The app store of the future may be in your car

Last week at the NASSCOM India Leadership Summit, Ford Motor Comp. (F), announced its promised "open source" Applications development bed, dubbed OpenXC.  The new test bed is an extension to the API groundwork that Ford laid last year, in working with universities to develop novel SYNC-compatible apps.

Ford -- who arguably has the most mature infotainment solution in the industry -- is using an Arduino hobbyist board -- an inexpensive microcontroller with strong I/O capabilities -- to grab GPS coordinates, vehicle speed, and other sensor information from the vehicle.  Developers can then send this information to their apps, in order to create novel apps -- many of which could be tailored to a local crowd.

Ford engineers demoed one such app, which used GPS information combined with a calendar app to perform a variety of connected tasks.  The app allowed the driver to share their location with trusted individuals.  It also allowed them to have the app auto-generate emails or text messages when it saw that they were going to be late to a meeting, based on their current position.  And the app could even send messages to a driver's family after a road trip -- a particularly pertinent local concern in India, given the elevated risk to drivers.

Ford's new OpenX development platform uses an Arduino board for signal processing.
[Image Source:]

OpenXC was created with the help of a rapid prototyping company, New York City's Bug Labs.  The platform is currently in a beta stage, with select partners like universities such as the University of Michigan, MIT and Stanford, as well as initial developer participants, including Weather Underground in the U.S. and HCL Technologies in India working as guinea pigs to the new platform.

Ford envisions a world in which, "Developers can... create apps for the car in a manner similar to how they would for a smartphone."

Possible applications it mentioned included medical monitoring, a potentially life-saving innovation for patients with chronic conditions, or apps to help relieve traffic congestion via connected smart-routing.  Ford has been pushing do-it-yourself invention in the automotive space, co-sponsoring innovation spaces in various regions.  These places, like TechShop, give budding inventors the tools and training they need to become future entrepreneurs.

Of global automakers, Ford has fielded some of the most ambitious and futurist designs.  Its new Fusion Hybrid wowed, getting almost the gas mileage of Toyota Motor Comp.'s (TYO:7203) best-selling Prius, despite a much larger and more comfortable frame.

Source: Ford

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