In September 2011, Colorado-based app developers Danny Newman, Joe Mease and Austin Gayer decided to enter the Ford SYNC App Developer Challenge held during the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon in San Francisco.
They won the contest with Roximity, a smartphone app that provides real-time deals and specials on meal, clothing and several other categories relevant to a user’s location. Winning made the app eligible for integration with SYNC® AppLink™ – Ford’s in-car, voice-controlled connectivity system for smartphone apps.
“Very soon after that we got the equipment and software we needed and we were up and rolling,” Newman recalls. “We went live last summer (2012). Since then we’ve had quite a number of people jumping in (to use the app) – not millions, but hundreds of thousands. We did a few things to make it more broadly available to anyone with a smartphone and a car connection, including letting people use the app outside the car.
“If Ford hadn’t opened the door for us, Roximity would probably still be nothing more than an idea jotted down in a notebook sitting on a shelf,” Newman adds. “In 24 hours we were able to basically take an idea, some notes and sketches, and turn it into the first version of what we have now.”
The deal with Ford drew the attention of other automakers, after which Roximity began its own outreach effort. “We’re working on all of those integration projects now,” Newman says, “and every one of them is completely different.” Roximity is willing and able to put in the effort, but Newman suggests that smaller teams might not be so ambitious.
“It was great to start with Ford and get something out and running right away – quick coding, testing and deployment. (Ford) has a nice, elegant system. The other guys are newer in working with third-party developers and that can present a few hurdles. Ford benefits from the fact that they started a couple of years earlier than the others.”
Late last year Roximity launched on HARMAN’s Aha audio programming service. “That brought us into a lot of Hondas and Subarus.” Roximity is also partnering with Livio Connect, which offers a middleware API for integrating smartphone apps with vehicle hardware systems. “They have a really cool approach and are doing great stuff,” Newman says, adding that different approaches such as Livio’s and the Car Connectivity Consortium’s MirrorLink “are going to coexist – at least for a while.”
“Apps like Roximity are experiencing explosive growth and consumers are integrating them into so many facets of their lives that we need third parties to help keep up with demand and trends,” said Ford SYNC AppLink™ program manager Julius Marchwicki. “Daily deal and location-based services like Roximity exemplify the kind of innovation customers want.”