Print 14 comment(s) - last by Just Tom.. on Jul 6 at 3:49 PM

The car is the latest smart device

In today's era of smartphones and smart TVs -- even smart watches -- an oft forgotten, but fast growing sector is the smart vehicle.  Today's vehicles come packed with infotainment software.  Some even have live connections to the cloud via your smartphone or built in modems.  Some automakers are opening their door to apps (e.g. drivers ed apps, driving log apps, apps to tell you where the closest fast food joint is, or apps to suggest a fun date location nearby). 

I. GM and Ford Woo Third Party Developers

Ford Motor Comp. (Falready supports third party apps in SYNC/MyFord Touch, while General Motors Comp. (GM) will be rolling out its own app platform next year, according to announcements.

All this means a quiet boom in Detroit-based app developers.  App developers in Detroit largely fall into three tiers -- those who work directly with automakers on their in-car interfaces; those who work at large suppliers on third-party interfaces; and those who do contract work to support certain automotive themed apps either directly in-vehicle or related to a vehicle (think your car manual on your smartphone).

Ford young buyers
The car is the new smart device. [Image Source: Ford]

Laura Kurtz, Ford’s manager of United States recruiting, told The New York Times in a recent highlight on the surging Detroit information technology (IT) and app developer recruitment that Ford plans to hire 300 IT specialists in the next year.  Some will be tasked with working on MyFord Touch, SYNC, and related infotainment products, while others will play roles as systems administrators and software support for the mass of software needed to generate a modern fuel-efficient vehicle.

GM plans to add even more skilled developers and IT specialists over the next three to five years -- 4,400 in total at a location in the Detroit suburb of Warren as well as other facilities in Austin, Texas; Roswell, Geor.; and Chandler, Ariz.  Of those new hires, GM estimates 1,200 will be recent college grads.  GM's applications and application ecosystem development team is headed by Steve Schwinke and has 50 members.  That will double by the year's end to over 100 engineers.  Comments the team lead, "A lot of people are really interested in the space because it’s new.  It’s a new screen."

And GM is eager to get third party developers involved for its new program, which launches next year.  Nick Pudar, director of GM's new app developer ecosystem program, echoes these statements as he travels the country try to recruit phone developers to consider developing vehicle apps.  He comments, "[Developers] view [automotive] as a new space to be creative.  The vehicles are becoming this new channel of innovation.  This is a newfound field full of features and functionality that developers are intrigued by."

II.  Small Developers Thrive in Michigan

Michigan's Department of Labor projects that the system software developer is growing faster than any other technical job in Michigan -- projected 36.9 percent a year.  App developer growth isn't bad either -- at 23.5 percent, versus an average growth rate of 8.5 percent.  The Department of Labor came to those statistics by digging into local growth trends since 2010.

The state -- famous for the "Big Three" and countless automotive suppliers -- is certainly recovering post-recession, but the software development field is spring back faster than any other technical field in the state.

One growing power is Detroit Labs.  In 2011 the company had 10 employees, it currently has 40, and by the end of the year it expects to employ over 60 engineers -- a six-fold growth.  Company co-founder Paul Glomski comments, "If you go to the coasts, you are one of thousands.  In Detroit, you have the opportunity to make an impact. It's for real."

Detroit Labs
Developers relax in a casual environment at Detroit Labs. [Image Source: The Detroit Times]

Another top local development firm is Apigee Labs, founded by Brian Mulloy -- a San Francisco, Calif. startup veteran and University of Michigan graduate.  While Apigee does not directly develop many automotive apps (instead focusing on a wide variety of form factors from smartphones to fitness machines), it's reveling in the auto-driven app economy.  Apigee shares a building with Detroit Labs.

Company founder Mr. Mulloy comments, "You’re going to see developers set up shop in Detroit because they’re going to follow the money and there will be lots of money."

There are obstacles to becoming an automotive app developer -- namely the cost of development kits (at least based on Ford's model).  And Detroit lacks the cachet of the hipster havens of the West Coast.  But ultimately developers go where there's money and there's a lot of money in Detroit, plus low living costs.

Thus expect the Detroit app and IT boom to continue, as the car becomes the latest app-sporting, cloud-connected smart device form factor.

Source: The New York Times

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Note to automakers:
By Motoman on 7/2/2013 2:51:21 PM , Rating: 0
If you make a vehicle that only has a touch interface for controls, I will not buy it. I will not even consider buying it. It's inherently unsafe, and a wildly moronic idea.

Please use normal knobs and buttons for all normal automobile functionality, including but not limited to radio, climate control, locks and windows, etc.

Otherwise, I'll be opting to buy a vehicle from someone else.

RE: Note to automakers:
By stickman555 on 7/2/2013 5:15:50 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with you on the "only" but even Rotary controls fail. My 95 Accord's (great car, over 250K miles) only real issue was the rotary heat and fan dial kept breaking. Very frustrating to have full heat and fan in middle of summer

RE: Note to automakers:
By Spuke on 7/2/2013 7:12:12 PM , Rating: 2
If you make a vehicle that only has a touch interface for controls, I will not buy it.
I'd prefer to have both. My wife's car has iDrive and I really wish it has a touchscreen too. In some instances the dial is slow. Example: when making choices within the same screen.

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki