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Acer inside cars? It's happening

Acer is venturing outside PCs with new products to update car software and prevent accidents.

The company's first products for cars, including a headset that monitors brainwaves for driver fatigue, are being shown at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.

The Taiwan company is also showing a telematics product to track car movement and keep in-vehicle software updated.

Acer is entering the automotive business as a way to make money outside the slumping PC business. Success in PCs has eluded Acer, whose computer shipments have been falling since the netbook boom ended with the expansion of the tablet market in 2010.

The headset idea is a novel one, though details about how it works weren't immediately available. It may have been spun off from many available headset products, like Emotiv, designed to detect mental states. The headsets operate like EEG machines and associate the brain wave readings with algorithms to detect fatigue and other mental states. Acer didn't say when the product would be released.

Acer is also providing a way for in-vehicle software to be updated over-the-air with its OTA+ software product. The open-source software has been developed based on specifications recommended by GENIVI, an industry consortium that boasts some top car makers among its members.

The car update feature is especially handy as there is a growing trend for automakers to deploy their own applications to cars. The software will ensure secure data transfer and deployment, Acer said.

Acer didn't say when the technology would become available. Major hardware companies like Intel and Nvidia -- which are also members of GENIVI -- are developing components that power in-vehicle systems. So it's possible that Acer's OTA+ technology work with cars running those chips.

Acer has a head start in the automobile market over rival PC makers Dell, Lenovo and HP. Apple and Google have already developed in-vehicle entertainment, messaging and mapping systems for cars via smartphones.

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