On Friday, Ford announced a new OBD II plugin that will allow Ford owners to add modern connectivity features to their cars. The Ford SmartLink, announced via a press release, can add features like remote start, remote lock and unlock, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and vehicle alerts to Ford cars between model years 2010-2016.
As a complement to the plugin device, a companion application and web portal allows users to take advantage of the new features. For example, drivers will be able to remotely start their car, and lock or unlock the doors from their smartphone. They can also receive location assistance and vehicle health and security alerts, the release said.
For those unfamiliar, the OBD II port is a plug that is located under the steering wheel of the vehicle. It is typically used in a maintenance situation to run diagnostics on a potential vehicle problem.
The goal of the SmartLink to is give owners of older Ford vehicles the ability to leverage some of the modern selling features of new vehicles. And, while most of its features will appeal to consumers, the Wi-Fi will be the biggest draw for professionals.
The Wi-Fi access provided by the SmartLink can host up to eight devices, and it empowers the ability to receive the aforementioned vehicle alerts. Road warriors who routinely travel by car for sales meetings and other such events could benefit from the added connectivity, being able to check email and jump into conference calls when in an area with sparse Wi-Fi.
Another potential application would be for fleet vehicles. Ford's F-150 truck was named the 2016 Fleet Truck of the year, and won the award the past six years prior. Many field technicians and employees that work on-site could use the connectivity to send important data, potentially eliminating the reliance on separate hotspots or smartphone tethering.
According to the press release, millions of current Ford customers could stand to benefit from some of the features provided by SmartLink. The device, which was developed with Delphi Automotive and Verizon Telematics, will be available at Ford and Lincoln dealerships this summer.
"From security to performance, we've conducted extensive testing and made a number of improvements to ensure Ford SmartLink enhances the customer experience for our owners," Raj Nair, executive vice president of global product development and chief technical officer at Ford, said in the release.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
- Ford's new SmartLink accessory will give 2010-2016 Ford car models access to modern features like remote start and lock, as well as 4G Wi-Fi.
- Road warriors and field workers could benefit from the added connectivity, especially given the popularity of Ford vehicles as fleet vehicles.
- SmartLink was developed with Verizon and Delphi automotive, and will be available through dealerships this summer.
- Ford bringing Amazon Alexa and high speed Wi-Fi to new vehicles at CES 2017 (TechRepublic)
- Ford expands investment in electric and autonomous vehicle production (ZDNet)
- CES 2017: Ford's DriverScore app tracks driving data to reward good drivers with low insurance rates (TechRepublic)
- Ford SmartLink gives older cars remote start, other connected features (CNET)
- Ford plans to mass produce a 'no driver required' autonomous vehicle by 2021 (TechRepublic)
Conner Forrest has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.