The FordPass SmartLink device is dealer-installed into the OBD II port. (Ford)

Ford SmartLink brings wireless connectivity to older-model vehicles

Smartphone control of key fob commands, geo-fencing monitoring, and security alerts are among the connectivity upgrades that owners of older model Ford Motor Co. vehicles can attain via a new device.

“The FordPass SmartLink enables 2010 to 2017 model year Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury customers to have the same connectivity features that are available on newer model Ford vehicles equipped with an embedded modem,” said Stacy Balzer, Director of Emerging Technologies & Service Engineering for the Ford Customer Service Division.

The electronic device plugs into the vehicle’s OBD II port. Ford engineers collaborated with suppliers Aptiv and Verizon Connect during FordPass SmartLink’s four-year development, validation and testing. It will be available mid-2018 at Ford dealerships across the U.S.

The technology “puts your vehicle’s key fob features onto your phone by the FordPass app,” Balzer told Automotive Engineering during SmartLink’s recent media launch in metro Detroit. It gives owners the ability to lock/unlock car doors, or remote start the vehicle if factory-equipped with the engine technology.

“Our customers will have command and control of a number of different connected features,” she asserted.

Virtual perimeter settings are possible with geo-fencing. “Parents of teenage drivers could set geo-fences and receive notifications by text and/or email if the vehicle leaves a geo-fence area,” said Balzer. In addition, a live tracking mode enables vehicle monitoring as a signal is sent to a cellular tower every two seconds.

The device’s accelerometer can detect motion. If someone is tampering with the vehicle, the owner would receive a text or email alert. “You set the motion detection’s sensitivity, so if you want to know if someone ‘jiggles’ the door handle, you’ll be alerted,” she noted.

Diagnostic trouble codes are relayed via the smartphone as short descriptions about the vehicle’s health.

“It’s no longer just an illuminated gauge icon,” Balzer explained. “The system translates what an illuminated icon means in ‘customer-speak’ language and indicates whether to stop driving immediately or schedule a dealership appointment.”

FordPass SmartLink customers pay $16.99 a month for a 24-month contract that includes the device’s purchase and telematics services. Dealer installation of the device is a separate cost. The two-year contract includes a complimentary trial of a Verizon 4G LTE WiFi hotspot with 1 gigabyte or 30 days of data, whichever comes first. Continued use of the WiFi hotspot requires customers to add the device to an existing Verizon account or establish a new account.

By 2019, all new Ford vehicles will be built with embedded-modem connectivity.

 

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