Kia's Voice-Activated Infotainment System Comes to Life with Windows Embedded Automotive and Microsoft Tellme Speech
Kia Motors targets Gen Y singles and young families who live a “mobile digital lifestyle.” Kia Motors wanted to build an infotainment system with voice- and touch-activated experiences that would match the expectations of people who play video
games, connect to social media, and carry mobile devices. Built on the Windows Embedded Automotive platform, Kia's UVO system fully integrates Microsoft Tellme embedded speech technology. UVO, short for 'Your Voice,' features a breakthrough user interface
that provides simple and quick access to a vehicle's multimedia and infotainment systems.
Driven by advances in digital connectivity and mobile computing, today’s in-vehicle infotainment systems are evolving rapidly. As vehicle owners and buyers demand greater infotainment value from their vehicles, the automotive industry has responded by introducing
more intelligent and powerful systems than ever before.
Leading this trend is Kia Motors, manufacturer and distributor of Kia vehicles and one of the fastest growing car brands in the United States over the past decade. Founded in 1944, Kia Motors Corporation is Korea's oldest manufacturer of motor vehicles.
The company globally produces over 1.5 million vehicles a year, which are sold and serviced through a network of distributors and dealers covering 172 countries. Today it has over 42,000 employees worldwide with annual revenues of over US$14.6 billion.
||Since 2006, Kia and Microsoft have developed a shared vision for what the next-generation of in-vehicle infotainment systems will look like. The basis for this alliance is the synergy between Microsoft and Kia, and our goals of being
technology leaders on a global level.
| Henry Bzeih
National Manager, Connected Car
Kia Motors America, Inc.
Kia Motors began focusing on in-vehicle technology in the mid-2000s as the company saw the “connected car” concept taking hold in the industry as a whole.
“Automakers must invest heavily in new technologies because popular electronics devices, like smart-phones and tablet computers, have created the expectation of connectivity from the office and home into the car,” says Henry Bzeih, National Manager, Connected
Car, Kia Motors America, Inc. “The automobile OEMs that best handle this connected car concept will be the big winners in our industry.”
Looking for potential software technology partners, Kia Motors conducted a benchmark study of the competitive operating system offerings in the marketplace. In the midst of that review, the introduction of Ford SYNC, powered by Microsoft, had a significant
influence on Kia Motors’ final decision regarding a relationship with Microsoft.
“Ford SYNC was a game-changer in terms of showing the industry how a great infotainment system could boost both the brand image and vehicle sales,” recalls Bzeih. “While many of our competitors chose to develop their own proprietary platforms, we decided
to partner with Microsoft.”
He continued: “Because Microsoft is a globally recognized industry leader, this partnership supports our strategic pillar of being a technology leader that goes beyond the connected car.”
Kia Motors' confidence in Microsoft as an in-vehicle technology partner was reinforced by its relationship with Microsoft as a supplier of enterprise-class IT products and services.
“Microsoft is a significant partner in our enterprise computing solutions, from Microsoft Office running on Windows desktops to Windows Servers powering our back-end IT systems,” explains Bzeih. “This played a major role in our confidence in the Windows
platform to meet automotive industry standards for reliability.”
In the spring of 2006, Kia Motors and Microsoft began sharing their visions for the future of in-vehicle technology. In 2008, the companies entered into a long-term agreement to co-develop a next-generation in-vehicle infotainment system.
| Microsoft Tellme embedded speech technology
enables hands-free calling with Kia's UVO System
Kia Motors elected to develop its new infotainment system using Windows Embedded Automotive, which delivers a large set of integrated and flexible middleware components.
“Our engineers immediately noted the completeness of the operating system, as well as the ability of Windows Embedded Automotive to address infotainment holistically through different layers, mobile device integration, and connected services,” recalls Bzeih.
Global familiarity with the Windows development environment and tools meant that development of the operating system image and integration with the hardware platform could be handled by a research and development team in Korea, saving Kia Motors significant
One of the distinguishing features of Kia’s UVO system is a voice-activated design that keeps the driver’s hands on the wheel. UVO, short for ‘Your Voice,’ features a breakthrough user interface that provides simple and quick access to a vehicle's multimedia
and infotainment systems.
Kia Motors was the one of the first automotive OEMs to ship an infotainment system powered by Microsoft Tellme embedded speech technology.
||Microsoft is a significant partner in our enterprise computing solutions, from Microsoft Office running on Windows desktops to Windows Servers powering our back-end IT systems. This played a major role in our confidence in the Windows
platform to meet automotive industry standards for reliability.
National Manager, Connected Car
Kia Motors America, Inc.
“We showed Kia some of the speech engine work we were doing, and then we went through an evaluation cycle that included some harrowing drives around Kia’s test track in Namyang, Korea,” says Stefanie Tomko, program manager, Windows Embedded Business, Microsoft
Corporation. “Kia was so impressed by the performance of the Microsoft Tellme speech service that it decided to make a bet on using the technology.”
Kia Motors was also one of the first OEMs to save time and cost by utilizing the Microsoft Auto Reference Platform. This integrated, pre-tested middleware stack and hardware reference design alleviated development time for Kia Motors and helped get UVO to
Kia Motors launched UVO Powered by Microsoft in March 2011. The system includes a vivid 4.3-inch color LCD touch screen where drivers see the integrated rearview camera display, control the high definition radio, and access controls for a Bluetooth-enabled
phone. UVO also features the voice-controlled Digital Jukebox, which stores up to 700MB of music.
“Starting with the iconic Kia Soul, the entire Kia product lineup has been endowed with a new design inside and out,” says Bzeih. “One of the highlights of this product transformation was the introduction of UVO, and the Microsoft partnership provided instant
credibility on the technology front for a very successful product launch strategy.”
Kia's UVO Powered by Microsoft system delivers multiple benefits to Kia customers with a personalized driving experience enabled by cutting-edge technology that lets drivers keep their eyes on the road. UVO also provides people with connectivity to entertainment,
information, and people they care about.
At the heart of UVO is the Microsoft Tellme speech service, with its flat command structure, holistic control and “sourceless” requirements. The Microsoft Tellme service delivers on-demand access to the Internet for information, entertainment, traffic and
navigation via a “connected experience” that is easy to use and hands-free.
“Nothing in the market is comparable to the power of the Microsoft Tellme service,” claims Bzeih. “We benchmark competitor vehicles all the time, and other OEMs have struggled with voice recognition. We find their voice recognition systems to be ‘clunky’
and require too many steps to get from ‘point a’ to ‘point b.’ By contrast, UVO controls all phone and music functions with one simple set of commands. With Microsoft Tellme, motorists can simply say what they want and get it.”
| October 2011 advertisement of Kia's UVO Powered by Microsoft
system within the Xbox LIVE platform
Bzeih continues: “Another major advantage is that Microsoft Tellme provides a turnkey, fully hosted solution. Tellme acquires content, manages data feeds and provides service to partners, eliminating the need for us to set up and maintain data centers dedicated
to providing this real-time service to drivers. Overall, Tellme speech technology gives Kia a truly unique capability with lots of marketing value.”
From a business perspective, the decision to base UVO on Microsoft technology has had far-reaching benefits, improving perceptions of Kia Motors' technology and industry leadership, as well as boosting the brand power and recognition on a global scale.
“UVO Powered by Microsoft has become established as Kia Motors' global connectivity brand,” states Bzeih. “It continuously develops strength in both brand presence and awareness in the U.S. market. With its availability in most Kia vehicles, UVO is constantly
mentioned in vehicle product reviews by the automotive and technology press. Customer embracement of UVO has been strong with a high customer satisfaction index.”
||Nothing in the market is comparable to the power of the Microsoft Tellme service. We benchmark competitor vehicles all the time, and other OEMs have struggled with voice recognition. We find their voice recognition systems to be ‘clunky’
and require too many steps to get from ‘point a’ to ‘point b.’ By contrast, UVO controls all phone and music functions with one simple set of commands. With Microsoft Tellme, motorists can simply say what they want and get it.
National Manager, Connected Car
Kia Motors America, Inc.
In terms of marketing Kia vehicles, UVO Powered by Microsoft is a unique sales point highlighted in every new vehicle product launch through promotions, press engagements, and industry events.
“We want to make the Kia brand relevant to young families and Gen Y singles, who have the expectation of being connected to media, social networks, and gaming all the time,” explains Bzeih.
Targeting the young family and Gen Y demographics requires creative thinking and powerful brand partners, and Kia leverages both. For example, Kia Motors has paired up with a famous L.A. basketball team player to create a humorous commercial highlighting
UVO's voice recognition features. The commercial began airing in late 2011.
Kia Motors also worked with the Microsoft Xbox team to create a cross-promotion that focuses on playing Xbox LIVE games over UVO. According to Bzeih, “Gaming is a huge part of the lives of young families with children, so the tangible effect of having UVO
Powered by Microsoft is the elevation of the Kia brand to a higher level.”
Bzeih firmly believes that the UVO Powered by Microsoft brand helps Kia sell more cars. Kia Motors America, Inc. recently announced record October 2011 sales, with year-to-date sales up 35 percent. In fact, Kia Motors surpassed 400,000 annual U.S. sales
for the first time in company history.
“Kia sales are blowing away industry trends, and UVO Powered by Microsoft helps fuel our constant and record breaking growth relative to our competitors,” says Bzeih.
Through Windows Embedded Automotive technology, Kia's UVO Powered by Microsoft infotainment system is paving the way for auto industry innovation and growth.
At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Kia announced its new telematics platform planned to launch in late 2012. The new system will provide 16 features that cover safety, vehicle management, convenience and location-based services. In
addition to a UVO eServices showcase, Kia Motors demonstrated new in-vehicle infotainment options such as Xbox LIVE, as well as user-centric driving experience concepts.
“Our goal is to improve the driving experience with more information,” explains Bzeih. “Imagine someone is driving with their kids and the check-engine light comes on and worry sets in. We’ve created a closed loop process that explains to the driver what
the light means. Then the system automatically connects to a dealership reservation service to make an appointment for the driver.”
Bzeih concludes: “As the operating system of UVO, Windows Embedded Automotive will continue to serve as one of Kia Motors' main platforms for development of future applications as we expand beyond in-vehicle infotainment and into telematics services and
other functions and features.”
Keywords: Automotive; In-vehicle infotainment
The Windows Embedded mission is to extend Windows and the cloud to the world of specialized devices. This mission is realized through our Windows Embedded family of products, providing built-in tools and technologies that our partners
can use to quickly configure, build, and ship service-oriented devices that offer their customers an unparalleled connected experience. According to VDC Research, Windows Embedded ranks as the #1 share leader in the worldwide commercial embedded/real-time
operating system market.
For more information visit: www.microsoft.com/embedded
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