Ford is trying to consolidate its various smartphone-to-car syncing solutions, and it's hoping other manufacturers will join in, greatly simplifying car-friendly app development.
Ford wants to consolidate its existing Sync service, which has been available in the majority of the company's vehicles worldwide since 2007, and Livio Connect, the competing service used in some General Motors vehicles. Ford bought the Livio start-up in September and wants to integrate its technology and Ford's own AppLink variant of Sync, which was announced at CES 2013.
Ford wants the combined future product of Sync AppLink and Livio Connect to be the industry standard for smartphone connection in cars; it says a combined, cross-manufacturer standard will reduce the work required from app developers and will mean more apps become compatible with in-car use.
Currently, any app developer has to significantly or completely rewrite the way their applications interface with a USB or Bluetooth device to support each complex car syncing standard; the extra work required and the number of different platforms mean that few developers bother making apps that are available across multiple vehicles. A global standard would change that, according to Ford chief technical officer Paul Mascarenas.
Despite its recently acquired Livio Connect currently being used in its competitors' vehicles, Ford doesn't see a conflict of interest. "A key part of anything that we decide to do is backwards compatible," said Mascarenas. "We don't want to leave anybody with a redundant or orphaned solution."
"As you think about that, the way you connect the device doesn't matter to the customer. Where the competitive differentiation and the competitive advantage comes is through the content you offer, the experience you provide. That can be completely independent of the protocols and the algorithms you use to actually control the device."
When and if a global car connectivity standard appears, you can expect hundreds of new apps made to accompany you while you're driving.