Ford Releases SDK to Next Set of App Developers

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Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. said Friday it is starting to release its Software Development Kit to a new set of interested smartphone app developers so they can modify existing apps to work hands-free using voice recognition through Ford Sync for safer command and control while driving.

The SDK release marks the latest move by Ford to forge a more open collaborative bond with the wireless, consumer electronics and app developer communities to create a safer and smarter in-car connectivity experience that leverages the mobile devices customers own and love.

“We know we can do better things for our customers by allying with the companies that provide the devices and services they already use, trust and value,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of Global Product Development, to the wireless telecommunications community at the annual CTIA Enterprise and Applications Conference. “What we see emerging as we explore new ways to safely enhance connectivity and reinvent the driving experience is a mutually beneficial ‘collaborative community’ where our shared customer — anyone who drives a car and owns a smartphone — is the true beneficiary.”

With drivers spending nearly three hours per day in their vehicle, according to a 2009 Arbitron National In-Car Study, there’s no doubt customers will be tempted to use their mobile device in the car. In fact, recent studies already indicate 46 percent of adult smartphone users have apps on their phones and 36 percent of those admit to using those apps while commuting.

“More and more drivers will find a way to use their devices and their apps while in the car,” Kuzak said. “They can do it unsafely, or they can do it through safer voice-activated solutions such as Ford Sync — keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.”  

Understanding the potential of the Sync application programming interface, app developers have been clamoring for the Ford SDK since the company announced the launch of the Sync Developer Web site (www.syncmyride.com/developer). Since then, Ford has received and is reviewing more than 1,000 submissions from interested parties looking to modify existing apps or create all-new apps that can successfully interface with Ford Sync through AppLink. As the software that leverages the Sync API, AppLink can access mobile apps stored on a user’s smartphone, and allows them to be controlled through the Sync voice recognition system.

Pandora Internet radio, Stitcher smart radio and Orangatame’s OpenBeak are the first apps to incorporate the Sync API, with more on the way in coming months. To keep the user experience seamless, Ford will leverage existing app stores for distribution of updated Sync-enabled versions of apps. Owners of Sync AppLink-equipped cars simply download the enabled app through the appropriate app store for their smartphone’s operating system.

Being cautious with the SDK, Ford has developed stringent self-imposed guidelines for in-car app development, considering a whole set of parameters that make sense for the driving environment.

“Our goal is not to have thousands of apps available for the car,” said Kuzak at the CTIA conference, “because there are strict limitations on what should be allowed while driving.”

Ford is in the process of evaluating the potential of existing apps that are appropriate for in-car use. Categories include:

* Personalized entertainment such as Pandora Internet radio
* Personalized information and news such as Stitcher smart radio or Orangatame’s OpenBeak
* Location-based services including navigation, traffic and business searches
* Notifications and alerts leveraging Sync’s ability to mash up vehicle information, GPS locations and more, all to provide the driver with customized information and guidance
* Financial apps that, for example, provide alerts such as stock price drops or overdrafts and, in the future, drive-by payments
* Scheduling and planning apps that could include notifications of flight status, for instance, in the event flights are delayed or rescheduled

Further down the road, Ford will also examine the potential of apps that can provide exciting new levels of safety knowledge as well as improvements in driver productivity and convenience.

“We know our customers want connectivity from a convenience perspective and need it from a safety perspective,” said Kuzak. “We want to leverage growing network speeds to create a world of apps on wheels that makes the vehicle experience simpler, safer, more productive and convenient.”

More at www.ford.com.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newesradio 950. All rights reserved.

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