Today at the TechCrunch Hackathon, Ford, the second largest automaker in the U.S., teamed with Spotify, the fast-growing Swedish music service that recently arrived in the states, to demonstrate the current opportunities for in-car app innovation as well as the new voice-activated Ford SYNCsystem. Just to clarify: This isn’t an “official partnership”, it’s just a cool hack meant to demonstrate how easy it is to integrate with SYNC. For those unfamiliar, Ford SYNC is the in-vehicle communications and entertainment system that allows drivers to make hands-free phone calls, as well as control music and other in-car entertainment with their very own vocal chords. SYNC recently added integration with AppLink (in 2011 Ford Fiestas for now) to allow hands-free use of smartphone apps in the car.
At Hackathon today, Ford offered developers the opportunity to learn more about SYNC’s API and demonstrate how to integrate apps like Spotify into SYNC. This is Spotify’s first in-car integration, and it’s still an initial hack, but it’s a pretty good start. We’re hoping this becomes a long-term Ford/Spotify strategy.
The tremendous growth of smartphone apps has created the need and the opportunity to provide the same voice-controlled solution for apps that drivers are now using in the car — but it also has to stay safe. “Look ma no hands!” is never something you want to hear while in a car with someone. SYNC provides users, through voice assistance, with the ability to easily control their car’s multimedia and app functions, and at at the Hackathon today Spotify is on board in the passenger seat.
According to Julius Marchwicki, the SYNC AppLink program manager, TC Hackathon was the perfect place to launch to give developers the information they need on Ford’s new API and SDK to get developers hacking on in-car entertainment and app goodness.
So just what’s possible for developers with SYNC AppLink at this point in its development? When working with SYNC-enabled smartphone apps, developers are able to create a voice user interface using SYNC’s in-vehicle speech recognition system, write information to the radio head display or in-vehicle touch screen, using the text-to-speech engine, the in-vehicle meny system to provide commands for their mobile app, and vehicle data, like speed, GPS location, and fuel economy. All good stuff to know, and it’s nice to see Ford, a company that didn’t look so hot a few years ago, getting in on the innovation train.
SYNC AppLink will be available in 10 models (of Ford vehicles) beginning in 2012, including Ford Fusion, the Fusion Hybrid, Mustang, Shelby, Fiesta, F-150, and more.