Ford Acquires Software Development Startup Livio To Create Create Industry Standard For Connected Vehicles

Ford Motor Company has announced plans to acquire Livio, a software development startup based in Ferndale, Michigan. The goal of the acquisition is to “further extend Ford’s ability to meet consumers’ growing demand for safe, seamless access to the electronic content they love while in their vehicles.” The amount of the purchase was not disclosed.

Currently, Livio builds products and software tools to support the connectivity of smartphones and vehicles. The startup has “a strong track record of creating in-car connectivity solutions”, and its purchase by Ford is intended to “accelerate innovation by providing access to each other’s talented engineers and unique intellectual property” while “enabling both companies to work toward developing an industry standard for smartphone-to-vehicle communications.”

“With the additional expertise Livio provides us, Ford intends to continue to lead the next generation of in-car connectivity with technology advancements that give consumers more options to access their devices on the go,” said chief technical officer and vice president of Ford Research and Innovation Paul Mascarenas.

Joining forces “amid explosive growth in the connected car market”.

Some quantitative data demonstrates the importance of the connected car to the future of Ford and, frankly, to all automakers who wish to remain competitive in the area: in 2012, 1.9 million vehicles were delivered with some kind of a solution integrating smartphones, such as Ford’s SYNC AppLink. But by 2018, that number is expected to row to 21 million vehicles — according to a June report from GSMA, which represents the global mobile industry, and data from SBD, a London automotive technology consulting firm.

Livio’s solutions to “help Ford standardize the way customers connect their smartphones to their vehicles”, effectively attempting to create an industry standard.

According to Ford, “Livio’s software-based, advanced vehicle information and entertainment solutions improve the connection between software and hardware.” With the acquisition, the startup “will help Ford standardize the way customers connect their smartphones to their vehicles.” In the past, Ford has contributed Smart Device Link — the open source version of AppLink — to the GENIVI Alliance for use by app developers.

Understandably, a single vehicle interface standard would empower developers to write software connecting smartphone/mobile devices and the cars’ infotainment systems faster and more effectively. The result to the consumer would be the quick availability and compatibility of the apps they want to use. According to Ford, Livio software is already compatible with several commonly used apps and works with all major smartphone devices.

“At Livio, our philosophy is centered on bringing customers more connectivity with less hassle,” said Livio CEO Jake Sigal. “We believe this partnership is an excellent match, as it will give us the ability to work with Ford to provide customers even more access to new technologies in the vehicle infotainment space.”

A wholly-owned and integrated subsidiary that operates independently.

Co-founded by Sigal and Massimo Baldini, Livio will be a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Global Technologies — The Blue Oval’s arm managing all aspects of intellectual property for Ford. Livio will function as a separate department within Ford Electrical/Electronic Systems Engineering while being integrated not Ford’s overall connectivity operations. The deal gives Ford access to a broad group of application developers, while enabling Livio to maintain its independent and entrepreneurial approach.

“Ford is acquiring Livio to advance connectivity for our customers and to lead the way in in-vehicle connectivity for the entire automotive industry,” said Bill Coughlin, president and CEO, Ford Global Technologies.

The Motrolix Take

The acquisition seems like a very forward-thinking approach by Ford. Notably, some have maintained that today’s automakers, in general, are not doing enough to integrate personal technologies such as smartphones into vehicle infotainment systems. And while Blue Oval enthusiasts might argue that assessment as it relates to Ford and its SYNC App Link offering in particular, the automaker’s decision to bring in outside technologists and developers to propel it even further ahead of the competition is unprecedented in and of itself.

Overall, it will be interesting to watch how Livio adds value to Ford vehicles now and in the future, as well as how Ford goes about creating and then seeking adoption of the industry standard of what we expect to grow into a connected vehicle software platform. Whatever happens, one thing is certain: the future of in-vehicle personal technology is brighter today than ever before.

Motrolix Founder with a passion for global automotive business strategy.

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