Ford Motor Company announced a batch of five new apps for its connected car platform Sync at CES on Tuesday, and these aren’t your usual audio streaming apps. Sync AppLink-enabled car drivers will soon be able to order a Domino’s pizza, remotely let repairmen into their homes, reserve a parking space, and make music playlist selections based on their mood — whether their on a leisurely drive or in the throes of road rage.
Ford also announced it will hold its first ever developer’s conference this June in its hometown of Dearborn, Mich., in conjunction with its Further with Ford event. The conference may spur more app development for AppLink, which has been surprisingly slow over the last year. Ford has the largest catalog of infotainment apps in the auto industry with 60 apps to its credit, but after it launched its open development platform last year, I expected a flood of new software to make its way to Sync. So far we’ve seen only a handful of new apps such as Spotify.
There’s also some good news at CES for Sync car owners that don’t have access to AppLink. Ford said last week that it will begin retroactively upgrading older Sync models to support the AppLink connected infotainment software, which lets you link smartphones apps to the dash. Ford said about 3.4 million vehicles built since 2010 are eligible.
Here are the new apps debuting in AppLink in the coming weeks:
- Domino’s Pizza — Wouldn’t it be great if this app could actually take your car out to the nearest Domino’s and pick up your pizza? For now you’ll have to be content with online ordering from the dashboard. The app lets you use Sync’s voice commands to access a saved Easy Order profile from your smartphone Domino’s app. It’s a neat and handy trick if you want to pick up a pie on your way home from work.
- ADT Pulse — This app is particularly interesting because it bridges two of the biggest areas of the internet of things: the connected car and the connected home. The app uses simple voice commands to update drivers on their home’s security system, allowing them to activate or deactivate alarms, adjust lighting and temperature and even remotely unlock the front door while on the road.
- Parkmobile and Parkopedia — Both of these apps will search nearby parking garages (or garages at your eventual destination) for open spaces, show rates and in some cases allow you to reserve a spot with a credit card. Parking has been a pet project of Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, who believes we could save enormous amounts of time and fuel if we weren’t driving around cities looking for a place to stick our cars (see my recent profile on Bill Ford and his tech vision for the automaker). Ford’s venture fund Fontinalis Partners has invested in Parkmobile.
- Gracenote HABU — Gracenote’s mood-based playlist generation technology analyzes your music library and pumps out tunes based on pre-selected moods such as “aggressive,” “sensual,” and “funky”. With the AppLink integration, drivers can access those mood-lists through simple voice commands.
I want to call out Gracenote in particular because of the work it’s doing with Ford’s more future-looking development platform OpenXC. Gracenote is using OpenXC’s open-source hardware to tap into the engine and peripheral automotive systems. It uses that vehicle data order to automatically approximate your mood based on how your driving and road conditions.
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For instance, if you’re doing 80 on the highway and the top’s down, Gracenote could start playing Steppenwolf, or if the windshield wipers are on, indicating gloomy weather, perhaps Death Cab for Cutie is called for. And if you’re caught in wall-to-wall traffic, Gracenote might actually try to mitigate your time-bomb tendencies by playing something soothing. Can you say Kenny G?
Of course, this technology is still in development, but it will eventually make it into Ford cars along with a lot of other apps that not only interpret your voice commands but can actually read your car and your driving habits.