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Ford is letting the cloud hitch a ride

By Joe Hewitson / August 15, 2013

Ford recently announced a surprise partnership with the addition of the Amazon Cloud Player to the SYNC in-car entertainment and communications ecosystem. The AppLink-compatible service runs on both Android and iOS, and allows you to seamlessly stream your favorite tunes from the cloud or local storage by connecting a compatible mobile device to any SYNC-enabled vehicle.

Impacting the future of mobile vehicle tech

The new partnership between Ford and Amazon is a blueprint for the future of mobile tech in our automobiles. Gigaom writer, Kevin Tofel, chronicled his hands-on experience with the SYNC/Amazon Cloud Player collaboration:

“I got a quick demo of the Amazon Cloud Player integration, partly for selfish reasons since I’m a paying subscriber to Amazon’s music service. Using the Sync voice button, you can tell the car to start a playlist in the cloud or on your mobile device: music is piped through the car’s audio system through Bluetooth. Song information appears on the car’s display as well.”

Streaming music is just the beginning of AppLink technology. Developers are already working on ways to deliver drivers up-to-date traffic reports, car “health” assessments and even parking spot finders. Further down the road we may see the integration of payment apps, like Bump, that would allow us to grab a bite at the drive-through or fill up our tanks without ever reaching for our wallets. The possibilities are as wide and diverse as the offerings currently found on our phones.

The benefits of cloud-connected vehicles

The driving force behind this merging of mobile devices and in-car entertainment systems can be boiled down to efficiency. Streamlining our modes of transportation leads to safer roads and better drivers.

Storing all your music in the cloud and beaming it to your car means no more loose CDs or dangling cords standing between you and your steering wheel. Keeping a virtual database of driving directions makes it easy to find your way between point A and B no matter what car you’re driving. And logging diagnostic reports through phone apps gives mechanics all the vehicle history they need to keep your roadster running smoothly.

In the long run, you shouldn’t be surprised to see more automobile manufacturers come out with solutions of their own to tackle the integration of cloud streaming within vehicles. After all, with these clear user benefits, along with the continued push towards cloud storage for all things digital, we’ll no doubt see an increase in devices that connect to those clouds.

A framework for peripheral free integration

One particularly subtle yet exciting aspect of the Ford and Amazon partnership lies in the ability for this technology to expand beyond our smartphones. Ford’s AppLink system is currently compatible with smartphones and tablets running on Android OS 2.1 or later, but future iterations could remove the need for additional mobile devices altogether.

With smartphones and tablets becoming increasingly unnecessary to connect our cars to our digital lifestyles, we might soon find Amazon playing a larger role in automobiles everywhere. Amazon services like online shopping could allow us to buy audio books straight from the car’s infotainment system or order a new car battery when the voltage takes a dip. Regardless of what the future holds for the Ford and Amazon Cloud Player partnership, it is a sign of things to come for the automobile industry as a whole.