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Coupon Wrangler Roximity Wins Ford SYNC App Developer Challenge

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Ford was one of the big guns behind last week's TechCrunch Disrupt. The automaker was central to a number of tech developments there, including an unofficial merger between Spotify and the SYNC telematics system, and a potentially interesting partnership between Ford and open-source hardware maker, Bug Labs. But when all the dust had settled, a startup called Roximity may have been the biggest winner.

As you might recall, a highly publicized element of the recent Disrupt event was the Ford SYNC App Developer Challenge. According to Ford, the challenge "stimulated ideas amongst the developer community and demonstrated the possibilities for in-car app innovation with the voice-activated Ford SYNC system."

But Disrupt was more than an opportunity for high-level tinkerers to show off their skills. There was a prize at stake: a trip to the 2012 Consumer Electronics Showcase and a spot in Ford's booth. The winning developers would have the opportunity to create a fully functional, Ford SYNC-enabled version of their app, and the ability to show it off with the automaker for thousands of eager tech fans, writers, and other CES attendees looking for the Next Big Thing.

And the winner was...Roximity, a location-based deal service. 

But before you throw up your hands and scream at the heavens, "Deals? Is that the best anyone could do?", realize a couple of things:

1. A major automaker was judging the competition, which meant that the winning service had to be sensible, scalable, and monetizable. By those criteria, Roximity fits the bill just fine. Handing out coupons may not be edgy fare in the app arena, but it can certainly generate big bucks for investors. (Living Social alone generates around $50 million in monthly revenue. Smack yourself for not thinking of it first.)

2. Roximity isn't exactly "just another location-based deal service". Roximity is different because of its "push" feature, which is tied to your phone's GPS system. While some coupon services send emails based solely on the ZIP code where you live, Roximity sends out deals based on where you are at any given moment. Walk near a restaurant with two-for-one veggie burgers? You'll be notified. Zoom past a bar with two-for-one margaritas during lunch? You'll learn about that, too. (Just hand over the keys when lunch is done, please.)

Obviously, the potential win for Ford and Roximity is huge. If Roximity were tied into SYNC, drivers could be alerted to a range of deals during their daily commute, over the lunch break, on weekend outings, and so on. Ford and Roximity could earn revenue from hordes of eager advertisers -- each of whom would know that her ad was targeted to people nearby -- and coupon hounds could shop as they go. Not bad.

At the moment, Roximity is in beta (you can sign up for future deal notifications on the company's splashpage), but we fully expect to see this -- or something very much like it -- roll out across numerous telematics systems soon.

[Ford] 

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