Ford and Livio Team Up to Create Industry Standard for Connected Cars

If you’re like most Americans, your key ring holds an assortment of customer loyalty cars that allow you to receive discounts and preferred pricing on a variety of consumer items, from groceries to gasoline. Key tags have proven highly effective at building customer loyalty, and now some savvy marketers are looking at ways to offer that same experience via your vehicle’s smart technology.

Today’s web-enabled “connected cars” collect a range of data about drivers’ habits and preferences and that data could be marketing gold for a variety of businesses including automakers, service stations, auto parts houses and more.

Michigan-based software startup Livio makes a customizable package it calls Livio Keys, which is a reference to product keys that allow consumers to unlock special features and helps app developers and content providers offer promotional deals to drivers through automakers’ existing dashboard technologies as well as Android Windows, Blackberry and Apple smart phones.

The idea is similar to iTunes, which allows app developers to post their services on the Livino Keys website.  If it is accepted by an automaker, the service is then offered to vehicle owners based on their vehicle’s VIN number. Owners are given a promotional period during which they can download the app via their vehicle’s embedded telematics system or their smartphone.

Livio’s founder and CEO Jake Sigal says, “The app developer is happy, the carmaker builds loyalty and customers are rewarded.” Livio will collect a licensing fee and commission for every app downloaded.

Last Thursday Ford Motor Company announced that it had acquired Livio to help in its efforts to make in-car connectivity more seamless for consumers.

Livio will exist as a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford, and will be able to service its existing customers, including General Motors Company.

In an interview with WIRED, Ford’s CTO Paul Mascarenas said the acquisition cost to the automaker was “quite small – less than $10 million.”  He also said the acquisition is designed to help Ford is “just another step in taking the complexity out” of the process for developers and consumers alike.

In the end, Ford and Livio see the arrangement as the ideal way to create an industry standard for the rapidly expanding in-car app market which is expected to grow to over 20 million vehicles within the next few years.

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