With Vinli, cars are about to get apps. And not just cars made in the future. The system works with nearly any car made after 1996 and is compatible with Android and iOS devices. The company just launched on the Disrupt SF 2014 stage and announced that the Vinli device is available for pre-order.
Vinli plugs into a car’s ODB II port — a data interface equipped standard on cars since 1996. From there a smartphone connects to the device through Bluetooth and serves up a multitude of apps, anything from a safe teen driving app to an OnStar-like service to an Automatic clone. The whole platform is open and Vinli hopes developers latch onto the system.
Automobiles have been slow to gain true smartphone integration. The auto industry just rolls at a different pace than the consumer electronic world. Several attempts have been made, from the Ford Sync system to more recently Apple and Google’s automobile systems. But these require new vehicles or pricey upgrades. Vinli’s solution starts at just $49.99.
The dongle costs $49, but is expandable with little sort of backpacks that click into place. For $149 a buyer could get the complete package, which includes GPS, LTE, WiFi hotspot backpacks.
The company is already manufacturing Vinli in small batches and has built an impressive suite of apps that will be available when the product launches. Vinli is not going to launch to an empty marketplace. For instance, the app called Lock & Key locates the connected car and tells you if it’s on the move. eCall is an automated crash detection service much like OnStar and Beagle serves up functions aimed at teen drivers with speed tracking and geofencing.
Other apps, like Otto, can diagnose a car for maintenance issues and even have service shops bid on the work. And others still include Drive which logs trips and Race, which logs engine readings, location, and speeds. Then there are apps such as Home that connect to a thermostat and some garage doors.
But the best yet is Ride, Vinli’s Google Glass app that allows Glass wearers to have a dashboard of sorts. On their face. The app will send such notifications as school zones, low gas prices and real time information from the car to Google Glass.
The company also built a pack of business applications such as Fleet Tracking, which it promises will allow small to medium-size businesses to utilize toolsets generally reserved for larger enterprise companies.
The success of Automatic clearly shows that drivers are interested in gaining insight about their cars. However, where Automatic is a single-function device, Vinli’s platform is open and ripe for development.
The Vinli device is now available for pre-order and the company is not waiting on pre-order cash to start manufacturing. It is already being made in small batches and the company tells me they are in late-stage negotiations with Chinese manufacturers for mass production.