by Wayne Cunningham @way4ne
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The advent of connected cars lead to many useful features, such as remote locking using a smartphone, but not all cars came from the factory with these capabilities. Today Ford announces its SmartLink device, retrofitting older cars with a host of remote features, from finding the car's location to controlling locks and starting the engine.
Ford SmartLink plugs into a car's OBDII port, hidden under the dashboard, and contains a GPS chip and 4G/LTE modem. SmartLink connects to a user's smartphone through an associated app, letting them check see the car's location and fuel status, and also perform actions such as remotely starting the engine or locking the doors.
Brett Wheatley, Ford's executive director of its Customer Service Division for North America, said the feature set is designed to fit drivers at different points in their lives, highlighting how SmartLink will let parents monitor their children's driving speed and location.
OBDII devices offering similar capabilities have been on the market for a few years, but SmartLink marks the first time an automaker has offered one specifically tailored towards its own vehicles, which should eliminate any compatibility issues. Many automakers include data modems built into new cars that support similar features as SmartLink, such as GM's OnStar or Ford's own Sync Connect system.
Ford said SmartLink comes from a partnership with Verizon and automotive equipment supplier Delphi, suggesting that the device is similar to Verizon's Hum device, which works with cars from different makers.
Wheatley pointed out that, along with a smartphone app, Ford will include a Web portal connecting to SmartLink. The device will show vehicle health information, similar to the vehicle health report from Ford Sync, letting drivers know of any maintenance issues. The app, according to Wheatley, will let users schedule maintenance appointments with a Ford dealer.
Parents will be able to set location-based boundaries and speed limits, so that SmartLink sends them a text message when a driver violates those rules. It includes a security feature, sending owners an alert based on vibration, which could mean a break-in or stolen car.
Wheatley also said the app will offer efficiency coaching, helping drivers maximize fuel economy through best acceleration and braking practices.
Ford SmartLink, which will be available this summer, works on 2010 model year or later Ford and Lincoln cars. Pricing has not been announced yet, with Wheatley saying it could be a single up-front price or a subscription model.
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