Venerable carmaker Ford wants to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to expanding the reach of mHealth to Americans.
“The car is more than just a car,” says Paul Mascarenas, Ford’s chief technology officer. “People spend almost an entire week a year on the road and that’s expected to increase. The car is a private space for conducting personal business. We see health and wellness as a core area.”
As a result, medical monitoring is becoming a major area of concentration for Ford. And its beginning to show.
In addition to vehicle based systems that check one’s blood-sugar levels, Ford has begun producing a car seat to monitor the driver’s heart rate – a development that Ford hopes may warn motorists of a possible heart attack, thus better providing for their safety and the safety of others on the road.
Other features may ultimately enable breathing patterns for asthmatics to be tracked or pollen counts for allergy sufferers to be monitored.
The features Ford is researching may help boost the prices it can charge for cars. They may be added in one to five years to Ford’s Sync software, the voice-activated communication system it developed with Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and offers on most models. Sync, together with limited supplies and higher quality, helped boost Ford’s average prices $4,100 from two years ago.
“The whole concept of monitoring the driver from a medical perspective is a booming potential area,” Bryan Reimer, a research scientist in the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, tells Bloomberg.
According to a recent survey by Harris Interactive and CTIA, approximately 78 percent of US consumers “are interested in mobile health solutions.”