Allergy symptoms will be on the radar for drivers with an iPhone or iPad. Ford Motor Co. has added IMS Health's Allergy App to its Sync AppLink platform, which allows drivers to connect their mobile apps with their car computer system through Bluetooth or USB and operate the system using voice commands and steering wheel buttons.
Health care IT company IMS Health's Allergy Alert app for Apple iOS allows users to gain information on conditions in the driver's area that may lead to allergy symptoms, such as a sore throat or nasal congestion.
Ford has deployed Sync AppLink on 10 of its 2012 vehicles, including the Expedition, Fusion, F-150 and Super Duty. The app will also soon be added to the 2013 Focus, E-Series and C-Max.
"Mobile health apps are changing the way consumers manage their own wellness, and Ford Sync provides the platform to extend this growing trend to the driving experience," Doug VanDagens, global director of Ford Connected Services, said in a statement. "The Sync AppLink-enabled Allergy Alert app allows drivers to quickly check current and upcoming pollen and other health risk conditions with simple voice commands while keeping their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road."
Seasonal allergies affect 20 percent of Americans per year, according to Pollen.com.
Ford and IMS Health announced the new app's availability on Aug. 2. Allergy Alert allows drivers to access a verbal pollen index with the verbal command "Allergy." The app rates pollen level severity in the driver's environment from 0 to 12.
The "Pollen" command allows drivers to tell the app that pollen is around, and "Flu" asks the app to compile a flu index for the area. In addition, by saying the command "UV, drivers get information on UV ray risks coming up on their route.
With "ZIP 1," "ZIP 2" and "ZIP 3," drivers can get allergy data for up to three ZIP codes.
The free Allergy Alert app is part of Ford's mobile health plan to connect patients to health applications using Sync. Ford first announced its plans to add connectivity to mobile health data in May 2011.
In addition to allergies, Ford is focused on helping drivers and passengers with chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Ford developed a prototype system to connect Ford Sync to a Medtronic glucose-monitoring device using Bluetooth.
At the January 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show, Ford announced a "doctor in your car" prototype system along with health engagement company Healthrageous and software developers BlueMetal Architects that allows drivers to upload data to Microsoft HealthVault and store driver information on the Windows Azure cloud platform.
With Sync, Ford wants to move in-car connectivity systems beyond information and entertainment, according to Gary Strumolo, global manager of Ford Research and Innovation.
Still, drivers shouldn't expect the vehicle to overstep itself by storing personal health information, he noted.
"The car itself will not diagnose, it will not make predictions, it will simply report back what the readings are," Strumolo told eWEEK in a January interview. "And it will also not store data or send data in a way the owner does not agree to."
By making mobile health apps available in the car, Ford avoids storing the data on its own systems, added K. Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader for innovation at Ford.
"What we're really trying to do is get data to the driver in an unobtrusive model that doesn't require Ford to store data, but pipe data to the cloud," Prasad told eWEEK in January.