Ford is going open source to improve its Sync connectivity system. At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the company announced that it is launching an open mobile app developer program for apps that will work with Sync’s AppLink application programming interface (API).
The Ford Developer Program will invite software developers to create apps that interface directly with a car’s infotainment system, rather than relying on a mobile device to bridge the gap.
“The Ford Developer Program marks a dramatic shift in how we will innovate new features and add value to our vehicles throughout the ownership period,” 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.”
Thai-Tang views the Developer Program as an obvious progression for Sync, which launched in 2007 when conventional cell phones and digital music devices were the most common gadgets being used while driving.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Developers interested in making some AppLink-friendly software can register at http://developer.ford.com and download a software development kit. The kit includes code libraries and documentation that allow the apps and the cars to talk to each other, and that includes enabling voice commands.
Ford will also offer technical support, from its own engineers, through online forums, and jacAPPS, a Michigan-based development firm that has Ford’s official recommendation.