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MAKE at CES 2013: Ford Opens up to Developers and Hackers

MAKE_Conference_Badge-CESWhen consumer electronics products are opened up to third party developers, it’s a certainly a good thing for makers. In the Ford booth, they’re demonstrating the Sync AppLink API and The Ford Developer Program. The AppLink API lets you create mobile apps for iOS or Android and have them interface with Ford’s Sync voice controlled interface inside the car. While it’s mostly aimed at developers that want to bring their applications to market, the API is entirely open and approval is only needed if you wish to make your app available to the public.

Another developer program just launched by Ford is OpenXC. According to the company, “OpenXC is focused on the future as an open-source hardware and software platform developed by Ford Research and Innovation to unleash the power of the open-source hacker community to explore what can be done with vehicle data.” Their press release offers more details:

The OpenXC kit includes a vehicle interface module based on the popular Arduino platform developers can use to read data from the vehicle’s internal communications network. The hardware module provides real-time access to parameters like the vehicle sensors, GPS receiver and vehicle speed. The hardware module is connected to a smartphone or tablet on which apps can be written to consume and use these data.

The read-only system is designed to keep everything isolated from the vehicle control systems. The OpenXC website also provides schematics, documentation and code for open-source hardware modules, including the wireless solar-powered heads-up display developed by OpenXC co-founder Bug Labs.

While I’m not a car owner myself, I see huge potential in this for makers. With the unfettered access to protocols and documentation, we can do even more to connect technology in creative ways. Here’s hoping this is only the start of a larger trend in the automotive industry.

28 thoughts on “MAKE at CES 2013: Ford Opens up to Developers and Hackers

  1. The ultimate coolness would be an app that would interface with engine and OBD-II data and let you easily troubleshoot and solve problems. Imagine one that could notify you with, “It appears your front driver side ABS sensor has failed. Display data or automatically order a new one from . Click here for a DIY installation video.”

  2. It’s a step in the right direction … but it’s still read-only, and Ford is still the gatekeeper in terms of having control over the publication of apps. It’s as though Ford wants to cash in on Maker kudos without actually treating us as any different from ‘consumers’. Not sure who’s being more cynical here, me or Ford …

    1. Toyota sticky accelerator. we aren’t different from other consumers. we aren’t going to certify that our tweak to the ABS timing doesn’t make the car spin during a double-lane-change at 65mph over a hi-mu transition.

  3. Sure, everyone wants an app store now that Apple’s made gazillions from the concept. I’d be much more impressed if auto manufacturers released all of their proprietary engine codes.

  4. Pingback: MAKE |
  5. I own a 1976 ford mavirck dont think there an app for that but i would like some input on new e.v s audi has hit the 300 mile and refle with lithium like a gasoline car why cant ford

  6. Thank you for your insight. I have always wondered how a loose cannon like Mark Latham was made leader and now it is explained, the old payback.
    What small minded people, hate makes of us all.
    And as for Latham, here was a man who called George W. the worst president ever ( he was right there) and then knocked people over in the stampede to shake his hand.
    Obviously a man of no substance which explains his weathervane approach to policies.
    However, as a political commentator I find Mark both refreshing and entertaining. A candid breath of fresh air who, because of his perceived ill-treatment by the ALP, is even-handed in his commentary, unlike the hacks like Kroger, Reith and Costello who just read from the prayer book and spout propoganda, thus dismissing their own credibility of argument.

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Matt Richardson is a San Francisco-based creative technologist and Contributing Editor at MAKE. He’s the co-author of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi and the author of Getting Started with BeagleBone.

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