Ford’s SYNC AppLink program offers rich capabilities — and a huge market — for smartphone app developers

This sponsored post is produced in conjunction with Ford. 

What if your phone could talk to your car?

Better still, what if you could control your phone’s apps using the car’s own controls — so you wouldn’t even have to take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel?

That’s what Ford’s SYNC AppLink is meant to enable. The technology lives inside Ford vehicles and connects them to smartphone apps.

“There’s tremendous market potential,” said Julius Marchwicki, the global product manager for AppLink, in the VentureBeat video here. In North America, 1.5 million AppLink-enabled vehicles are now on the road; by 2015, this will grow to 7 million AppLink-enabled cars globally. For developers, Marchwicki said, that’s an attractive market. “It’s all about numbers and who can experience their applications … AppLink is a platform that offers volume in the automotive space, and Ford is one of the first companies to do that.”

In this video, Marchwicki talks about the capabilities of the Ford SDK and shows off the SYNC TDK, or Technology Development Kit, a black box that enables Ford’s engineers — and its partners — to test apps with a simulated vehicle. Blinking lights and switches at the bottom let you emulate aspects of the car itself, like opening doors or running at different speeds. Above that, Ford has included an exact replica of its dashboard controls (aka the “head unit”), display, and steering wheel controls.

If you don’t have access to Ford’s AppLink Lounge (conveniently located in the TechShop in Dearborn, Michigan), you probably don’t have a TDK of your own. What to do? Marchwicki explains that you can download a software emulator, which is available at, which lets you test your app using your computer.

Marchwicki describes the DevBeat Makeathon at the end of this video and the workshop on using the SDK that he conducted at DevBeat.

“The reason we invented AppLink is because we didn’t know what cool, crazy ideas people would come up with,” Marchwicki said. “All sorts of creativity could happen.”

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