Friday, September 30, 2011

iPhone App: Start Your Car From Virtually Anywhere

In case you were wanting to experience the keyless remote entry system that came packaged with the new Zipcar app, but you already have a car of your own, you’re now in luck. According to Mashable, as of today, you can drop in at your local Best Buy and pick up a Viper keyless entry and remote starter system from Directed Electronics for any automobile that features iPhone integration.

Not only that, but the range for the SmartStart app (iTunes link) that controls remote entry and car starting is said to be “virtually unlimited,” likely owing to the fact that it communicates via a data network connection rather than over infrared, which requires line of sight, or Bluetooth, which needs proximity.
You can even turn on the heat using the app, and do other things like pop the trunk, honk the horn, or turn on the alarm to scare off ne’er-do-wells while you sip your latté at the Starbucks patio across the street. The app won’t allow to you drive your car remotely, but at this rate, there’s probably an app for that just around the corner, too. Or at least one for locking the car down entirely in cases of theft.

As mentioned above, the app apparently doesn’t need to be near the car to communicate with the receiver, so in theory you could be setting off your alarm and starting your car in Iowa while on vacation in Prague, though aside from the slim possibility that someone watching believes it’s a ghost car, I can’t really see the point. It could be handy, as Mashable points out, in a situation where a spouse or loved one is locked out of their vehicle or has lost their own set of keys.

Of course, as with all incredibly cool things, the new Viper system will cost you a not insignificant sum of money. If you’re entirely new to the Viper system, a fresh start will set you back about $500, while existing users can add iPhone accessibility via the SmartStart module to their system for the low price of $299.

The automation industry, including home lighting and temperature control, home audio and theater, and car stereo, security, and remote control has always seemed to me to occupy the realm of unnecessary eccentric luxuries reserved for the very rich. With the iPhone operating as a central device that’s finally capable of unifying all these disparate automation services, I’m beginning to see their wider market applicability. Companies like Directed Electronics and Sonos are perfect examples of how niche businesses can expand their target markets via iPhone integration.

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