Ford made a bit of modern-technology history in January 2013 by launching the automotive industry’s first open mobile app developer program. It enables software developers to directly interface with a Ford vehicle and create apps that will enhance the driving experience via SYNC® AppLink™.
SYNC was introduced in 2007 to connect and control phones and digital music players in a Ford vehicle. Both of those being used in a vehicle was a fast-growing trend – and therefore the kind of voice-recognition connectivity SYNC offered was in demand from consumers. Cut to 2013, when smartphones are all the fad, and having voice command and control for the various capabilities of the phone is more a way of life, especially when it comes to apps.
Designing apps for the vehicle is a totally different opportunity for developers, and Ford is engaging developers to come up with innovative solutions to what the future will bring. “We’re allowing developers to directly interface with our vehicles to create apps that will continuously personalize the driving experience,” said John Ellis, Ford Global Technologist. The program is actually similar to what companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook have created. The Ford software development kit available to developers includes code libraries and documentation (more info is at developer.ford.com).
The goal is to grow the current list of featured apps, thus giving the customer more choices. “It’s a program created by software developers for software developers,” said John. “We bring developers in to create cool stuff. People who want it and see it in a Ford vehicle may be motivated to buy the vehicle. It’s that simple.”
Currently, the three main categories of AppLink-enabled apps include News and Information, Music and Entertainment, Navigation and Location.
Once a developer has incorporated AppLink code into the app, it will be submitted for review by Ford engineers to ensure it works properly and is suitable for use in the vehicle. Once approved, Ford will then work with the developer to provide a distribution license, after which the app is submitted to the relevant app marketplace.
“We can tap into innovation without having to modify our vehicles too terribly much, so our customers’ experience stays current and highly personalized. What they have on their phone will simply extend into the vehicle.”