Ford has announced that the next-generation version of its SYNC connectivity system will include in-car WiFi.
The new system will be powered through a USB mobile broadband unit, much like the one that many business travelers already have for mobile connectivity. Yet the system requires no additional software or hardware; the SYNC system itself will function as a secure router, turning the vehicle into a hot spot for occupants as well as people near the car.
Unauthorized access will be prevented through WPA2 protocols, allowing only user-permitted devices, though the system should be compatible with any range of WiFi-compatible laptops, gaming systems, and mobile devices.
Ford thinks there's a big market; in a release it cites a study from the Consumer Electronics Association that describes up to 77 million Americans as "technology enthusiast drivers," of which more than half want a vehicle-based connection. The data also suggests that more than a third of the general population wants some level of connectivity, such as e-mail capability, in their vehicles.
The Ford system will be a less complicated alternative to existing WiFi systems (Autonet Mobile is one of the leading providers) that depend on exclusive hardware and the extra costs of dealer installation--plus additional monthly fees.
Ford says that the new capability will be standard on "select SYNC-equipped vehicles." We'll update you as soon as we know which models will get the WiFi rollout first, and whether or not there are any compatibility issues.
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