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David Huang at Ford shares his thoughts on Ford’s SYNC AppLink platform

David HuangFord recently announced the availabilty of the SYNC AppLink platform in all Ford India cars from the year 2014 at the Mobile Developer Summit held in Bangalore. In our conversation with David Huang, Senior Manager at Ford Asia Pacific’s Technology and Business Development, Connected Services, he shares his thoughts on the Indian smartphone connectivity market and Ford’s envision to utilize this ever growing market.

Can you please share your views on the present scenario of automotive telematics in India?

With innovations in in-car technology and connectivity-on-the-move becoming the norm, consumers are looking for connected cars which offer comfort and convenience. According to reports, there are over 65 million smartphone users in urban India today, an 89% increase from 2012. With the increasing demand to stay connected, automotive telematics is all set to redefine driving experience for consumers and shape the future of the industry. Keeping the future in mind, Ford has been driving consumer focused innovation like SYNC and working on innovative consumer driven automotive technologies to give the best to our customers. Ford has set the benchmark for in-car connectivity systems with SYNC® powered by Microsoft now in more than 7 million vehicles with the forecast to reach an additional 9 million new customers around the world by 2015.

Ford India has recently announced the availability of the SYNC AppLink platform for the Ford India cars from 2014. Can you share with us the vision behind this move?

Eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and connected to your world is how Ford defines the future of mobility. Ford has been driving consumer focused innovation in automotive technology. The journey, which started with the introduction of Bluetooth connectivity in Ford Figo, has gone on to introduce the first in segment Voice Control in the Global Fiesta and the world class SYNC® technology in Ford EcoSport. With every step, we have allowed seamless connectivity, entertainment and convenience and are excited to take it forward with SYNC® AppLink™ keeping our customers in mind.

SYNC® AppLink™ is an exciting addition to Ford’s class leading connectivity technology and goes further in personalizing the in-car experience. With Ford SYNC® AppLink™, customers can control applications on their smartphones from the driver’s seat using voice controls through the Ford SYNC voice activated connectivity system. SYNC® AppLink™ will allow greater integration with  smartphone apps and bring enhanced in-vehicle experience. The platform is planned to be introduced in India with ESPNcricinfo, MapmyIndia, burrp!, Glympse, TuneIn Radio in first wave while encouraging app developers to come up and add new applications.

How is the response from the application developing firms in India to your move to provide an open source platform for app development specifically for automotive sector?

We are a developer-focused company and constantly looking to partner with developers aimed to research and reshape the role of the automobile to add value for our customers. We understand that a vibrant app ecosystem is essential to the success of a platform for both users and developers. We were the only auto manufacturer to be present at Mobile Developer Summit and received an enthusiastic response from the mobile developer community.

We invite the developer community to create voice-activated mobile app experiences for Ford vehicles. The information to learn about the AppLink application programming interface (API) is available on the Developer Program website, http://developer.ford.com. The developer site features online forums to discuss app development and related issues. Once submitted to Ford, an app is thoroughly tested and reviewed for usability and suitability for Ford AppLink-enabled vehicles. After Ford works out a distribution license with the developer, the app can be released to customers.

What were the reasons for choosing an open source platform for the AppLink?

We are taking a platform agnostic approach to in-car connectivity, which has three components: built in, brought in, and beamed in. Ford is the first automaker in India to launch an open program allowing software developers to directly interface with the vehicle and create apps to enhance the driving experience.

Open source has been proven effective in fostering innovation, driving technology standardization, and ultimately benefiting end customer. Our long term vision is that AppLink apps will not only work in Ford vehicles, but in all vehicles. This cannot be done with a closed-door approach. By opening up AppLink core protocols we set the stage for a much wider collaboration across automotive industry.

What do you think is going to be the role of connectivity and related infrastructure in the future of automotive telematics in India?

According to studies, the rising presence and reach of the internet, coupled with the prolific growth of smartphones and related technologies, has provided consumers with unmatched access to information on the go. The trend has led to the emergence of digital consumers. It is this consumer who is going to drive the change and focus on staying connected. Keeping the consumer of tomorrow in mind, Eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and connected to your world is how Ford defines the future of mobility. With the use of advanced technologies, now cars are not just cars, they are Smart Cars.

At Ford, we believe that innovations in in-car technology and connectivity-on-the-move are becoming the norm. Ford has set the benchmark for in-car connectivity systems with SYNC® powered by Microsoft now in more than 7 million vehicles with the forecast to reach an additional 9 million new customers around the world by 2015.

What are your views on the acceptability and adaptability of autonomous driving vehicles in India?

We do not comment on the future technologies and time of their introduction in specific markets. At part of our efforts, Ford is constantly researching and reshaping the role of the automobile to add value for our customers. We keep assessing the market demands on a regular basis and introduce technologies as appropriate.

Do you think the Indian automotive market is ready for these technologies, considering the fact that India is a price-sensitive market?

We would not like to comment on the preparedness of the market but believe in making new technologies affordable for our millions of customers around the world. For us at Ford, democratization of technology for masses is one of the key elements of our vision with the new offerings across markets. Ford has continued to launch vehicles which offered first in class in-car technology. From Bluetooth in the Figo, voice recognition in the Fiesta and the clever convenience of SYNC® with the EcoSport, Ford continues to go and grow further in meeting the consumer demands. SYNC® AppLink™ is just another example of Ford going further with democratizing advanced technology for customers, which will come to India by 2014.

Can you share the visions Ford has for India in the coming years?

India today has more than 65 million and growing smartphone users who want to stay connected wherever they are. We are continuing to drive consumer focused innovation through greater app integration, stronger partnerships and improved in-car connectivity in India. We are excited to bring SYNC® AppLink™ to India and will continue to offer technology platforms which allow consumers to eyes on the road and connected to the world.

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