As part of the run-up to PSFK CONFERENCE 2013 in New York this April, PSFK will be publishing a series of short interviews with speakers to give a taste of what will be discussed in this meeting of creative minds. Julius Marchwicki, product manager at Ford Motor Company, and very involved with its Sync technology, explains how Sync came into being and what it means for the trend of connecting humans to their gadgets with increasing ease.
What was the inspiration behind Sync?
I was brought into the Sync team shortly after it launched. The general aim behind Sync and voice activated technology was to hone in on the trend of cellular telephones and how they had started to become ubiquitous in people’s lives. Suddenly, everyone was reachable all the time, including in their vehicles. Was there a way to take the information that a consumer was carrying in his pocket and connect it to the vehicle so that he or she could access it safely while driving?
The answer was yes- through the use of voice to access the functions which exist on mp3 players and smartphones. Around 2005-2006, the personnel from Ford, Microsoft and other companies that had helped to build this solution, came together and created what was known as Sync. That launched to market in late 2007.
How have you continued to make Sync relevant to the consumer?
When they conceived it, the team ensured that there was the ability to update the vehicle’s system once it had been sold. It is easy for the consumer to simply go to their PC, download something to a USB stick, and take that to their vehicle, thereby giving it a new functionality that they did not have before. Because of that work, Ford has been able to upgrade the technological capabilities of the product, to give the user new features, even though their vehicle has remained the same.
We are listening to our customers in order to deliver the next creative big trend. We saw smartphones and mp3 players become ubiquitous and responded. In 2009, we saw the iPhone, Android and their apps become more and more popular and before you knew it, there were billions of apps downloaded. The addition of Apple’s voice activation technology gave us the tools to connect apps that live on your smartphone into the vehicle’s system without the consumer having to do anything extra.
How do you see the future of interface between humans and technology developing?
What we have found with our customers — and what has informed Ford’s strategy over time — is that consumers have a ‘personal relationship’ with technology on both a physical and metaphysical level.
A customer often has a 1 to 1 relationship with a particular service, and it comes down to brand loyalty and recognition — especially in the auto industry. Ford wanted to be able to connect those the experience of using your phone with the experience of driving your car in a seamless way that makes sense to users.
The trend is really continuing what is starting to become second nature to smart device consumers—personalization. We are enablers, allowing you to access that concept in a manner that permits you to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road, while still interacting with your email and listening to your music.