Summary:

Livio has developed in-car connectivity technology remarkably similar to Ford’s Sync AppLink system. Ford says that’s no coincidence. It plans to use Livio’s software to further its plans to build a connected infotainment system standard.

MOG Ford dashboard

Ford Motor Company has acquired Livio, a maker of connected car software, to bulk up its Sync AppLink technology and to further its seemingly quixotic quest to create a standard for in-car connectivity. Ford didn’t disclose an exact purchase price for the Detroit-based startup, though at a press briefing CTO Paul Mascarenas said the deal was under $10 million.

Many of you may be familiar with Livio as a maker of internet radio hardware for Pandora’s streaming music service, but as mobile streaming services moved onto the smartphone in the last few years, Livio abandoned hardware and began focusing on connected car and connected home software. Livio’s core product now is an API that allows that smartphones apps to be controlled from the car dashboard and other consumer appliances.

If that sounds awfully similar to Sync AppLink’s smartphone-centric approach to connected infotainment systems, you wouldn’t be wrong. Mascarenas said Ford bought Livio because their technologies complemented one another. Ford wanted Livio’s engineering team and its software, which Ford ultimately will to put work in building developing Smart Device Link, an open-source in-car connectivity technology based on AppLink that Ford is promoting as a standard.

Ford’s stated goal is admirable: it wants to create a common development platform for the vehicle, so a developer can design an app once and have it work across car makes and models. While Ford has said it’s working with several manufacturers of infotainment systems, none of the automakers have yet signed on. In fact, many of them seem to be going in the opposite direction of Ford, focusing on embedding 3G and 4G connectivity directly into the vehicle instead of using the smartphone as a link back to the cellular network.

Mascarenas said it would take time for the auto industry to adopt a standard as with any new technology, proprietary solutions are always the first to hit the market. But he added that Sync’s success services as a good advertisement for Smart Device Link. By 2015, Ford expects to have Sync AppLink enabled in 7 million cars globally. That may not sound like in the world of consumer electronics, but it’s an impressive feat in automotive.

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