In-car app store and wi-fi hotspot
The car may be mobile and it is certainly a device but unless you were buying a brand new and quite expensive model it has so far not quite become at one with other mobile devices. Now, a brand new start up company in the US have launched something that may well change all that and not just for new cars, it will work in cars from as long ago as 2001.
The Vinli device is a small black box that plugs into a little known socket that is present in all UK cars since 2001. This socket, often located under the dashboard is what mechanics use to plug in vehicle diagnostic tools, it is nothing new but so far no one has used it for such a unique device. Vinli offers a number of things but the general aim is to turn you car into much more of a true mobile device by allowing it to generate it's own wi-fi field and have its own app store.
The primary function of Vinli for many people would be that it is able to create a wi-fi hotspot within the car. For many people this will be a revolution, if you needed to do some work on your laptop in a lay-by, for example, you would no longer need to try and tether your laptop to your smart phone and use 3 or 4G. Parents will be excited to not have to download movies onto tablets for the kids in the back before a journey, with Vinli they can stream directly from the internet as they would at home. There are of course some potential downsides to this, after all nothing is perfect. The first issue would be signal strength, it's all well and good having a wi-fi hotspot in the car but only if the car itself can get a good enough signal to make the wi-fi useable. The second possible issue is the cost, as this is only out in the US so far there is no real idea of how much data would cost and who might be a provider.
Vinli also offers a car specific app store and this part certainly is quite exciting. There is an app in the store that tells you when the car is moving and you are not in it; a very useful security feature. Other apps include one that can monitor the speed and behaviour of the car, this could be especially useful for parents of driving children, what better way to know they are behaving themselves behind the wheel without having to ask them.The final and potentially very important app in the Vinli armory is a diagnostic tool. By hooking into the cars computer the app is able to tell you if you need to put oil in the car, if there is an engine problem, and where the problem is, it will also be able to monitor many more sensors and fuel consumption data too. The idea of a plug in diagnostic tool that can be used on the move really is a revolution but only if it works properly.
It may seem like the greatest idea anyone has ever had, but only if it actually does what it is meant to and it does it well. At a cost of just £64 ($99) the Vinli device does offer a great deal, and the fact that it will fit most cars certainly gives it even more appeal but if it never gets a good signal, and the apps give incorrect data about an engine fault it might not seem like such a great idea.
If it works, it will be quite something, if it doesn't it won't really be anything at all.