By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Troy, Mich. – Aftermarket car electronics retailers are getting some competition from cellular carrier stores.
A new Delphi Automotive device, available exclusively through Verizon Wireless stores and the carrier’s web site, lets drivers use a smartphone, tablet or PC to track their vehicle, remotely start it, and read the vehicle’s diagnostic codes, among other things. Delphi positions it as a “first-in-class” device that delivers telematics and location-based features without having to buy a new car.
The device, called Vehicle Diagnostics by Delphi, plugs into the OBD-II port of most vehicles sold in the United States from 1996 on. It incorporates GPS and CDMA 1x 2G cellular technology. It retails for $249 with two years of Delphi service included. The cost of Delphi service after that is $5/month. Consumers must also pay a $5/month access fee to one of Verizon’s Share Everything data plans.
The device, shaped like a USB stick, is only 3.15 inches by 1.77 inches by 0.87 inches. It plugs directly into a vehicle’s OBD-II port. If the device remains visible when plugged in or interferes with a person’s ability to drive, it can be installed in an out-of-the-way location via a $34.99 installation kit with cable connection.
To enable remote tracking and remote control via cellular from a smartphone, Delphi offers an app for Android 2.2 and later and Apple iOS 5.0 and later devices. Users can also access the device via a Delphi website compatible with Internet Explorer 7 and later, Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Firefox browsers. Data transmitted through the device is said to remain secure and encrypted when sent over the Verizon network.
From a smartphone or computer, users can:
-- Locate family cars without having to tag the vehicle's original location.
-- Monitor overall vehicle health status by reading vehicle-diagnostic codes.
-- Get e-mail alerts when a vehicle exceeds 75mph or when a vehicle enters or exits a specific “geo-fenced” area.
-- and view summaries of all trips, including date, times, distance, and starting and ending locations.
Via smartphone, car functions such as starting, door lock/unlocking and trunk popping can be controlled remotely via cellular airwaves, but the functions can also be controlled via Bluetooth in locations, such as underground parking garages, where cellular service is unavailable.
The device “allows drivers the chance to experience unique telematics and location-based features without purchasing a new car," said Delphi CTO Jeff Owens. The device “not only offers convenience and connectivity but also peace of mind,” he said, pointing to the ability of consumers to use a smartphone, laptop or tablet to unlock a car “regardless of where they are.”
Aftermarket car security companies offer products with similar functionality.
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