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Ford Creates Free Kit for App Software Developers

Ford Creates Free Kit for App Software Developers

By Jeff Youngs, January 14, 2013
Ford Motor Company claims to be the first automaker to introduce a free software development kit for app software developers that enables them to directly interface with Ford products in order to create apps that will make the driving experience better and safer.

The new developer program kit uses Ford's Sync in-vehicle communications and entertainment connectivity system, which was designed in collaboration with partner Microsoft, along with AppLink application programming interface (API), which features partnerships with The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Amazon Cloud Player, and Rhapsody, among others.

The automaker launched Ford Sync AppLink Developer Program kit on Friday at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The program had already received an Editor's Choice award from Popular Mechanics magazine, according to Ford.

The objective of the new kit is to encourage developers to create voice-controlled apps that enhance the driving experience by minimizing distractions caused by the use of smartphones while driving, since consumers use such apps as music and navigation while driving. Ford wants to make certain these apps are now voice-controlled.

Ford's new open program kit should help developers give consumers a faster, more direct voice in helping developers design apps that address consumer needs and also will keep Ford's vehicle features up-to-date and valuable, according to Ford Vice President of Engineering Hau Thai-Tang. The Ford engineering official said there is a need for a renewed focus on voice control for the unique capabilities of smartphones, especially since some vehicle owners are using apps while driving with no connection to the vehicle.

Currently, more than half of mobile subscribers in the United States now use smartphones, and two-thirds of the newly activated phones can run apps. Worldwide, there are now more than 1 billion smartphone users--and that number is expected to double by 2015, according to a recent survey from Nielsen Co., a major global information and measurement company, which also reports that more than 55 billion apps have been downloaded from leading digital marketers. A smartphone user in the United States has an average of 67 apps on a smartphone.

Ford hopes the new product will help create apps for Gen-Y consumers (born 1977-1994), who are particularly interested in customizing their experience in a vehicle. Selecting and using apps is one of the easiest ways to personalize the functionality of both communications devices and vehicle connectivity systems to create a better in-vehicle experience.

The Ford program is similar to those at technology companies, including Apple, Google and Facebook. Application developers who want to enable their programs for AppLink can now register at http://developer.ford.com to download the AppLink software development kit (SDK), which includes code libraries and documentation for the APIs that enable two-way communication between mobile apps and the vehicle, including voice commands from the driver.

Ford's Sync provides connectivity and voice control for phones and music players via Bluetooth or USB, while AppLink provides a voice-activated interface, allowing drivers to control smartphone apps without the need to pick up their device.

Currently, the three main categories of AppLink-enabled apps include News and Information, Music and Entertainment, Navigation and Location.

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