Ford Gets Customers’ Hearts in Sync

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Many brands aims for consumers’ hearts and minds. Ford wants to literally reach out to — and take care of — consumers’ hearts to keep the brand top of mind.

It wasn’t enough for Ford to come up with Sync, its voice-controlled communications and entertainment system that provides unprecedented mobile mastery over music play lists and allows hands-free mobile-phone use. Now, Ford wants to use Sync technology to help drivers stay healthy as well.

In a fascinating extension of the wireless and electronic technologies that have made it easier for people to monitor glucose levels, pulse and pollens, Ford announced that it plans to introduce diagnostic features in its vehicles for diabetics, heart-health suspects and allergy sufferers within a couple of years.

“We see health and wellness as a core area for our technology,” commented Paul Mascarenas, Ford’s chief technology officer. “People are spending the equivalent of an entire week every year behind the wheel, and that time will only increase.”[more]

Ford wants drivers, for example, to be able to use Sync to monitor their glucose levels wirelessly and get warnings for danger levels – whereupon, this theory goes, they could stop for an insulin injection or a quick bite of fast food. Similarly, a Ford team in Germany has developed a car seat with sensors that can monitor heartbeats (watch a demo below) as another way to keep drivers in touch with their health.

“The Ford seat is a natural progression from our work on contactless ECG monitoring equipment and provides an exciting potential real-world benefit,” said Professor Steffen Leonhardt of Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule, Aachen University. “As the population in Europe and around the world ages, more older people will be behind the wheel and the safety risks increase. This technology holds the promise of saving lives and making the roads safer.”

Ford is also applying its best and brightest tech innovators to leverage Sync to create, for instance, allergy-alert systems that take advantage of available local pollen counts. It’s admirable, to be sure, but what’s the point of all this?

For one thing, Ford stole a march on the rest of the US auto market with Sync, and has scored big points with consumers by bringing them such “connectivity” game-changers. The automaker wants to make sure that no rival leapfrogs it in extending wireless applications to new areas where motorists might be expecting them to go next. It’s also in step with other forward-thinking auto brands, such as Volkswagen, Audi and BMW looking to innovate and solve bigger societal issues than getting from point A to point B.

Many automakers have spun fantasies about the day when drivers can put their vehicles on autopilot, and their commute becomes more like a day in their easy chairs than a grueling trek to the office or factory. But maybe, thanks to Ford, it’ll be more like a trip to the doctor’s office.

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