier. It’s natural to imagine that Aupeo’s strategy might double down on connected cars, where it already enjoys an integration with automotive partners like BMW.

We learned that Aupeo is readying an update and re-branding of its Personal Radio product, soon to be called Personal Radio by Aupeo. Stay tuned for details during CES week in January. In the meantime, we spoke with CEO Holger Weiss, who Skyped with RAIN News from his Berlin office.

The re-branding signifies a larger strategic vision than the usual level of feature upgrades. While details are still secret, Personal Radio by Aupeo can serve as a platform for automakers to provide drivers with a variety of in-car listening.

“Rather than having a vertical music service, we’re now starting to talk about a horizontal kind of platform layer. Enabling various functions, features, and use cases. It’s a platform. A toolkit that allows OEMs to incorporate certain music functions in their cars.”

Backing up from that larger plan, Weiss told us about car-related new features in the app which anyone can use while driving. In addition to music programming, real-time news elements like weather and traffic will be part of the customized mix.¬†“We joined forces with content suppliers which provide types of real-time content, like weather and traffic,” Weiss said. “We personalize and contextualize that content to the individual user.”

aupeo logoAupeo will source that info from outside firms, and the personalization will be accomplished “with some secret sauce.” Weiss also mentioned that contextual cues, like location and time-of-day, are factored in.

How does parent company Panasonic play into distribution?

“Panasonic is a great partner and a great environment to realize the vision and product that we have. It’s important to understand the Aupeo is a service business, not a hardware business. This is not ultimately related to Panasonic hardware. There will be installations where Panasonic hardware comes together with our service. But it’s understood that this is a platform strategy, and that was part of the acquisition rationale.”

As a platform, the question arises of interoperability with other music apps. “The platform demands interoperability in the future,” Weiss said. “We have a strategic understanding that that will happen.”

Holger Weiss has a vision of the connected-car future in which automakers face a dilemma, and Aupeo can solve it.

“The OEMs [automakers] think about how quickly they can cope with fast-moving consumer expectations, in an industry that is not fast-moving. On the other side, how can they stay in control? We can give them something at hand with this platform. Infotainment is traditionally in your control, and [our platform] enables you to incorporate and provide the consumer services that people love on their smartphones today.”

In the 10,000-foot view, Weiss sees tectonic change and ultimate harmony.

“We see this industry turning around, upside-down, as it has never has before. It’s like the transition from horse and carriage to gasoline engine. Having personalized connected services in the car is a fundamental change of paradigm. OEMs, mobile operators, guys like us, companies like Pandora and Spotify, and the mobile ecosystems like Apple and Google. I’m convinced that all will work together. Each will provide a certain element of the ecosystem.”

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Brad Hill