You’re late, you’re stuck in traffic, you need an alternate route. It’s a familiar situation, and the solution – for an estimated 100million users worldwide – is equally familiar. Ask Waze.
And while Waze has been ‘outsmarting traffic’ for the last few years, it’s just been given a major utility boost with full integration into Ford AppLink. First announced at February’s CES 2018, before a working demo was unveiled at MWC Barcelona, the full Waze iOS experience is now available to Ford SYNC users.
As the massively popular navigation app makes its big-screen debut on SYNC, Business and Partner Development Lead in Europe Scott Lyons discussed the process, challenges, and learning opportunities that working with Waze brought to the Ford team.
First up, the process of bringing a navigation app to SYNC differs slightly from other AppLink integrations: “We haven’t launched that many navigation apps into the world – this is our third – and the difference with navigation apps is that they aren’t template-based. Apps like Glympse and Accuweather use our templates, and that’s how they’re delivered to users. But Waze runs in full projection mode, which was very new for us – and because the technology was also reasonably new we were learning about some of the issues the developer had in their process, and were constantly working to improve the development environment for projection mode.
“There were challenges, because developing something in isolation is obviously very different from handing it over to a developer to work with. There will inevitably be issues when you hand it over because there’ll be something you didn’t think about as part of the development process. What’s great for us is that our AppLink developer community constantly provides us feedback on what’s working and what needs work – highlighting something that’s missing, perhaps, or something that could simply be done better – and that’s really improved the SDK as a whole.”
The Waze integration is also a prime example of Ford’s collaborative approach to bringing apps to SYNC. It’s not simply a case of “Ford’s way, or bust”, but rather a process of working together to deliver the best product to both Ford drivers and the app’s users: “The Waze experience hasn’t necessarily changed as a result of working with Ford. Waze are very good at what they do, they have a very popular service, and they already have somewhere in the region of 100million subscribers.
“But historically, Waze focused that experience on a smartphone screen. So Ford brings to the table the big-screen infotainment system, and with that comes the opportunity for new features. We helped Waze understand more about projection, and about taking advantage of a large infotainment screen.
“Equally, we made some adjustments to our HMI – we removed some of our standard system buttons, for example – to provide the driver with a richer Waze experience. So it’s a two-way street. By working together we both learned from the process, and we both benefited from the experience.”
And while Google-owned Waze may seem like a marquee client that Ford would obviously jump at, Scott was keen to emphasize that his team will work with new and emerging developers.
“The way that we work with developers is something I’ve always been happy about and very proud of. People don’t necessarily expect the kind of hands-on, personal approach the Ford team takes. For example, with Waze, myself and two others flew to Israel, spent a week working at Waze’s Tel Aviv headquarters, and really just sat with their team, saw how they worked, and helped get the project off the ground. And that was just the first of many trips during the overall development process, providing Waze not just with technical support but with new ideas about how the project could be progressed.”
Working with Ford is a complete experience, then – from first contact through to AppLink launch: “We meet these companies, big and small, at our own or general industry events and the approach is largely the same. We’ll work to bring your idea or existing app to AppLink, providing the required support and technology throughout the process.
“We’ve always tried to show developers that coming to our events – whether it’s in Paris, Tel Aviv, or Barcelona – is really worthwhile. It’s not just about coming along, having a great time, and eating great food: it’s about participating in the program. And that’s what Waze did.
“Waze came to our Tel Aviv Developer Challenge not as an app developer but as a judge helping us pick a winner – and from there the relationship grew. Through this early participation Waze recognized the potential opportunities that working with Ford can bring, in terms of getting their existing app out there and then bringing it, fully supported and marketed, to a global audience.”
While the Ford team is always open to working with emerging talent, there’s no getting away from the fact that Waze is a big deal – an “anchor application”, as Scott describes it. But that’s good news for everyone involved in the project: “We’ve always had big-name applications, but bringing big-name navigation to AppLink is a very useful development for us. It’s different from having big-name music services, for example – these are ‘nice-to-have’ services – but when we bring critical navigation apps like Waze to our ecosystem it pushes things forward.
“It’s a means of encouraging new users onto the platform; and of showing Waze users that many of the other apps on their iPhone are already integrated and ready to go on SYNC.
“It’s a gateway for discovery, and other developers supporting AppLink already will benefit from that.”