Ford shifts gears to mHealth
The automotive industry has taken health IT out for a spin, and is liking the way the technology handles.
Officials at Ford Motor Company announced Thursday the advent of its new voice-activated mobile health application, which allows drivers to monitor external allergy, flu and UV conditions.
Company officials say the Allergy Alert app enables allergy sufferers to safely monitor outdoor conditions that may cause symptoms such as scratchy eyes, sore throat and nasal congestion.
“What the app does is give you the pollen level at your location, along with the asthma, cough, cold and UV indexes, both on the day you ask it, as well as a four-day forecast," said Gary Strumolo, global manager of Ford Research and Innovation.
The current mobile health market is in overdrive, according to industry experts. One report conducted by Juniper Research found global medical app downloads reached 44 million in 2011, and report officials project that number will spring to 142 million by 2016. It is these market trends, experts add, that offer a driving incentive for carmakers to make mobile health a priority.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that more than 40 million people nationwide suffer from indoor and outdoor allergies, which includes allergic rhinitis, seasonal allergies, hay fever and nasal allergies. With these glaring statistics, Ford officials say the motive behind the mobile technology really comes down to driver safety and well-being.
“One of the things that we’re trying to do is to extend the notion of automotive safety,” said Strumolo. “Today, if you ask someone what automotive safety means, they’d say crashworthiness – how did a car perform in a crash. But the reality is that most people go through their entire driving lives without being in a serious auto accident; if they have a chronic illness, they suffer from that every day of their lives.”
[See also: Ford, Microsoft to develop 'Doctor in Your Car'.]
Officials say the mobile application allows drivers to connect smartphones or tablets to their vehicles, and by using simple voice commands they can quickly access information without needing to take their hands off the wheel or eyes off the road.
Through the app’s pollen index rating, drivers can request to hear the types of allergen conditions they are likely to encounter that may cause a flare-up in personal allergy symptoms. The app also provides a risk index for asthma, flu/cough/cold and ultraviolet rays.