Ford envisions a world of apps on wheels

At the final keynote of the CTIA Show in San Francisco, Ford announced that it is releasing an SDK for its AppLink platform for Sync.


At the final keynote of the CTIA 2010 in San Francisco, Ford Motor Company's Group Vice President of Global Product Development Derrick Kuzak announced that the automaker is releasing a software development kit (SDK) for its AppLink platform for Sync. AppLink is a collection of protocols and commands that allow Ford's extensive Sync voice command system to recognize, interface with, and take control of applications on a user's connected smartphone.

We've already seen AppLink in action when Ford demonstrated the service in the 2011 Ford Fiesta a few months ago; however with the release of the SDK, Ford is opening the platform up to new partners and openly courting app developers. Kuzak states that Ford has received more than 1,000 proposals for partnerships from app developers since the launch of its Sync My Ride developer landing page.

Kuzak defined a handful of categories that it will be considering when choosing app partners including personal entertainment, information and news, location-based services, notifications and alerts, financial apps, and scheduling and planning. Rather than require that developers stick strictly to these categories, Ford is encouraging potential app partners to envision mashups of categories and services that are useful to the driving while enhancing, rather than compromising, the safety of the vehicle.

Ford dreamed up a few hypothetical apps of its own--a sort of wish list--to get developers headed in what it believes is the right direction. The inaccurately named Driver's Ed 2.0 would pull local traffic and accident data and warn drivers to keep on their toes as they approach intersections that have a history of being accident prone. An would-be app called Cloud Parking seemed to expand on the Google Labs project Open Spot , allowing users to identify, reserve, navigate to, and pay for an open parking space, all from within the app while using Sync's voice command. Kuzak went on to describe scenarios that, for example, tapped into a user's social network for restaurant recommendations while driving, or set the nearest grocery store that stocked the ingredients from a cooking podcast as the navigation destination. These pie in the sky apps and scenarios don't actually exist and Ford has no plans to create them itself. Rather, the automaker is establishing an API and leaving the software developers to do the developing.

The first implementations of Ford's AppLink for Sync will include the current partners Pandora Internet Radio, Stitcher Smart Radio, and the OpenBeak Twitter client, with more to follow. AppLink will interface with Android and BlackBerry phones first and will be available on select Sync equipped vehicles in early 2011. Apple iOS and other mobile platform support will closely follow.


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