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Ford developing in-car health-and-wellness apps for SYNC

By KBB.com Editors on May 24, 2011 4:45 PM
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Taking the capability of its SYNC system to a new and different level, Ford has announced that it's currently working with various healthcare industry experts to create a new strain of applications aimed at helping drivers better monitor and manage a number of chronic illnesses and medical disorders while on the road. Collectively known as the Health and Wellness connectivity portfolio, these apps will provide real-time information for individuals who suffer from ailments like asthma, allergies, diabetes and more.

"Ford SYNC is well known in the industry and with consumers as a successful in-car infotainment system, but we want to broaden the paradigm, transforming SYNC into a tool that can help improve people's lives as well as the driving experience," said Paul Mascarenas, chief technology officer and vice president, Ford Research and Innovation. To that end, the automaker intends to introduce the industry's first voice-controlled system that can do everything from offering web-based allergen warnings to actively monitoring a diabetic driver's blood glucose levels.

"Ford's approach to health and wellness in the vehicle is not about trying to take on the role of a healthcare or medical provider, we're a car company," said Gary Strumolo, global manager, Interiors, Infotainment, Health & Wellness Research, Ford Research and Innovation. "Our goal is not to interpret the data offered by the experts, but to work with them to develop intelligent ways for Ford vehicles using the power of SYNC; in essence, creating a secondary alert system and alternate outlet for real-time patient coaching services." Although the overall system is still in a prototype stage, Strumolo sees many of the capabilities inherent in this initial Health and Wellness app portfolio as having "fairly short-term implementation requirements," and that even broader-based enhancements -- notably apps aimed at helping do things like reduce driver stress levels -- are likely in the not-too-distant future.

Shortly after its original announcement, Ford also revealed that Its European Research and Innovation Centre in Aachen, Germany, has been working with the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen University to develop a car seat that uses an array of sensors to actively monitor a driver's heart rate. "With increasing life expectancy meaning higher numbers of people and therefore drivers at risk of heart diseases, the ability to monitor hearts at the wheel could offer massive benefits in terms of health and road safety, both for the user and the wider public," said RWTH Aachen University Professor Steffen Leonhardt.

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