Auto Supplier Partners with Speech Technology Co.

SAN MATEO (04/11/2000) - The relationship between high-tech and brick-and-mortar got more intimate today when tier-one automotive supplier Visteon Corp. announced the formation of a new company in partnership with speech technology giant Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products Inc. (L&H).

Visteon, a wholly owned Ford subsidiary, and L&H will target after-market suppliers to the auto industry such as Clarion, makers of the AutoPC, and work directly with auto manufacturers to create speech-enabled Internet services in cars.

As the top three auto makers complete their plans to create a single online exchange for the supply chain, companies such as Visteon that were once sole suppliers to Ford, will be able to offer products to all the auto manufacturers.

L&H will have a 60 percent interest in the joint venture and Visteon will have a 40 percent share. The company, as yet unnamed, will include L&H's current automotive-division resources and will launch with 50 employees by midyear.

The company plans to work with an ISP (Internet service provider) to offer 100 percent voice-controlled Internet services to drivers. It also aims to provide voice activation for most dashboard functions such as radio, climate control, and other convenience features.

The reason for the joint venture is obvious, according to one L&H executive.

"What we are looking for is the synergy that will drive us both farther than we could go individually. In this case, one plus one equals three," said Scott Pyles, director of product management for automotive technology at L&H.

In related automotive news, biometric-security supplier Keyware Technologies, in Woburn, Massachusetts, also announced a deal with L&H and STMicroelectronics to create telematics systems for cars.

Chip maker STMicroelectronics will incorporate Keyware's voice-verification technology and L&H's speech technology as part of a chip-level solution that will enable voice dialing for cell phones that are either built in to the car or in to handsets.

When a user initiates voice dialing, a predetermined password will be required, and the system will continue only if the voice is authenticated.

Voice authentication or thumbprint verification will also be deployed in other convenience features of cars, according to Keyware Chief Executive Officer Francis Declercq. He noted, however, that neither voice prints nor thumbprints will ever be used for functions such as starting the engine.

Lernout & Hauspie, in Burlington, Massachusetts, can be reached at http://www.lhs.com/. Visteon Corp., in Dearborn, Michigan, can be reached at http://www.visteon.com/. Keyware Technologies, in Woburn, Massachusetts, can be reached at http://www.keyware.com/.

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