When it comes to Bluetooth hands-free calling in cars, not all systems are created equal. Software maker QNX says it provides the best acoustical performance, and its latest solution could mean better and more clear sound quality during hands-free calls for drivers.
Consumers are still getting used to hands-free calling in cars. Not all vehicles are equipped with Bluetooth capability, and even when it's a standard feature, poor sound quality makes it tempting to use the handset to talk. However, QNX released its second-generation Aviage Acoustics Processing Suite to auto manufacturers and suppliers, and the RIM-subsidiary is hoping it will implement the solution, which could make the hands-free switch more appealing to drivers.
If you think sound quality is poor over Bluetooth calls, this is why: to get more bandwidth, cell phones cut out high and low frequencies in a call. The shortcut is particularly egregious with women's higher-pitched voices, and it can sometimes limit intelligibility to the end user. For example, "stop" becomes "top" in calls, and voices often sound tinny. In cars, the problem is exacerbated by background noise and distant, hidden microphones.
However, Aviage tries to compensate for these obstacles by compressing call signals at the microphone, and sending them across the mobile carrier using high-frequency encoding to preserve a wider range of sound. For incoming Bluetooth calls, Aviage uses "bandwidth extension" to fill back in the high and low pitches to make the call sound like its coming from a premium sound system, according to QNX. The software also reduces wind and background noise and manages acoustic echo cancellation to provide clearer sound quality. To car makers, it's a more cost-effective solution because it eliminates the need for dedicated acoustic processing hardware and reduces the tuning time from weeks to hours, says QNX.
Of course, proliferation of the supposedly better system will be up to the manufacturers and suppliers that adopt it. QNX could not say which car makers will use its new Aviage Acoustics Processing Suite. However, other QNX software has been used in premium brand OEM handsfree devices since 2004, and drivers can find it in Acura, Chrysler, and GM automobiles.