Ford Developing Wireless Health Apps for Motorists on the Go

10/14/11Follow @bvbigelow

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how the SYNC platform can be expanded to operate a variety of similar health and wellness applications. “Why should a billion cars around the world today, with at least a billion human beings in them, be isolated from the analytical powers that exist when they get home or when they get to the hospital?” Prasad asked.

Citing Ford CEO Alan Mulally, Prasad says the Dearborn, MI-based automaker today views the automobile as a technology platform, “and the Ford Motor Company is a technology company that also makes cars and trucks.”

Ford also has been wooing app developers throughout the United States and Europe to expand the capabilities of its technology platform even more. As Xconomy reported in June, Ford’s online SYNC Mobile Application Network has drawn thousands of submissions, increasing the likelihood that cars will eventually become smartphones on wheels.

As this health IT platform becomes more capable, it can empower motorists in new ways, said Anand Iyer, the president of WellDoc, a Baltimore, MD-based startup that has FDA clearance for a mobile technology that helps people manage their chronic diseases.

Anand Iyer

Iyer and Prasad have been working over the past six months to integrate WellDoc’s cloud-based health information system with Ford’s SYNC system to provide individualized advice for those with asthma or diabetes. Using voice commands, SYNC users can access and update their WellDoc profile to receive real-time patient coaching, behavioral education, and other help, on their medical history and current diagnosis.

Both Prasad and Iyer emphasized, though, that the value of SYNC system as a technology platform will only increase as SYNC becomes an aggregator of information from a variety of sources. “The value starts to increase because it now adds context,” Iyer said. In this respect, Iyer says the vehicle’s technology platform provides substantial advantages over a smartphone that might be equipped with similar technology for continuously monitoring blood glucose levels. By connecting to SYNC through a Bluetooth-equipped smartphone connected to WellDoc, Iyer said, “It’s understanding the driver workload. It’s understanding the rich context of when a vehicle is braking, and [asks,] ‘Is it just because there’s a spot in the road, a pothole, or is it because the traffic density is so large—or is it because the driver is wobbling?”

By some estimates, Iyer added, American motorists spend 500 million hours in their cars commuting to and from work each week. “So use that captive time to provide [health] content, educational content, and interventional content.”

Once Ford gets its health platform ready, “I think you’ll just see this opportunity that can reach everywhere,” Prasad said. “The power here is that we can reach out to all parts of the world. We sell cars in every continent except Antarctica and health knows no boundaries. Healthcare is important everywhere.”

With American commuters spend 500 million hours a week in their cars, Prasad reasons that drivers around the world easily spend 2 billion hours a week driving to and from work. “That’s a lot of time, and a lot of opportunity to sort of rewire the planet,” he said.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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