Ford Acquires Livio, Pushes for Connected Car Standardization

by Matt Klassen on September 30, 2013

One needs only to look at BetaMax or WiMax to see the results of the oft ugly fight for industry standardization, technology that ultimately fell by the wayside as companies battled it out to find the technology developers wanted to back and consumers wanted to use. It’s a fight that is now starting to brew in the burgeoning connected car segment, and its one that Ford is hoping to corner with its recent acquisition of car connectivity company Livio.

“Standardizing in-vehicle connectivity helps ease the burden on content developers who currently have to create applications using different vehicle interface methods [that add] complexity, time and costs to a project,” said Ford spokesperson Craig Daitch.

But while Ford would have us all believe its motives are altruistically aimed at pulling together a currently disparate technology sector to help spur on advancement and innovation, many in the industry see this acquisition as nothing but the automotive giant trying to flex its industry muscle, pointing out that if Ford really wanted to help crown an industry standard, it would join others in that quest.

“The impetus behind the acquisition was threefold,” Ford’s Daitch told the E-Commerce Times. “It allowed us to bring top-tier local talent to Ford to help us work on our connectivity solutions; gave Ford access to valuable intellectual property; and will help Ford in promoting SmartDeviceLink and other product and technology innovation.”

Now don’t get me wrong, its hard to blame Ford for wanting to corner the in-vehicle connectivity market, particularly as the market has almost as many entries as there are car companies. If Ford hadn’t acquired Livio, a diminutive company that holds a disproportionate amount of sway in the market, I’m sure someone else would have.

But the problem for Ford, and thus for its public image in this regard, is that no one really wants Ford holding all the cards in this matter, as should Livio’s connectivity technology become the industry standard, well that would mean considerable licensing revenues in Ford’s pocket.

Instead, market analysts and Ford competitors want the public to know that Ford is trying to force the automotive industry to adopt its form factor, when the reality of the matter is that if Ford really wanted to help find an industry standard it could have joined the already formed Car Connectivity Consortium, “which has many OEMs and suppliers coming together and discussing guidelines and is an industry-led consortium.”

By striking out on its own Ford has made a bold statement: that it believes it still holds enough market clout to force the industry’s collective hand. That said, while success in this endeavor is far from guaranteed, by acquiring Livio Ford has given itself a good chance, given that several companies, including General Motors, already employ the technology.

But again, in an industry where almost everyone has their own in-vehicle solution its hard to see how Ford will achieve anything here, as given the fact most companies have invested heavily in their own solutions there’s absolutely no impetus to embrace Ford’s Livio form factor. As Ecommerce Times writer Richard Adhikari notes, “Other car manufacturers might not like letting Ford have control over a standard,” as the entire industry will then be dependant on Ford for updates and advances, hardly the way to find some common ground.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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