Ford SmartLink plug-in gives Wi-Fi hotspot and remote control of features from smart phones

Smart phone contolling Ford electronics

A plug-in into a Ford or Lincoln’s electronics will enable an owner to use a smart phone to start a car remotely, or to provide an in-car Wi-Fi hotsport for up to eight devices.

Car companies are in the business of selling new cars, so it’s surprising to see Ford help owners of earlier models update them with hot new feature available on new vehicles in dealer showrooms. Using a simple plug-in to the OBD II port of a 2010 through 2016 Ford or Lincoln vehicle will give it remote start, lock and unlock, Wi-Fi access capable of hosting up to eight devices, and vehicle health, security and location alerts, all from the owner’s smart phone.

It was a multi-party project. Ford said that it took two years collaboration of Ford SmartLink engineers with Delphi Automotive and Verizon Telematics to make sure the system work seamlessly.

“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,” said Raj Nair, executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer.

Ford says components of Ford SmartLink include a 4G LTE-enabled OBD II plug-in device, as well as a companion App and Web Portal used to activate remote features, receive alerts and schedule service appointments with the owner’s preferred dealer.

“OBD II”—which stands for Onboard Diagnostics Two—is a universal plug used for by mechanics to analyze a vehicle’s electronic control systems, checking for faults with universal diagnostic equipment. Ford didn’t say, however, whether the plug-in, which would be easy to insert into the OBD II socket under the steering column, will require a visit to a dealership’s service department or whether it will be installable by a reasonably handy owner.

Ford also didn’t report the price of the hardware, but did say it would be available “starting this summer.”

Technology creep—the downward availability of new features—has become more of a technology rush. It’s a surprise, however, that Ford would spend the time and expense in adding technology to vehicles it had already sold. And a delight for older—if older means 2010 through 2016—and less expensive Fords and Lincolns.