Nuance Acquires Tweddle

In a bid to further its automotive business, Nuance Communications will acquire Tweddle Connect, an application and content service delivery platform for in-car infotainment systems, for $80 million in cash. The deal is expected to close this quarter.

Tweddle Connect's end-to-end service delivery platform will be used with Dragon Drive's hybrid embedded-connected voice platform to provide automakers with an integrated single, turn-key solution that offers voice, natural language understanding, dialogue management, expressive text-to-speech, in-car connectivity, apps, content, and dynamic application user authentication.

A key element of the service platform includes an integrated authentication system that lets users automatically connect to apps and services as soon as they enter the car. Tweddle Connect aggregates third-party applications and content, such as Bing, iHeart Radio, OpenTable, and Pandora.

Another feature is a communication link that allows the car to talk to the Tweddle Connect cloud servers either through a wireless radio in the car or any third-party mobile device. A third element is a transform engine, which optimizes cloud content and applications for delivery to the car consistent with the car maker's design goals and safety considerations.

The Tweddle solution also features an online secure portal where consumers, dealers, and auto makers can manage apps and content. Also included is dynamic authentication, which lets drivers automatically connect to apps as soon as they enter the car, even if a password is required. Big data analytics on consumer behavior is also part of the solution.

"We are seeing that the number of services, different domains, and content players is increasing rapidly," says Arnd Weil, vice president and general manager of automotive at Nuance Mobile. "This platform opens up a lot of different use cases.”

Nuance's Dragon Drive voice solution supports functions such as voice dialing, message dictation, navigation, local business search, music search, and climate control. The technology includes voice, text-to-speech, and natural language understanding solutions, and is shipped in more than 20 million cars per year from makers like Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, and Toyota.

Nuance said the acquisition represents an important market opportunity and sees a trend in smart connected cars. The company cited information from ABR Research which predicted that the number of U.S. connected car subscriptions will grow at a 30 percent compound annual growth rate, from 16 million in 2012 to 53 million in 2017.

The acquisition presents other opportunities for Nuance outside of the automotive sector. "With the Tweddle team we are acquiring a lot of expertise, not only for a connected platform, but [their technology has] also been very deeply integrated in smartphones," Weil says. "That has also been our strategy, so I think that now we are uniquely positioned not only to have hybrid speech but hybrid application integration."

"We are very excited about the acquisition," added Mike Thompson, senior vice president and general manager of Nuance Mobile, in an investor conference call. "Leading car makers view in-car electronics as a strategic and vital way to differentiate. The connected car is very quickly becoming a must-have feature. People want access to the applications that they know and love and use everyday. Tweddle Connect recognized these trends early and built an amazing service."

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