As with all things computer-based, technology in a new car is often outdated before it leaves the showroom. With its new SmartLink, however, Ford is easing the pain for owners of older-model Fords and Lincolns who covet some of the technology found on later-model-year cars. It will provide owners of those older cars a number of features, such as Wi-Fi hotspot capability, remote locking and unlocking of the doors, and service diagnostics and advisories.
The heart of SmartLink is a small 4G LTE-enabled device that plugs into the OBD II port located beneath the steering wheel. A collaboration of Ford engineers, Delphi Automotive and Verizon Telematics, Ford’s SmartLink promises intuitive integration of the device in Ford and Lincoln models. There’s also a companion app and Web portal to activate remote features, receive alerts and even schedule service appointments.
Initially, the add-on device will provide four basic functions:
- Smartphone-based remote start, lock and unlock
- A 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capable of hosting up to eight separate devices
- Vehicle health and security alerts
- Vehicle location assistance
The inclusion of the 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot is a big deal. It’s coming on selected 2017 Ford and Lincoln models for the first time. Furthermore, the industry trade publication Automotive News reported that over-the-air firmware updates will increase the device’s available technologies over time. In other words, more functions to follow.
Ford will offer SmartLink through its franchised dealers beginning sometime this summer. It targets roughly 15 million 2010-2016 model-year Fords and Lincolns lacking modem access. Pricing is yet to be announced, but, according to Automotive News, there will be some sort of up-front charge, as well as a monthly subscription fee. Ford also will offer a separate pricing package for adding the device to qualified vehicles purchased used.
What it means to you: If you own, or are about to buy, a qualifying Ford or Lincoln vehicle, you can add some popular connected services without buying a brand-new car. And because it’s a Ford-engineered aftermarket technology, SmartLink should integrate seamlessly with your car’s systems. Even if you don’t own one of those vehicles, no doubt other carmakers will follow Ford’s lead, offering some type of connected add-on for older models.