Ford's Hohage says Ford's HMI focuses on affordability (Photo: Claus Dick)

FRANKFURT - Smartphones provide a "window of opportunity" to upgrade and personalize in-car infotainment beyond the possibilities of embedded technologies, a senior Ford development executive said Tuesday.

Speaking to the 400 participants at the Mobility 3.0 Congress here, Caspar Dirk Hohage said a connected smartphone circumvents the relatively slow development cycles that are a fact of life in the auto industry. This helps democratize connectivity, which would otherwise be more costly, Hohage said.

The Ford executive, who is engineering director at Ford Germany, said the US carmaker's Sync connectivity system, which has been on sale as an option since 2007, provides a cost-effective way to link smartphones to the car. "We make it possible to use the internet in the car in an affordable way," Hohage said.

Sync relies on voice commands to operate a range of functions in the car. The technology is based on smartphone connectivity and doesn't call for a Sim card to be embedded in the vehicle.

Ford announced earlier this year that it is launching a next-generation version of Sync that includes AppLink, software that allows direct access to pre-approved apps built by third parties. Hohage said Ford is the first automaker to start a developer program for outside app developers.