If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the auto industry over the past few years, it’s that just about all car manufacturers want to keep you connected. Between bespoke solutions for individual car brands, and players such as Apple and Google making their mark on dashboard screens, how we actually use apps and services while on the road is getting convoluted. A new consortium dubbed ‘SmartDeviceLink’ (SDL) hopes to change all of that.
Formed by Ford and Toyota, SDL boasts members such as Mazda, Fuji Industries, Suzuki Motor Corporation and QNX. The nonprofit organization aims to “manage open source software for smartphone app development for vehicles,” and suggests it is “focused on significantly increasing choice for consumers in how they connect and control their smartphone apps on the road.”
It hopes to accomplish those goals by providing industry standards for voice commands and in-dash display actions. Developers benefit from ubiquity; if SDL’s missives are widely adopted, its SDK becomes the industry standard for tech-heavy cars (and every vehicle will be tech-savvy in short order).
“Encouraging innovation is at the center of Ford’s decision to create SmartDeviceLink, and this consortium is a major step toward that goal,” said Doug VanDagens, Global Director of Ford Connected Vehicle and Services (and a consortium board member). “Consumers will win with new, innovative app experiences from increased collaboration and developer engagement.”
Shigeki Tomoyama, president of Toyota’s Connected Company said: “Connectivity between smartphones and the vehicle interface is one of the most important connected services. Using SmartDeviceLink, we can provide this service to our customers in a safe and secure manner. We are excited to collaborate with many auto manufacturers and suppliers who share our view.”
Developers for iOS, Android, HMI, SHAID and SDL all have kits available to them, which cover just about everything related to enjoying apps while driving. Some are quite specific: HMI, for instance, only deals with integrations for in-dash head units. Meanwhile, SHAID corrals micro-services for synchronization across the SDL ecosystem.
API documentation for Android and iOS is where SDL starts to shine. Though Android APIs are still being fleshed out, iOS uses popular dependency management systems such as Carthage and CocoaPods for installation, and classes for just about anything you’d want to do with your car-connected app.
SDL’s technology is based on Ford’s AppLink platform, which it open-sourced in 2013 via a contribution to the GENIVI Alliance. Toyota stated it plans to “commercialize” a telematics system based on SDL sometime next year. Apps such as Pandora, Spotify and AccuWeather currently use AppLink.