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Apologies for the corny headline. It’s no secret that social media is revolutionizing the way people interact with each other. But what might come as a surprise to many people is that the technology is also about to revolutionize the way that drivers interact with the cars. One of the best indications of where social media is headed can be seen in the so-called “hackathon” hosted at Facebook’s campus in California, which the company co-hosted with engineers from Ford. Together, the two groups of engineers sought to make friends out of Ford cars and Facebook status updates.
What is a “Hackathon” Exactly?
According to Facebook terminology, a hackathon is a round-the-clock effort that stars a large number of developers and engineers pushing their own programming boundaries. In this case, Facebook brought in 12 software engineers from Ford and combined them with the existing Facebook app development team; this group of people then worked around the clock, brainstorming the ways that people could use their cars in a social manner. Everything from speaking a status update to having the car guide itself into a parking spot, was on the table at this joint event.
Part of the premise of a hackathon is to emphasize that no idea is too ridiculous, out of reach, or impossible to pursue. And with that in mind, engineers are encouraged to bring out their craziest ideas, as well as those that they’ve been mulling over for a few weeks or months. This process has led the company to innovate time and again, and has helped it cement its lead among social media platforms.
Ford is a No-Brainer for the Hackathon
If any particular automaker was going to be invited to the Palo Alto campus of Facebook, it would certainly be Ford. Where most auto companies are still working on creating fluid in-dash experiences for GPS navigation tools and iPod integration, Ford has dedicated an entire team on its own Michigan campus to developing social tools and applications for its line of automobiles.
The company has, therefore, been known to higher leading social media talent and software engineers — of the caliber typically hired by Facebook and large companies like Microsoft and Apple. It has drawn the attention of all three of these companies — Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, with several of the technologies it has developed for its own line of cars.
How Ford SYNC Gave the Company New Technology Cred
Just a few short years ago, most Ford vehicles didn’t even have an LCD display in the center console. But the company deeded to retool its image in the auto industry as the choice of young buyers, tech-savvy individuals, and those who need to be connected on the go. As part of this process, it developed Ford SYNC, a technology which was initially used to integrate Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones into a car for hands-free use and other basic controls.
The system has grown with Ford as it has expanded on SYNC’s features and adapted it to an increasing number of vehicles at all price levels. Ford is now well-known for the technology, which can now listen to a driver’s voice and write emails, text messages, place calls, and be instructed to answer calls or read text messages to the driver while they’re on the road. With such success in voice control, social media was the obvious next target.
Working Together: Facebook and Ford
The combination of Facebook developers and Ford engineers is now actively working together to craft an implementation of the social network that will be installed with Ford SYNC in every new automobile. It will enable users to update statuses on the go, hopefully, and perhaps even allow them to share their present location with friends and followers.
By bringing the social web to the lonely open road, Ford is essentially leapfrogging its competition — and many luxury brands which are still fascinated by rudimentary Bluetooth installation. In this sense, it is really no wonder that Facebook so “likes” the Ford Motor Company.
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