Ford SYNC Health and Wellness Explained
In May 2011, Ford announced it has entered a collaboration with medical device maker Medtronic, mHealth pioneer WellDoc and SDI Health that will eventually lead to the integration of medical-related features into SYNC. And the starting points of these new features are two of the most common conditions affecting the Americans: diabetes and asthma and/or allergies.
Ford is yet to come up with a name for the project, one that, even if proved viable, has little chance of getting into your future Ford sometime in the near future. Even so, the research might be the building block of integrated medical services in the vehicles of tomorrow.
The group working on the project is using SYNC because the platform allows for a wide range of connectivity applications, starting with Bluetooth integration and ending with cloud-based Internet services.
The main reason the project kicked off was the knowledge that the interest for such services is widespread among Americans. A study conducted by the CTIA-The Wireless Association and Harris Interactive showed that 78 percent of US consumers expressed interest in mobile health solutions, making medical and healthcare apps the third fastest-growing category of smartphone applications last year.
Ford relies on the SYNC's ability to connect to the Internet for its new features to work properly. Using the Bluetooth, medical devices can be connected to the car and allowed to share information through SYNC.
The American Diabetes Association has records that show that 26 million adults and children are currently living with diabetes in the US, and that number is increasing fast. For them, knowing the level of glucose at all times is essential to survival.
With these people in mind, Ford's glucose monitoring system, developed in conjunction with Medtronic, allows the SYNC to connect via Bluetooth to a Medtronic continuous glucose monitoring device. After that, the information is relayed back to the driver and, if needed, in case those levels are too low, the system issues audio and video alerts, letting the driver or passenger know about his condition.
Unlike that the allergy alert system that we'll discuss below, the glucose monitoring system will not make itself felt in the way the car behaves or reacts. It will only be used as an information tool for those who need it.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says that in the US, some 60 million people have asthma and/or some type of allergies. For them, knowing what might affect their health is equally as important as glucose levels are for those suffering from diabetes.
Together with SDI Health, Ford has created a smartphone Allergy Alert app that works through AppLink (voice control over the smartphone apps). After connecting to the Internet and receiving all the relevant data for any given region about levels for pollen as well as four-day forecasts, the system alerts the drivers and passengers they are passing through a region flooded with pollen.
In future cars, the integration of the system in the vehicle might allow it to take control of some of the car's components and, for instance, roll up the windows or stop the outside air coming into the car by switching to air recirculation.
As said, for now Ford says the project will remain in research phase and denies plans to introduce it to the market. The time spent on developing the system would not be in vain, as it will help the manufacturer come up with even more medical solutions, including some designed to monitor the heart rate, provide relaxation and reduce stress.