Blog Post

Gracenote wants to be the music interface of the connected car

Gracenote has long been present in our cars. Its music recognition technology is used to recognize CDs inserted into the dashboard, interpret voice prompts for particular artists and songs in newer infotainment systems and the supply the album art and track metadata for any number of automotive music streaming apps.

But [company]Gracenote[/company] has bigger ambitions in the car. It wants to use its audio-fingerprinting technology to become a kind of meta-car radio, that can negotiate between all of the music sources in your car, whether they’re coming from satellite or FM airwaves or streamed in from a smartphone or embedded 4G connection.

Ty Roberts
Ty Roberts

Gracenote on Thursday called the technology Entourage and it’s essentially a software client that sits in the dashboard and listens to everything that comes out of your car’s speakers. By recognizing all of the songs that are played in the car it can use that information to trigger other types of music sessions. For instance, if you hear a U2 song the radio, you could tell your car’s command and control system to create a radio station based on that track in [company]Pandora[/company], or you could search your cloud music or smartphone’s local library for other U2 songs, Gracenote chief strategy officer and co-founder Ty Roberts told me.

“Managing and accessing that multi-dimensional music matrix in the car has become challenging,” Roberts said. Just getting to the song you want in your car requires navigating different inputs and interfaces, so Gracenote believes there needs to be a way of linking all them together, he said.

Roberts said that the Entourage isn’t intended to replace the streaming apps and radio services in the car, only augment them. Automakers and infotainment system designers like [company]Harman[/company] can implement it different ways. Some may create a kind of master music console that always displays the artist, album and song title of every track playing on the heads-up display’s idle screen, but then allows you to zero into the specific app by tapping the screen. Others might just use entourage purely as pervasive background technology, allowing a driver to make contextual music links between apps.

A mock-up of what a master music console powered by Entourage would look like
A mock-up of what a master music console powered by Entourage would look like

The technology is now available to automakers and their infotainment system suppliers, and Gracenote expects it to appear in 2017 model vehicles, Roberts said (meaning they could be in commercial cars as early as mid-2016).

Gracenote also plans to add more sophisticated capabilities to Entourage as its adopted, allowing automakers and developers to build their own apps and services on top of it. An example would a background app that allows you to note any song from any source you like as it plays, generating a drive-time playlist.

Or with permission of the driver, Entourage could start analyzing days, weeks and months worth of listening patterns, compare that against driver behavior and environmental conditions (whether traffic is stop-and-go or its raining outside) to create highly customized streaming radio stations or music recommendations based on mood, Roberts said. Gracenote has already starting laying the groundwork for such a service in a project with [company]Ford[/company], where it taps directly into the car’s driving computer.

Screenshot and Roberts images courtesy of Gracenote.