Ford has followed up the release of its OpenXC vehicle application research platform with an announcement detailing its wider Ford Developer Program. This developer portal is intended to provided information and tools needed for the creation of voice-activated in-car experiences.
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Utilizing the SYNC connectivity system and AppLink application programming interface (API), Ford becomes the "first automaker in the world" to launch an open developer program that enables software developers to directly interface with the vehicle and create apps that are hoped to enhance our driving experience.
"The Ford Developer Program marks a dramatic shift in how we will innovate new features and add value to our vehicles," said Hau Thai-Tang, vice president of Engineering, Ford global product development. "Opening the car to developers gives consumers a direct voice and hand in the creation of apps that can help our products remain relevant, up to date, and valuable to our customers."
"When we first introduced SYNC in 2007, there was a need for an appropriate way to connect and control cellphones and digital music players in the car due to the massive consumer adoption trend," continued Thai-Tang. "Offering voice control so drivers can keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road has proven to be popular with our customers. Now, with an even faster adoption rate of smartphones, there is a need for a renewed focus on voice control for the unique capabilities of these devices, especially for the use of apps."
A recent Frost & Sullivan study shows 1 in 5 survey respondents acknowledge using apps while driving with absolutely no connection to the vehicle. While SYNC provides connectivity and voice control for phones and music players via Bluetooth or USB, AppLink provides a voice-activated interface, allowing drivers to control smartphone apps without the need to pick up their devices.
"The car presents an all-new opportunity for developers," said Thai-Tang. "Engaging innovators outside of the company is a key part of our strategy to be consumer-driven in all aspects of our business, helping us not only satisfy what's going on today, but setting us up for innovative solutions to the challenges coming in the future."
Ford has been in a beta test with a group of invited developers as they work out details of the software development kit (SDK), documentation, and technical support systems. With more than three dozen AppLink-compatible apps publicly available on Apple iOS and Google Android, the SDK is now thought to be mature enough that Ford engineers are ready to let the ecosystem of developers try it out.
In addition to the libraries and documentation, developers will have access to technical support directly from Ford engineers and online discussion forums where they can share lessons learned with other developers.