Conversation: Jake Sigal of Livio on connected cars and CarPlay

js-headshot-2013In the wake of Apple’s announcement of its digital-dashboard system, CarPlay, we spoke to Jake Sigal, founder and CEO of Livio. Livio is a tech development company that makes it easier and safer for driver to use music and other mobile apps in their cars. Livio was acquired by Ford last September.

Jake Sigal will speak at RAIN’s flagship conference, RAIN Summit West. The event, on April 6th at the LVH Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, features panel discussions, keynotes, and “POV” speeches. Sigal is a confirmed panelist in the Dashboard Dynamics session.

Jake Sigal describes himself as a passionate music lover, and he founded Livio in 2008 with a $10,000 loan from his parents. Sigal writes a blog at jakesigal.com. His Twitter handle is @jakesigal.

We spoke with Jake Sigal by phone.

RAIN: Congratulations on Livio’s success.

livio_radio_logo[1]JS: We’ve worked hard on Livio over the past six years. Being part of Ford gives us more resources and opportunities to get our product into millions of cars.

RAIN: The question with acquisition is often whether operations continue as before, autonomously. I gather that’s the case with Livio in Ford.

JS: That’s correct. We’re a fully-owned subsidiary of Ford. We still have Livio business cards and email addresses. Ford writes our paychecks, but aside from HR differences, it’s still Livio.

Ford has a good idea of what needs to happen in the industry. We are driving toward industry standards. Everything that’s going on with Android and Apple, and all the different car companies, there’s got to be a standardized way to get content safely into cars.

RAIN: Most observers of the connected-car movement say that standards are needed. How likely is it, in the next 3-5 years, that automakers will group around a common standard? Now they seem to be going down individual paths in many directions.

JS: I think it’s a 100% chance there will be standards, plural. However there’s only a one-percent chance of a single standard. Will there be a few standards that people migrate to? Absolutely. Will there be still be some proprietary technology in cars? Absolutely. The method now, of each company doing its own thing, is not sustainable. I can’t think of one automaker which would debate that point. At the same time, there won’t be just one standard — just like on a television, there’s not just one way of connecting movies. You have HDMI, WiFi, DVD players. It’ll be the same with autos: not one standard, but migration toward a few standards.

RAIN: Talk about Livio’s role. Do you provide the connecting ligaments of the connected-car anatomy?

JS: Sort of. If you asked 10 people what Livio does, you’d probably get 10 different answers. We have software that allows apps to be in cars, safely. From the standards perspective, we have something called Smart Device Link (SDL). Smart Device Link was Ford AppLink, part of Ford’s SYNC [digital dashboard] system. It was the technology Ford used to bring apps into cars. Ford released AppLink technology to open source. Livio’s role is to improve the features of AppLink — all the things development engineers need to leverage Applink. We’re taking the best technology that Livio has, and using it to make Ford’s product even better.

RAIN: Does AppLink exist as a branded solution today?

JS: It does. AppLink takes the development of Smart Device Link for an improved version of AppLink. SDL is the underlying technology. AppLink is the Ford-branded version of it.

RAIN: Any comment about Apple’s CarPlay?

JS: Anytime you see the mobile handset providers taking a stand in vehicles, it’s a positive thing. From what I’ve seen, Apple is saying, We have a way to put Apple Maps and selected audio apps safely into the dashboard. I think it’s a great move on Apple’s part. Again, there will be multiple standards. Apple has its way of delivering apps in the car. But it can’t be the only standard, because what if you don’t have an iPhone?

Brad Hill

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