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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

March 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Airbiquity wins major Ford telematics deal

Rounding out a garage full of top-tier automotive customers, Airbiquity today is announcing that its technology will be used in the next version of Ford’s Sync system.

The value of the deal wasn’t disclosed, but Seattle-based Airbiquity is doing all right after closing a $25 million financing deal in January.

Chief Executive Kamyar Moinzadeh said he’s going to increase staff from 80 to 100 by the end of 2008, with most of the new positions being added overseas as the company expands its global presence

Airbiquity’s technology relays data between wireless phone networks to automotive telematics systems. Its trick is using the networks’ voice channels, so users pay the lower voice rates.

It’s already in the biggest telematics player, GM’s OnStar. Earlier this year Airbiquity announced a deal with BMW, and Moinzadeh said he’s working with two other carmakers that haven’t been announced.

Altogether more than 8 million vehicles on the road are now using technology from the 10-year-old company.

Ford is adding Airbiquity to Sync 2.0, the second version of its successful Microsoft-developed platform announced at CES in January.

The system will let drivers sync most any Bluetooth-enabled phone with their car, connecting it to the Web via wireless networks.

Using this link, Ford will receive information about the status of the vehicles and send owners messages when maintenance is necessary.

Airbiquity’s system can also pull information to Sync, such as weather and traffic information, but those aren’t being announced yet.

So carmakers are using wireless networks to increase their ARPU. Next they’ll be selling seatbelt warning ringtones.

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