Ford Developer Blog

It’s time to drive smarter: Waze makes its fully-integrated big-screen debut on Ford SYNC

Posted on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 by Ford Dev Team

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.”

Interview with Sam Matheny, CTO, National Association of Broadcasters

Posted on Friday, July 7, 2017 by Ford Dev Team

Developers have always felt the tension of innovation: torn between the possibilities of cutting-edge tech, and the benefits of developing for a mature platform.

But National Association of Broadcasters CTO Sam Matheny says revolutionary new hardware and exploding mobile data networks offer broadcasters and developers the chance to start a "virtuous cycle"—a win-win scenario that makes trusted, high-quality broadcast content a key driver for mobile app and hardware sales.

As Ford's Scott Burnell told NAB members at their annual Radio Show Luncheon, those innovations and opportunities are coming together in what could be the "new living room": the connected car.

After decades of AM/FM radio and NTSC TV, over the last 10 years consumers have experienced an explosion of broadcast technology. From satellite radio and HD flatscreens, to HD Radio and 4K UHD smart TVs, the quality and features offered to users has grown astronomically. Over the same period, smartphones have opened new worlds of social and streaming apps, revolutionizing the way people get their information and entertainment. As mobile apps and IoT technology converge inside the connected car, the rate of change is thrillingly fast—and getting faster.

Yet according to Nielsen figures provided by NAB, 265 million Americans over age five regularly listen to AM/FM radio. That's 93 percent of the U.S. population!

When it comes to choosing between the massive legacy audience and exciting new tech, though, "It's not an either/or decision; it's a both/and," Matheny told the Ford Developer Blog. "We think that this rate of change really presents lots of opportunities for broadcasters to open up their relationships with their audiences and their communities."

Hundreds of millions of people regularly listen to over-the-air radio, including 93 percent of millennials at an average rate of 11 hours a week. It's still the No. 1 way people discover new music. The audience is there, the hardware is there, and AppLink gives broadcasters and developers a platform linking the two.

"The opportunity is tremendous, but it's not one in isolation," Matheny said. "Yes, of course, we would love to have radio apps, be that iHeart, or NextRadio or individual station-branded apps in the automobile. But to me, that would just be the beginning. Where I begin to really get excited, and what our members are getting excited about, is when they begin to wrap their heads around something like AppLink."

Radio broadcasters have always sought to maximize audience interactivity—from fielding listener requests and sponsorship giveaways, to call-in talk shows driven by user-generated content. With SYNC3, AppLink and the Ford Developer the opportunities for broadcasters and developers to create customized, compelling user experiences are unprecedented.

Matheny outlined the problem broadcasters are facing as they try to maximize these opportunities—the same problems facing developers on the cutting edge of the mobile space: Can they afford to iterate solutions across many different proprietary ecosystems? Where do they invest development resources? Where do they place their bets?

"We're really excited by the idea of SmartDeviceLink," Matheny said, referring to the open-source platform on which AppLink is built. "Now, as the developer community works with radio as part of their solution stack, you can develop something that can potentially play across several different car lines. That's a big checkmark, because that gets scale and it enables people to feel like, 'this has enough legs that I can invest here."

But AppLink and SDL offer broadcasters far more than just an open-source platform that ports radio apps across many different makers and models.

"Radio doesn't have to just be radio," Matheny said. "How do you take that experience, and know you have connectivity into the car and think, 'What else can I do with that? How can I create a better, more rich experience?'

"Maybe it's one that's personalized," Matheny continued. "Is it raining? Are the headlights on? Is the fuel almost empty? You may have access to other data, like if the person is a Starbucks drinker and whether there's one around the corner. There are all sorts of different opportunities that combine themselves."

Software that marries high-quality broadcast content, an enormous user base, unprecedented audience engagement and cutting-edge streaming technologies will drive Americans' information and entertainment consumption habits for years to come.

To be a part of it all, sign up for the Ford Developer Program and start learning how SYNC3 and AppLink are already shaping the future (and present) of digital media!


Join the Ford Dev Team at CES 2014

Posted on Monday, December 9, 2013 by Ford Dev Team

Heading to CES in 2014? Want to pitch us your idea for a cool AppLink enabled application? The Ford Dev Global Business Development team will be holding meetings throughout the week at CES in January and we want to hear from you! We are looking for innovative and unique app designs that incorporate the awesome new features and functionality included in the AppLink 2.0 SDK release. If you have an extraordinary idea and think you can impress us, go to the Contact Us form tell us a little bit about your app and why you think it deserves to become an AppLink enabled app. You may get an invitation to join us at the Ford display in North hall to go in to more detail and possibly even be invited to work with the Ford Dev team to enable your dream app. Make sure to Include: Where Will Your App Will Be Distributed?

  • Global
  • Specific Markets; North America, Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, India
Is Your App Currently Available or In Development? Give An Overview of the In-Vehicle Experience? How Would Use the New AppLink 2.0 Capabilities? Space is very limited so respond soon with your cool app idea…and we may see YOU in Vegas!