Reporting Matt Roush
DETROIT — Used to be in Detroit you could get about 30 stations on your radio.
Then came satellite radio, and you could get 230 stations.
Well, Chevrolet’s new Spark minicar will offer you 70,230.
General Motors Co. Tuesday announced it will use Livio Connect technology from Ferndale-based Livio to connect the TuneIn music smartphone app with the Chevrolet Spark’s MyLink Radio dashboards manufactured globally. Livio Connect is a middleware protocol that enables hardware devices and mobile apps — now including TuneIn — to connect to and interact with one another.
“The car’s got a radio, the radio’s got a touch screen, and the radio will connect to any smart phone,” Livio founder and CEO Jake Sigal said. “Livio Connect allows the radio to communicate with the TuneIn radio app on the smartphone, which allows drivers to connect to 70,000 AM, FM, Internet and podcast streams, for free, while they’re driving.”
It’s the first major automaker announcement for Livio, founded in Sigal’s spare bedroom in 2008. Earlier in his career, Sigal invented the Ion turntable that connects a turntable to a computer, turning analog vinyl into .mp3 files.
TuneIn will be available on 2013 Chevy Sparks equipped with MyLink Radio. Livio Connect technology bridges the app, featured on iPhone and Android mobile devices, with MyLink. While connected through Livio Connect, all of the TuneIn buttons and controls from the mobile device will be available on MyLink’s seven-inch touch screen, while the app on the phone itself will be disabled to help promote safer driving.
“Our partnerships with Livio and TuneIn are helping us provide more infotainment choices to Spark and Sonic customers around the world,” said Sara LeBlanc, global program manager for Chevrolet and GM infotainment.
Sigal said Livio Connect is a natural progression to link smartphone apps to the car.
“If you tried to put every app into every car, and everybody used a proprietary interface, well, imagine every computer and every printer in the world having a proprietary cable,” Sigal said. “The solution was USB. What a USB cable is for computers and printers, we view ourselves as that between a car phone and a car radio.”
Sigal said Livio Connect “provides GM a very fast solution and TuneIn a very fast solution so they can talk to each other. GM and TuneIn did not have to use proprietary technology to make this work.
Sigal said Livio is working on other applications of Livio Connect.
“A lot of what we’re working on today goes beyond the car, into commercial and home products,” Sigal said.
Also Tuesday, the Consumer Electronics Association announced Sigal as one of three finalists for the Small Business Executive of the Year in CEA’s inaugural Innovation Entrepreneur Awards. Winners will be announced at the 2012 CEA Industry Forum Oct. 14-17 in San Francisco.
Said Sigal: “I look at this award as a way to draw attention to Southeast Michigan. I think it’s good for the whole region with the tech push that’s taking place in Detroit now.”
Sigal also noted that Livio has job openings to fill in engineering, marketing and product management. Check out the openings at www.livioconnect.com/jobs.
“We’ve grown the team, we’re at 15 now, and we hope to be at around 25 by the end of the year,” Sigal said.
The company remains headquartered in a storefront in Ferndale. Sigal said there’s room for a few more there, but eventually a new headquarters is “something we’re going to have to take care of.”