A Synphony to the ears of drivers everywhere

An Israeli company has developed a new hands-free technology that lets you interact with the internet while you drive – using just your voice. Sometimes the best ideas emerge out of idleness. Take the case of high tech executive and …

An Israeli company has developed a new hands-free technology that lets you interact with the internet while you drive – using just your voice.

Sometimes the best ideas emerge out of idleness. Take the case of high tech executive and engineer Mark Heifetz. During his daily commute in the greater Tel Aviv area, he’d sometimes end up sitting in traffic jams for up to an hour each way.

During the frustrating lulls, he began thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a device in the car that I could interact via my voice that could read me newspapers online or send emails and SMS messages?’

Only a few years later, Heifetz is on the road to realizing that daydream. Together with his son Daniel, he founded the company InphoDrive in 2007, and less than two years later, they’ve developed the Synphony, an innovative vocal infotainment platform, which delivers web-like experience to the driver behind the wheel.

”What we’ve done is developed a platform that delivers several Internet services and content options to the driver via a vocal user interface,” Daniel Heifetz, the company’s CTO explains to ISRAEL21c.

Using his voice alone the driver can browse an informational news portal, listen to incoming email messages and dictate new ones, and stay in touch via social networks.

Emails, news, twitter, and GPS

“You can send emails, have news stories read to you, update your Twitter, use your GPS, or even an old fashioned thing – listen to music,” says Heifetz.

And best of all, the driver never has to take his hands – or eyes- off the wheel. The required content is transmitted to the driver in audible form. With no keyboards and no screens, the process is easy – and mostly important – safe.

“Instead of trying to write an SMS on a small mobile phone screen with one hand, while driving with the other hand, our system keeps your hands intact on the wheel. You’re not getting distracted visually,” says Heifetz. “You can do virtually anything, it’s much safer to use than any screen-interface device.”

InphoDrive was founded in September 2007 within the framework of the Mofet technological incubator and with the participation of a private angel investor.

Development at an accelerated pace

According to Heifetz, his father Mark, who is the company’s CEO, has been involved in Israeli high tech for 20 years, with management positions in several big companies, as well as managing his own engineering company. The younger Heifetz, a 2003 graduate of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, had been involved in the embedded computing industry, and was head of the product line for Compulog.

With their combined experience, the development of the Synphony proceeded at an accelerated pace.

“We completed the product concept over the fourth quarter of 2007 and by March 2008, we already demonstrated a conceptual model of the system,” says Heifetz.

While admitting that there are several other companies that offer various aspects of the Synphony package, Heifetz insists that for total integration, nothing comes close to InphoDrive’s technology.

For all applications, including the Iphone

“There are several companies that offer email services or news streams via a telephone dial in. One company does only email when it’s connected to a Blackberry. Nobody can match our level of integration with all different Internet platforms,” he asserts, adding that additional application platforms are being worked on to accommodate thousands of other applications, like the Iphone.

Additional platforms are also being developed for the sight impaired, Heifetz adds.

The Synphony contains a cellular modem that connects to a server located on the internet. The driver gets a small device installed in the vehicle, which doubles as an entry device for the mobile phone, media player and GPS.

“The server is the gateway to a world we’re creating for the drivers. You just press a button to activate it,” says Heifetz. “I hope one day, it will be standard issue on the assembly line for all cars.”

To that end, InphoDrive currently has a working prototype of the Synphony and has begun showcasing it to various automobile exhibitions around the world.

“We’re looking for a round of investment or potential partners in order to turn this into a product,” says Heifetz.

That will be a Synphony to his ears – while his hands stay on the wheel and his eyes stay on the road.