What is the SYNC&Reg; System?

Jason C. Chavis

The SYNC® system is a communications and entertainment system installed in Ford, Lincoln and Mercury cars. The system is a voice-activated in-car technology system designed by Microsoft to allow users to utilize the tools available in their mobile phones and digital media players in unison with the vehicle itself. The Microsoft SYNC® system was first introduced in 12 models beginning in the 2008 model year.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

Drivers control the Ford SYNC® system by linking their portable devices via Bluetooth® technology or universal serial bus (USB) connections. The system then registers the device and gives the user access to computer files, whether mp3 or other formats, and the ability to play music. In terms of the cell phone devices, a person's contact list, calendar and other tools become synchronized with the computer system, allowing users to make phone calls or check dates in a hands-free fashion.

The interaction with the SYNC® system is handled in one of two ways: either voice-activation or by hand. Located on the steering wheel of cars equipped with the SYNC® system is an activation panel that allows the driver to press a button and speak into the system to change songs or make phone calls. Additional interactive capabilities are located on the radio controls, which provide a person access to the full range of his or her mobile devices.

The Microsoft SYNC® system was developed specifically for the Ford Motor Company line of vehicles. It was first introduced at the North American International Auto Show in early 2007 by the President and CEO of Ford, Alan Mulally and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, himself appearing via satellite. The in-car technology is based on the data synchronization software developed previously by Microsoft to link different operating platforms, particularly those involving metadata and peer-to-peer file sharing.

Some of the additional features of the Ford SYNC® system include the ability to provide traffic updates and turn-by-turn navigation, call 911 and report on the status of the vehicle's health such as oil pressure and temperature levels. One of the most popular features according to Ford itself is the system's ability to process text messages. The SYNC® system can interpret text messages sent to a person's cellular phone and read them back to the driver or passenger using a female voice the designers dubbed “Samantha.” In addition, since the service is designed for the full region of North America, it is capable of working with Canadian French and Mexican Spanish dialects as well as English.

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