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Hand it to Nokia

From the cradle to the IP, Nokia calls on integration as an answer to hands-free cell phone technology.

Now I think I’ve finally seen it all. Driving to the store the other day, I saw a 10- year-old girl weaving down the sidewalk on her bike while trying to dial her cell phone. A hands-free cell phone system for bikes — I’ll put that one in my “should be invented” folder.

Europeans can turn their Bluetooth cell phone into a hands free integrated system and at the touch of a button talk business or listen to music.
A few days later the discussion again turned to hands-free cell phones. I was sitting in a Mercedes M-Class with Torsten Velker, head of Nokia’s Smart Traffic Products, who was demonstrating The Nokia 610 Car Kit Phone hands-free cell phone system.

The Nokia 610 consists of a small control box (about the size of a radar detector) that can be hidden under the dash, a small digital screen that mounts to the top of the dash and the key fob-sized Navi wheel with four function keys to make the whole thing work.

The unique feature of the 610 car kit is that it uses Bluetooth technology to connect your cell phone to your car. But unlike other Bluetooth hands free systems, after authorization and once the vehicle is started, the 610 automatically uploads all of the information from your cell phone, like phone number, address book, text messages and music, then shuts off your portable phone. You now have a hands-free cell phone that runs off of your car’s battery and uses your car’s antenna.

The Nav wheel is used to scroll through the phonebook or music entries with the four keys used to make selections. Music selections and phone calls are heard through the vehicles sound system. The 610 also features a voice dialing system that works by pressing the function key with the call being initiated by simple speaking the person’s name.

Bluetooth technology allows the 610 to be used as a data port. Sign on with your laptop and check e-mail, send a fax or receive text messages and even download music into the phone.

When the vehicle ignition is turned off, all data stored in the 610 is automatically downloaded back into the portable phone, including any text messages received while the 610 system was initiated.

Velker says that the 610 car kit phone is intended to be used as a business tool, which may justify its $500 to $600 price tag. The 610 car phone kit has been available on the aftermarket in Europe since January of this year. A factory installed version is also in the works. Velker says that there are currently no plans to bring the 610 to the U.S. due to the lack of Bluetooth enabled cars and cell phones. “The market has just started later here than in Europe,” Velker says. “But it is growing faster.” Velker adds that Nokia will be bringing some new products to the U.S. market later this year.

For those who don’t need all of the bells and whistles that the 610 provides, Nokia has a less expensive hands-free system with versions available on Mercedes, Ford Focus and selected Lexus, Nissan and Volkswagen vehicles in Europe.

Using similar technology to the 610, a portable phone is plugged in to a cradle that integrates it into the vehicles audio system for sound and navigation system for picture. A dash mounted button is used to answer or end a call, as well as a volume control. The cradle also serves as a phone charger.

“Most users have one place to charge their phone,” Velker says, “and that’s in their car.” Once integrated into the car, users can receive and make phone calls, as well as play MP3s stored in the phone, over the vehicles stereo system. When a call comes in, the system pauses the MP3 and picks it up at that spot when the call is terminated.

Nokia has also developed several different types of hands-free systems for vehicles including a stereo speaker-microphone system that clips to the headrest.

Velker sees a European market that has segmented into several different types of solutions for the same thing. He sees that happening in the U.S. as well.

And I can delete the hands-free bicycle cell phone from my “should be invented” folder. Nokia already makes several. I’m sure one of them will be just what that 10-year-old bicycler needs to keep her under control.

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Fri. July 19th, 2024

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