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Pioneer’s Ambitious Zypr Wants to be the One API to Rule Them All

The consumer electronics giant Pioneer launched its Zypr platform today. With Zypr, the company wants to offer hardware manufacturers and software developers a single, simplified way to access Internet services like Slacker, Yelp, Facebook or Accuweather. The idea behind this project is that connected devices like phones, laptops, cars and TVs take some lead time to develop, but that there is no way to predict which service users will want to use in a year or two (or which ones will still be around). With Zypr, Pioneer wants to allow developers to create “future-proof mashups.” As an additional twist, Zypr mostly focuses on voice navigation to access these services.

Why Zypr Matters

In practice, this means that a car-based interface could talk to Yelp, Google Places and OpenTable to find restaurant reviews without the user having to point the system to a specific service. Drivers could speak a command that asks for nearby restaurants with good reviews and the developers can then mash up the information they get from these services and integrate them into their devices. The users don’t need to know where exactly the information comes from (though developers could obviously expose this data if they want to) and the developers can mix and match services as they see fit. Thanks to this approach, if better services come online or one of them goes out of business, developers can seamlessly switch between providers behind the scenes without having to upgrade the firmware in a car or home audio system.

As Pioneer’s David Frerichs’ explained it to me last week, users really want a seamless experience as they switch from device to device and location to location without being locked in by a single vendor. In addition, they want their devices to still work 10 years from now, when most the current web services are likely to be quite different from today’s crop of music and social networking startups.

Zypr currently works with a limited set of third-party services, but the team aims to add more partners over time.

The voice recognition system aims to provide users a system with a very flat command structure – though it also provides developers with a built-in conversation engine for follow-up questions. In the age of Siri, it’s worth noting that this is not an artificial intelligence-based system, though, but instead uses a set of about 200 preset commands.

For Developers: Normalized API for Accessing Multiple Services and Revenue Share

Zypr offers developers a unified RESTful API that is organized by content service categories (think music, navigation, social etc.) that provides a layer between the device or app and the actual service.

The content used by the system is licensed by Zypr and developers won’t have to talk to the providers’ APIs directly. Obviously, this is not a charity project, but Zypr and Pioneer aim to share revenue with the developers. The idea here is to generate revenue through advertising from paid search, media ads, coupons and subscription services.

While the Zypr team is currently mostly working on creating a developer ecosystem around the service, the team also plans to release iOS and Android clients in the future.

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