Built on Windows Embedded Automotive, Ford’s Award-Winning, Value-Driven Connectivity System Improves Consumer Perception
Ever since Henry Ford built the world’s first manufacturing assembly line in 1913, the Ford Motor Company has been a symbol of innovation worldwide. In the 21st century, Ford is breaking new ground in telematics. Partnering with Microsoft, Ford
created SYNC, its best-selling infotainment system to date. At the heart of SYNC is Microsoft Windows Embedded Automotive, which delivers a powerful and reliable platform with numerous connectivity options and turns SYNC into a gateway for phones, digital
music players, and more. SYNC has not only helped sell more Ford cars, but it has also strengthened consumer perceptions of Ford as a leader in safety, quality, and smart technology.
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures and distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 163,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and
In 2005, the face of the auto infotainment market was changing rapidly with the introductions of GPS systems, MP3 music players, and mobile phones – and Ford seized the opportunity to meet growing consumer demands for in-vehicle connectivity.
||Ford SYNC has helped us grow, strengthen, and differentiate our company’s brand in North America – as well as enhance the perception of Ford as an innovator. We’re looking forward to extending both SYNC and our brand to global markets.
| Paul Mascarenas
Vice President of Engineering for Global Product Development
Ford Motor Company
“Consumers were not only having a hard time using mobile devices like iPods and cell phones once they got behind the wheel of a vehicle, they were frustrated because the technology they found in cars at the Ford and Lincoln dealerships was behind what they
could find in an electronics store across the street,” recalls Gary Jablonski, manager, Infotainment Product Development Team, Ford Motor Company.
The company had a working level initiative to develop a flexible multi-purpose computing platform that would allow Ford to leverage faster software development times to keep pace with the dynamic consumer electronics market.
At around the same time, Ford started discussions with Microsoft about using Windows Embedded technologies for an integrated infotainment system. According to Sukhwinder Wadhwa, manager, SYNC Platform & Technologies, Ford Motor Company. “Gary and I took
the first trip up to Redmond to meet with the entire Windows Embedded Automotive team. We were impressed by the robust Bluetooth profiles, fast boot time, and easy-to-use interface they demonstrated for us.”
One major hurdle Microsoft needed to overcome was the question of whether it could deliver the level of reliability required to satisfy the special requirements traditionally met by Tier One OEMs. These include auto-grade quality and parts scheduling, plus
the need to run reliably for decades or hundreds of thousands of miles.
Ford’s acceptance of Microsoft as a Tier One automotive supplier was largely based on Microsoft’s past experiences with Fiat Blue&Me and other pioneering in-vehicle telematics projects. “The Microsoft team literally ‘forced’ a Blue&Me system into a Ford
Taurus and we showed it to every major executive,” says Wadhwa. “That demo helped us gain internal approval.”
Microsoft representatives sat on Ford’s Digital Lifestyle Council, which facilitated key exchanges between the companies. Microsoft intimately learned about the automotive industry and Ford deepened its acumen of the software market—which in turn fueled
their collaboration on SYNC.
“One of the key challenges of the auto industry is to design products with the reliability of aerospace at an affordable, mass-market price,” says Jim Buczkowski, Director of Global Electrical & Electronics Systems Engineering, Ford Motor Company. “We had
confidence that the native real-time OS of Windows Embedded Automotive could deliver a high level of reliability at a practical cost.”
The decision by Ford to use Windows Embedded Automotive to power a low cost infotainment device with broad market appeal was the first development breakthrough.
Both Ford and Microsoft used market research to determine that customer priorities in the car were shifting to media devices and cell phones. “We concluded that Microsoft had an agnostic approach that would allow us to build a platform connecting to any
consumer device,” remarks Buczkowski.
||We had confidence that the native real-time OS of Windows Embedded Automotive could deliver a high level of reliability at a practical cost.
| Jim Buczkowski
Director of Global Electrical & Electronics Systems Engineering
Ford Motor Company
A second key innovation was the idea to create a “gateway” that decouples the automotive and consumer electronic cycles. “The auto industry is like a slow turning gear, whereas the consumer electronics changes rapidly,” observes Buczkowski. “The Microsoft
platform serves as the gear in between that can be developed and upgraded to meet new market demands.”
The third key innovation was Ford’s concept of enabling convenient hands-free use of cell phones and media devices with voice recognition technology.
“The development process began with an existing reference hardware design that helped shave weeks, if not months, from our development timeline,” estimates Jablonski. “The comprehensiveness of the Windows Embedded Automotive platform feature set also saved
us from having to develop dozens of components from scratch. From start to finish, it took about 14 months to complete the development project – we finished it right on schedule,” he adds.
In March 2007, Ford introduced SYNC, a factory-installed fully integrated in-vehicle communications and entertainment system. SYNC provides drivers with hands-free voice-activated control over mobile phones and digital music players, and automatically connects
phones and music players with the in-vehicle microphone and sound system. SYNC was the first infotainment system to use new media transports to work with the most popular media players, including Apple iPod and Apple iPhone, Microsoft Zune, and MTP devices.
In 2007, Ford introduced SYNC across multiple mainstream and luxury vehicle product lines, including the new 2008 Focus sedan and coupe. “We wanted to democratize the technology and give people access to technology that makes their driving experience better,”
states Buczkowski. “This ‘go big’ strategy differentiated Ford.”
A $70 million co-branded and integrated marketing campaign leveraged the global recognition of Microsoft brand name with the tagline “SYNC, powered by Microsoft.” By the end of 2009, SYNC was available on over 20 of Ford’s passenger vehicle models, with
the feature “take-rate” averaging approximately 70% across the line-up.
Windows Embedded Automotive has delivered several important business and technology benefits to Ford and its customers.
Ford enjoys a more nimble supply chain since it works directly and collaboratively with its software supplier, instead of having this key relationship controlled by Tier One OEMs. “This is a more cost-effective relationship and it means that Microsoft makes
platform technology choices that are best for Ford instead of the Tier One,” states Buczkowski.
Windows Embedded Automotive technology allows Ford to be more innovative and speed up its product refresh cycle. “Windows Embedded Automotive’s rich development tools and API allow us to develop new applications that synchronize with social media programs,
such as text-to-speech access to Twitter via OpenBeak,” says Wadhwa. “Pandora Internet radio is another example of a cutting edge application within SYNC.”
|SYNC-equipped 2008 Ford Focus
Another revolutionary benefit of using Windows Embedded Automotive is that Ford customers can use a built-in USB port and their own memory stick to update SYNC software with these new and exciting applications without having to take their vehicle to the
SYNC, based on Windows Embedded Automotive, delivers real value to Ford customers. Ford has tracked business success metrics from several sources and reports that the turnover rate of SYNC-equipped vehicles on dealer lots is twice that of vehicles without
SYNC. Also, the resale value of SYNC-equipped vehicles is more than $200 greater than vehicles without SYNC. And after receiving SYNC demonstrations, 80% of potential customers report it improves their opinion of Ford, while 70% are more likely to consider
purchasing a SYNC-equipped vehicle.
“SYNC is absolutely impacting our top line revenue in terms of improved vehicle sales, net transaction pricing, and incremental revenue from SYNC services,” calculates Paul Mascarenas, Vice President of Engineering for Global Product Development, Ford Motor
Company. “Customers clearly want SYNC and are prepared to pay for it because we delivered great technology at excellent value for the money. This positive revenue generation is the hard line connection to Ford’s corporate business plan,” he adds.
||SYNC drives traffic to our dealers because people hear about it and then they want to experience it for themselves. People will consider buying a Ford vehicle specifically because of SYNC, which is something we didn’t expect even in
our most optimistic forecasts.
| Jim Buczkowski
Director of Global Electrical & Electronics Systems Engineering
Ford Motor Company
Buczkowski concurs: “SYNC drives traffic to our dealers because people hear about it and then they want to experience it for themselves. People will consider buying a Ford vehicle specifically because of SYNC, which is something we didn’t expect even in
our most optimistic forecasts.”
In a noteworthy milestone, SYNC was installed on the 3-millionth vehicle less than a year after hitting the two million unit milestone. “In the space of just three years, from 2005-2008, we went from last place to first place with regard to customer satisfaction
with our in-vehicle infotainment system,” says Jablonski.
Ford’s ability to surprise and delight customers with SYNC is most evident in the voice recognition technology developed by Nuance. Among Ford customers who have SYNC on their vehicles – and use its voice command features – 87% are satisfied with how the
system operates, and 88% would recommend the purchase of a vehicle with SYNC to others. Hands-free calling is used daily by two-thirds of SYNC users, with 89% using the feature at least once a week.
“We know that more than half of drivers use SYNC’s voice-activated dialing features, helping them keep their eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel,” says Wadhwa.
In August 2010, Ford launched the second-generation version of SYNC, MyFord Touch, demonstrating the extensibility and innovation of the Windows Embedded Automotive platform.
MyFord Touch first launched on the 2011 Ford Edge (and as MyLincoln Touch on the 2011 Lincoln MKX), then on the 2011 Ford Explorer, followed by the all-new 2012 Ford Focus. MyFord Touch redesigns the in-car interface, mirroring how consumers interact with
most devices in their lives by using touch-sensitive buttons, touch screens and voice recognition.
Microsoft also continues to innovate in the in-vehicle technology space, adding more of the features wanted by both automobile drivers and manufacturers. Windows Automotive 7, introduced in October 2010, builds on best-of-breed phone, media, and radio support.
It also introduces new capabilities that enable vehicle-centered, connected software-plus-services designed to transform driver and passenger experiences.
Windows Automotive 7 offers an extensible UI framework via Silverlight for Windows Embedded. User experiences can be refined rapidly with the Expression Blend-Visual Studio toolset on the desktop and deployed unchanged to the target device.
Developing immersive experiences with natural input is eased by an HMI Bezel simulator and integrated multi-touch input capabilities throughout the OS.
A new Microsoft TellMe Speech Engine stack is fully integrated for voice controlled interfaces. There is support for a broad set of worldwide languages, while SAPI 5.41 support creates a pluggable architecture for choice of speech recognition and text-to-speech
Looking back at the success achieved by the joint efforts of Ford and Microsoft, Mascarenas concludes: “Ford SYNC has helped us grow, strengthen, and differentiate our company’s brand in North America – as well as enhance the perception of Ford as an innovator.
We’re looking forward to extending both SYNC and our brand to global markets.”
Keywords: Automotive; In-vehicle infotainment
Windows Embedded is a high-performance and highly reliable family of products and services used by innovative developers and OEMs to deliver devices that stand out through rich user experiences and seamless connections to the world of
Windows. The Windows Embedded family of products includes Windows Embedded Automotive, Windows Embedded Compact (the next generation of Windows Embedded CE), Windows Embedded Enterprise, Windows Embedded Handheld, Windows Embedded POSReady, Windows Embedded
Server, and Windows Embedded Standard.
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