Ford first for diagnostic dashboard

Ford first for diagnostic dashboard

The day is coming when a doctor's help may be only as far away as your car's dashboard as digital health diagnostics and monitoring continue to develop.

At the forefront of the diagnostic dashboard is the SYNC voice-activated technology embedded in the newest Ford Fiesta. SYNC enables motorists to activate smartphone applications by voice control, with the apps being displayed on a screen located in the dashboard.

An increasing quantity of these applications are related to health. In 2012, the growth of medical and healthcare apps was the third fastest, recording over 17,000 available apps. A Frost and Sullivan report expects the health apps market to be valued at $392 million (£243.4 million) by 2015, with more than 500 million people using them.

An air-pollution app that gives asthma and pollen alerts was the first commercial SYNC health app to go live in 2012 via the Apple Store.

"There are 26 million asthma sufferers in the US. Wouldn't it be great for them to know what pollution levels will be and take the appropriate meds?" Ford's worldwide manager for interiors, infotainment, health and wellness, Gary Strumolo, says.

"All we are doing is allowing drivers to activate these devices verbally. We don't want them digging around in their coat pockets when they have an [asthma] alert."

Strumolo is careful to underline that Ford doesn't "want to turn the car into a medical device", though there are doubts on the matter. In abreakdown of the issue, Strumolo admits that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) "is very particular" about who is qualified to offer medical advice. If the FDA has reason to believe that the Ford system is offering medical advice, it must be licensed and Strumolo's team has been cautious to make clear that any display of medical information displayed "is just mirroring that of the device".

Copyright Press Association 2013