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Automakers Crowdsource In-Car Apps

While automakers may guard their trade secrets behind a labyrinth of vaulted doors, they have opened the infotainment for public viewing and even tweaking. That's right, while automakers aren't giving up the secrecy of their entire designs, they are choosing to crowdsource apps.

Most recently at CES, Ford and Amazon announced a version of Cloud Player designed to work with in-car AppLink voice commands, allowing users to scan through their Amazon music library and select the song they want to hear vocally, making CDs and tactile controls things of the past.

Similarly, GM has announced an “app catalogue” similar to Apple's App Store to be released in 2014 GM models. But, according to the Txchnologist's Jim Motavalli, neither automaker plans to pay developers, apparently in hopes that the recognition will be enough of an incentive.

With over a billion smartphone users with an average of 67 apps on their devices, apps are undoubtedly a hot market. But will that heat dissipate as the technology transitions from mobile to the automotive market?

The value of voice commands is clear – it keeps drivers' eyes on the road instead of their stereo consoles or their smartphone's GPS interface. In a recent Frost & Sullivan market survey, one fifth of respondents admitted to using non-voice activated smartphone apps while driving, making the potential safety benefits of voice-controlled alternatives clear.

So how many apps are truly car-relevant? Ford is now offering Pandora, Stitcher, Open Beak and a few others, but if the content is delivered visually (as you would expect with Twitter and news streams) won't drivers just look at their infotainment consoles instead of the road?

Ford intends to address the problem with the Ford Developer Program, which has invited key developers to take advantage of in-house technical information, software tools, and engineers to develop voice activated apps relevant for the car.

In general, the benefits of crowdsourcing are clear – rather than designers and engineers working in isolation for years on a project that they hope will pique consumer interest, the consumers are there every step of the way to offer feedback and ensure that there is a market for the product in development.

But if this development model really does guarantee commercial success, automakers will be crowdsourcing a lot more than just their infotainment systems.

Full story at Txchnologist

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