K. Venkatesh Prasad has been working in Detroit for the past five years on an innovation that could be described as the next big crazy idea that might just work.
As the senior technical leader in vehicle design and infotronics at Ford Research & Innovation, Prasad oversees development of voice-activated apps and wireless services that would enable motorists to monitor their own health and chronic illnesses on the road.
During a panel discussion earlier this week at the Wireless Health 2011 Academic and Research Conference in San Diego, Prasad said development of in-car health and wellness technology is part of a broader effort to expand the capabilities of Ford’s SYNC in-car connectivity system. “We were saying if all we did was connect the mobile phone to an online digital music player that it wouldn’t be enough,” Prasad told me.
Ford’s initiative remains mostly in the R&D stage. While the Dearborn, MI-based automaker is looking broadly—and literally—at mobile health, Prasad said, “We’re not trying so much to prove out specific examples. These are really research experiments and investigations.”
Still, the company demonstrated just how its in-car wireless health could work in a Kona blue metallic Ford Edge parked outside the conference. Using voice-recognition software much like the SYNC system and “MyFord Touch” features available in current models of the crossover SUV, the car’s automated voice offered pretend guidance to address a low-glucose reading.
Ford (NYSE: F) has been working with Fridley, MN-based Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) to develop a prototype wireless health system capable of connecting to a continuous glucose monitoring device Medtronic makes for people with diabetes. Ford’s SYNC system uses Bluetooth to connect with the monitoring device, which would share its monitoring data with the SYNC system, which could then query the driver (or a passenger) and offer advice if blood glucose levels are too low or too high.
Ford is developing a similar prototype that could gather online data about pollen levels and other allergens, combine it with GPS-based contextual information, and offer advice to motorists with allergies, asthma, colds, and other sensitivities.
The work at Ford these days, however, is focused mostly on … Next Page »