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Tuesday, January 28, 2014, 05:40 pm PT (08:40 pm ET)

Automatic Link 'smart driving assistant' adds iBeacon functionality in software update

Automatic has added iBeacon support to its Automatic Link "smart driving assistant," opening up the possibility for remote payments, granular car location tracking and, of course, enhanced targeted ads.

Automatic


With the new update, Automatic Link can now use its built-in Bluetooth 4.0 capability to transmit and receive information within Apple's iBeacon ecosystem, reports TechCrunch.

According to Automatic cofounder Thejo Kote, the new functionality could lay the groundwork for a completely new set of car-specific iBeacon applications. The company is already looking at possible partnerships, though no official tie-ups have been announced.

For those unfamiliar with Automatic Link, the automotive accessory plugs into a car's on-board diagnostics (OBD) port to monitor various metrics like vehicle speed, fuel level and error reports. Some cars are equipped with more advanced sensors that track fuel consumption and other useful data, which can be transferred to Automatic's app for processing.

Automatic Link pairs with a user's iPhone to access the GPS module and wireless data network to offer a detailed breakdown of each car ride. From rough braking to jackrabbit starts, Automatic learns a user's habits to form recommendations on how to become a more efficient driver.

With iBeacon support and its cellular connection via the iPhone, Automatic Link's update could mark the first steps toward a truly "connected car." Potential advantages are numerous. In tandem with the iPhone, the platform would be able to offer automatic toll or gas payments, for example. Geo-fencing functions like automatic check-ins or smart home applications are also possible.

While a number of automotive accessory firms and car manufacturers offer a few hardware options to handle some of the above-described features, Automatic's plug-and-play setup and inexpensive hardware is likely more appealing to the general consumer.

As with any connected device, the data gathered may also be used for targeted advertisements based on usage data. It is unclear if Automatic's iBeacon implementation would allow for transmission of push advertising, though the base technology is two-way and can technically support such communication. For example, Apple's own iBeacon rollout furnishes users with real-time product information as they walk through an Apple Store.

For now, however, any speculation as to Automatic's plans remains just that. Until deals are inked and the device sees wider adoption, the addition of iBeacon is only a novelty.

The Automatic Link can be purchased for $100, while the recently-updated Automatic iOS app is a free 12.4MB download from the App Store.