DEARBORN, Mi., - Ford recently announced the launch of the Innovate Mobility Challenge series, which invites developer and ‘maker’ communities to find innovative mobility solutions across eight different locations around the world. @Ford Online discussed the importance of the Innovative Mobility Challenge with Eric Wingfield, mobility strategist, Research and Advanced Engineering.
Why is it important to Ford to help discover mobility solutions throughout the world?
It’s important for Ford to understand the mobility needs of people in the urban and rural context.
For example, the Challenges that are continuing our commitment to the SUMURR (Sustainable Urban Mobility with Uncompromised Rural Reach) project undertaken in rural parts of Chennai region in 2013, give us an opportunity and ability to reach out to markets or areas to which it has previously been difficult to provide mobility. Our 2013 experience demonstrated how significant access to mobility can be for healthcare. SUMMURR Golden Hour Challenge and SUMURR Health enable us to explore other aspects of mobility and technology that can better lives at large. More broadly, this series of mobility challenges allows us to highlight significant facets of mobility: megacity scale, weather, geography, parking, etc. to stimulate innovation for the impacts each of these factors have on our lives. This is a way for us to understand what the needs are in those contexts and potentially use them to drive products in the future.
Why is Ford reaching out to people across the globe for solutions?
Things are changing so quickly. Developers have a very strong voice in contributing to leveraging information about mobility in an urban context. And we value that voice. We also value the open innovation that a very large audience can contribute to through the challenge platforms of this series. Ford has so many extraordinary and capable people working on exciting projects that we’re going to bring to our customers. That is something I am proud to be a part of. The last three decades have also shown that computing tools in the hands of creative people bring about solutions that no one saw coming. A lot of technical people are able to think out of the box, and it’s always interesting to get a feel for and learn about some of the concepts that people are thinking about that we may have not envisioned. And a lot of it does depend on where you’re living – your part of the world – since we might not have that insight globally. When you reach out, you get a much more global perspective.
Should developers look for solutions in their own countries?
We’ve tried to give people a concrete connection to a city that demonstrates a particular need, for example the challenges that monsoons bring Mumbai in India. But it applies to anywhere where there are monsoons and mobility challenges. So even though we’ve placed these challenges in specific cities, globally, we want to invite developers around the world to contribute and participate by sharing their innovative solutions that cater to the local context. That’s one of the exciting parts about it. In previous challenges, we’ve had folks submit from diverse countries. As an example, for the Traffic Tamer App Challenge in London which concluded this spring, folks from 10 different countries contributed solutions and it was very exciting for us to see that. And that’s what we would like to see with the Innovate Mobility Challenge Series. We’re interested in stimulating the creative capabilities of developers around the world for these challenges because we think that they have unique ideas that can contribute to making mobility better.
Are you asking people to develop applications that would work on a smart phone or in a vehicle?
In general we try and describe – inside the rules – a format that we would like them to operate within. We’re being quite open and adaptive with these challenges. For example, it could be wearable computing. I have a bracelet on right now that my wife gave me a couple of days ago that tracks my walking. And I imagine you could integrate information off of that into some multi-modal context. And we would invite developers to do that. So it’s really the "internet" of things, including all mobile computing devices. It’s very open-ended.
We try and add context for each challenge so what we’ve made available is the very innovative accessory known as OpenXC, which is an experimental platform with accessories supporting Open Source development, to give developers the opportunity to use vehicles and collect information off vehicles and match that up with anything else that they find in the city-related data that they want to use. That is available on a resource page on the challenge site, along with additional resources. The partner support that we receive from ChallengePost is superb. If anyone has any questions they can feel free to ask those questions on the challenge site.
If I’m not a developer, is there still a way for me to contribute ideas?
Yes, absolutely. The easiest way is to go to the challenge site that you’re most interested in and make a posting on the site saying that you’d like to join a team.
We’re especially interested in looking at the quality of the idea. And we’ve provided additional support material for every challenge in order to give developers that are new a more concrete connection to the information about an area. Advanced developers will find their own way. And so I would encourage people to join in with the skills that they have and take that creative idea and share it with the world through the challenge.