Ford looks to introduce health, wellness apps to its cars

Cars are already being programmed to parallel park, sense slippery road conditions and alert drivers to impending collisions. Soon they’ll be helping diabetics monitor their blood glucose levels, detect unhealthy air conditions and offer wellness advice.

That’s the plan from the Ford Motor Company, which is working with healthcare companies WellDoc, Medtronic and SDI Health to include health and wellness in-car connectivity solutions on the Ford SYNC platform. The platform makes use of AppLink to allow drivers to access smartphone apps by voice control.

With studies showing that Americans spend more than 500 million “commuter hours” per week in their automobiles, the concept of providing access to information while they’re driving or stuck in traffic is certainly attractive.

“Ford SYNC is well known in the industry and with consumers as a successful in-car infotainment system, but we want to broaden the paradigm, transforming SYNC into a tool that can improve people’s lives as well as the driving experience,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technology and vice president of Ford Research and Innovation.

In a May 18 announcement, Ford is joining with WellDoc, a Baltimore-based developer of chronic disease management solutions, to integrate WellDoc’s DiabetesManager System in the SYNC platform to help people with type 2 diabetes manage their disease while in their car. The integration is designed to allow diabetics to enter data such as medications, exercise and diet information through speech-to-text interaction while in their vehicle, then gain access to WellDoc’s clinical decision support tools.

“WellDoc was founded on the concept of helping people manage their chronic disease with the help of everyday personal tools that are easy to use and accessible on a regular basis,” said Anand K. Lyer, WellDoc’s president and chief operating officer. “People with diabetes must adhere to a strict regimen to manage their disease. Through our research with Ford, we’ve created a unique in-vehicle environment that supports those with diabetes so they can be continuously connected to the tools that help them maintain their daily routines without interruption.”

K. Venkatesh Prasad, group and technical leader for Ford’s Infotronics Research & Innovation team, said WellDoc approached the carmaker about three years ago with a chronic disease management plan for the company’s employees. Aside from referring WellDoc to Ford’s Human Resources department, he said Ford’s “SCI Lab” researchers suggested embedding WellDoc tools in the SYNC platform.

“WellDoc came to us with a 0-mile-per-hour discussion and left with a 70-mile-per-hour option,” he said.

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