Category Archives: automotive

SkyLink Brings the Garage into the Smart Home at CES 2018

Remote controlled garage doors haven’t been particularly secure in the past and many people have disabled the feature because of the risk of break-ins to their homes through the garage. Todd and Frank discuss the problem and look at SkyLink Nova, a retrofit WiFi door opener.

The SkyLink Nova is wired into an existing garage door opener using the standard connections used for the interior open/close button. Once connected up, the Nova can be remotely controlled with the SkyLink smartphone app (iOS and Android). Nova is also compatible with If This Then That (IFTTT) platform and Alexa so the garage door can be opened (or closed) by talking to an Echo.

The Nova itself looks like an LED light fixture and works as a smart home hub too, communicating with up to 100 smart devices. In addition, it can detect sirens from smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the house. When one of those is heard, Nova will automatically open your garage door to aid in ventilation in the case of an emergency. (I can see how this might help with CO poisoning but surely opening the door during a fire could make things worse?)

SkyLink‘s Nova will be on sale in the spring for under US$100.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at

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Autoaid Put a Camera in Car Headlight for CES 2018

At CES 2018, autoaid will be showing off the new Automotive Bulb Camera, combining a high resolution camera and car headlight into standard H7 and H4 lamp fittings. Consequently the camera system can be retrofitted to the vast majority of cars on the road, avoiding expensive specialist redesigns or clunky dashboard attachments. The Berlin-based startup expects the cameras to record traffic video for the training and development of autonomous driving systems. In addition the camera can provide real-time data to in-car driving assistance systems.

Aiming at developers of autonomous driving systems, the autoaid Automotive Bulb Camera is a high-resolution camera which is integrated into a halogen or LED automotive lamp using standard fittings. There’s no need to change anything in the headlight itself and the car still looks like a standard model. The camera communicates with autoaid’s new telematics platform, recording video and joining other driving information, such as steering, acceleration, braking, location, to the dataset. This is passed onto autoaid’s servers, which then uses object recognition to pick out vehicles, traffic lights, signs and so on. This detailed information on driver behaviour can be used to training autonomous systems. For car buyers, the solution also offers attractive driving aids such as a lane-keeping assistant or a collision warning system.

Moritz Funk, founder and CEO of autoaid, sums up the benefits: “The Automotive Bulb Camera can be retrofitted into virtually all vehicles more easily and seamlessly than any other prior
camera. Without visible changes to the car, new assistance systems are enabled for the end customers, while the industry is provided with the urgently needed data pool for the further development of autonomous driving.

If you want to know more, autoaid are at booth 2401 at CES 2018 or watch the video below.

Genesis Virtual Guide Teaches Owners About Their Vehicle

Genesis Motor America is headquartered in Fountain Valley, California. It distributes, markets, and services Genesis vehicles in the United States. Augmented reality (AR) has come to your luxury car with the Genesis Augmented Reality Manual.

The Genesis Augmented Reality Manual (Genesis Virtual Guide) is now available for the 2017 Genesis G80 and Genesis G90 as a free download on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Genesis Virtual Guide is a modern take on the traditional owner’s manual, allowing consumers to use their smartphone or tablet to get how-to information for repairs, maintenance, and vehicle features. Using 2-D and 3-D tracking technology, the Virtual Guide is able to deliver in-depth levels of information related to specific parts of Genesis vehicles. The manual will be compatible with 2018 models later this year.

To maximize on customer value, Genesis used quality and consumer survey results to determine the top features to incorporate into the Virtual Guide. The app contains a number of informational guides including: 135 how-to videos and 25 3-D overlay images that appear once users scan areas of their vehicle, like the engine bay. A complete owner’s manual is also included inside the app.

Gone are the days of flipping through pages of novel length owner’s manuals. Users simply launch the Genesis Virtual Guide app on their device and select their vehicle. Once the Virtual Guide is open, the user can select engine, interior, exterior, instrument cluster or Genesis videos from the menu.

Users hold their smartphone or tablet camera in front of the area of the car when they need more information, then simple to understand visuals appear.

The Genesis Virtual Guild can virtually identify and provide convenient how-to information on the following features:

  • Smart Cruise Control
  • Bluetooth phone pairing
  • Warning indicators
  • Clock
  • Smart trunk
  • Engine oil
  • Brake fluid
  • Fuse box
  • Air filter
  • Batter jump start
  • Washer fluid
  • Spare tire installation

Wireless Charging

I‘ve always been a bit on the fence when it comes to wireless charging. The wireless charger itself still needs to be plugged in with a wire.

Back in October I ended up buying a Samsung wireless charger when I upgraded phones. I ended up using it a bit, but generally found that it was more desirable to physically plug my phone in at home in order to take advantage of the super fast wired Samsung charging. The wireless charging process was not as fast and therefore not as convenient when needing to give the phone a quick 10 or 15 minute juice-up.

So, the wireless charger mostly sat unused.

Recently I bought a new car, a 2017 Toyota Yaris iA. The new car has a space in front of the gear shift in the mid center stack perfect for a large phone that includes USB and a 12-volt power socket. I found myself wondering if I plugged the Samsung wireless charger into a 2.1 amp-12 volt power source, would the wireless charger work properly or not.

I experimented and found that the wireless charger works perfectly well with a 2.1 amp 12-volt power source. The next steps were easy. I used a quantity of the rubber grip mat stuff to make the forward slanted phone area flat, and plugged in the Samsung wireless charger. Since the 12-volt socket only has power when the car’s ignition is turned on, I can simply leave the 12-volt charger plugged in all the time just as if it were in my house connected to an AC power source without fear of it running down the car’s battery.

When I get in the car, I simply lay the phone on the Samsung wireless charger and as soon as the ignition comes on while I’m driving the phone is charging without me having to futz around with plugging wires in. Also, the phone connects to the car’s audio system via stereo Bluetooth, making for a 100% seamless experience.

My conclusion is that wireless charging is most useful in an automotive environment, provided that there’s a flat, convenient area for the wireless charger to rest and the power socket is tied to the car’s ignition.

Thinkware F800 Dash Cam Wins CES Innovation Award

Dash cams are a big growth market at present and there’s plenty of innovation in the space from both established automotive brands to new tech startups. The team at Thinkware have innovated with the new F800 Air connected dash cam, borrowing ideas from the Internet of Things to make a “smart” dash cam.

To start with, the F800 Air can text emergency contacts when it detects a crash or collision, much like some of the manufacturer units. Obviously the F800 can be installed in any vehicle, not just a new one. Next, the dash cam constantly monitors the vehicle while parked and notifies the owner via text if there’s any untoward movement such as a door being dinged. Finally, upcoming F800 features will support geo-fencing and driver assessment, which is perfect for the parent who wants to loan their vehicle out to son or daughter and check that they’re driving safely.

Thinkware stated, “With the innovative ‘connected car’ technologies, the dash cam will take on an important role in providing both driver convenience and safety and the continued evolution of the capabilities of the dash cam seem boundless with IoT.

The F800 Air looks much more stylish too with the camera housed in an aluminium pod to one side. All this tech and good design means that it is a worthy winner of a CES 2017 Innovation Award in the car audio/video category. The dash cam is in the final stages of development and is expected to be available in 2017, but no price has been confirmed.

If you are at CES this year, the Thinkware F800 is at Sands Expo, LV.2 Booth 42572. Check it out.

Ford’s Pre-Collision Assist Helps You Avoid “Petextrians”

Ford points out that we live in the “Age of Petextrians”.  You might not recognize the word Petextrian, but you have seen them around. Petextrians are distracted walkers. They are the people walking around, staring at their phones (and possibly texting). Petextrians are not watching where they are going, so they risk ending up in dangerous situations.

Ford wants to help you avoid collisions with Petextrians. Ford has created a driver-assist feature called Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection. Making its North American debut in the 2017 Ford Fusion, the available Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection can reduce the severity of frontal collisions and, in some cases, avoid them altogether.

Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection uses radar and camera technology to scan the roadway ahead and sounds a warning if there is a risk of collision with a vehicle or pedestrian. If the driver does not respond in time, the system can apply up to a full braking force to help reduce the severity of or even illuminate some frontal collisions. Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection is not a replacement for an alert and aware human behind the wheel.


Continental Named as CES 2017 Innovation Awards Honoree

continental-logoContinental, an international automotive supplier and technology company, announced that it has been named a CES 2017 Innovation Awards Honoree in the Vehicle Intelligence category for its Short Range Radar with Trailer Merge Assist and Trailer Length Detection technology.

Continental’s state-of-the-art Short Range Radar with Merge Assist and Trailer Length Detection is a “black box” sensor mounted in the rear/side area of the vehicle. The radar uses intelligent sensing with a new software feature allowing for the blind spot detection to be enhanced and extended by sophisticated object tracking, measurement and length detection algorithms allowing for the extended warning.

This is the first blind spot warning system that allows a driver to enjoy the function without driver input even while towing a trailer. Systems without this feature either disable the warning while towing a trailer or experience unintended or false warnings from the trailer.

The Short Range Radar is just one environmental sensor within Continental’s comprehensive product portfolio of future-oriented advanced drive assistance systems (ADAS). Continental offers ADAS safety products and functions, as well as system solutions for assisted and automated driving including Long Range Radar, Camera, Surround View, High Flash 3-D Lidar and electronic control units.

Visit Continental at CES 2017, Thursday, January 5 through Sunday, January 8, at North Hall Booth #3128. Continental’s Short Range Radar with Trailer Merge Assist and Trailer Length Detection will be displayed at CES 2017.

Choetech 33W USB-C Car Charger Review

Choetech LogoGenerally USB car chargers fall into the dull but essential class of gadgets and with today’s power-hungry smartphones, they’re more essential than ever.  The market’s in a state of transition too, with new USB-C and various fast charging technologies vying for supremacy. On review here is Choetech’s 33W USB-C Car Charger (TC0002), which is a little misleading as the charger not only has USB-C, there’s a USB-A port too which supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0. Let’s take a look.

Choetech Car Charger Box

The packaging is minimal with the TC0002 held in a plain cardboard box with the branding on a card slip cover. Inside the box there are only three things; the charger, some instructions and a help sheet. The charger is much as you’d expect with a short barrel for the 12V power socket which them morphs gently into a slightly rectangular face with the two USB ports. The design is pleasing and there’s a small blue LED located between the ports which lights up to show that there’s power. When inserted into the power socket, the charger protrudes by about two  centimetre, perhaps a little less – see the picture below of the charger installed in my car (yes, my car’s a little dusty).

Choetech Car Charger Install

The USB-C socket will supply 5V at 3A, and the USB-A sockets supports the Quick Charge voltages of 5V, 9V and 12V with output currents of (up to) 2.4A, 2.0A and 1.5A respectively. Obviously you need a QC supporting smartphone or tablet to take advantage of the higher charging rates and everything else will use their standard 5V rating.

Choetech Car Charger

I plugged in a range of different devices from a OnePlus 2 to Samsung S6 (which is only QC2) and Nexus tablets. All charged at what I would characterise as their fastest rate and it didn’t seem to matter to the charging whether there was one device or two plugged in.

In summary, the Choetech 33W car charger is the ideal car charger for those who need both USB-A and USB-C charging. The neat and unobtrusive design will fit neatly in most cars, I imagine, and the blue light is handy for locating the sockets in the dark. Currently on for GB£10.99, it’s competitively priced too.

There’s an unboxing video below, but annoyingly there’s a pulsing background noise. Sorry.

Thanks to Choetech for supplying the charger for review.

Ferrari Arrives On Instagram

Ferrari LogoWhen it comes to objects of desire, a Ferrari is close to the top of many a wish list. The gorgeous shapes, the fabulous sound and rich racing history are all part of the aura surrounding the Italian company and the famous prancing horse. It’s perhaps a little surprising then that it’s taken this long for Ferrari to join Instagram and show off the red supercars in all their glory.

Social media isn’t new to Ferrari, with active accounts on both Facebook and Twitter, but Instagram is the obvious platform for pictures and now, sound. As well as the visual treats, Ferrari have recorded aural delights to get more senses involved. It’s all very current too with the first set of photos fresh from last weekend’s Mille Miglia.

Lined up. #Ferrari #RossoFerrari #MilleMiglia

A photo posted by Ferrari (@ferrari) on

Follow @Ferrari to keep those dreams alive!

Wearable Technology Show 2016

Wearable Technology Show 2016Earlier this week, GNC visited the Wearable Technology Show in London, England, to check out the state of this developing area. Part trade show and part conference, this was very much B2B territory with “I’ll give you a call next week” and “I’ll send through an NDA” being heard on more than one occasion. Although not a big show, covering only two halls at ExCeL, it incorporated IoT Connect and Augumented Reality VR. There was a strong international presence with exhibitors from Spain, Finland and China, and one person commented that he felt this was probably the #4 event after CES, IFA and MWC, which puts it in illustrious company.

Bonnie Binary Embroidered JacketThere was an interesting range of exhibitors from the big names like Samsung and TomTom to small entrepreneurs looking for help to take their products to the next level. Check out this embroidered jacket from Bonnie Binary with lights and controls sewn into the coat.

Jaguar were there showing off the F-PACE, a performance SUV stuffed with technology. Prices start from GB£35,000 but the First Edition model at the show was nearly twice that at £65,000. Jaguar F-PaceIf you’re wondering how this ties in with wearables, the car comes with a waterproof “activity key” wristband that replaces a traditional key fob. The car can also detect when the driver is tired and suggests taking a break. Stunning looking car.

Infi-tex Pressure Sensing ClothSmart fabrics were much in evidence too. With perhaps the longest track record in the industry, Infi-tex had a cloth that could do multipoint pressure sensing. See how the peaks correspond with the pressure from the fingers.

For the first time I left my trusty Olympus digital voice recorder behind and relied on my OnePlus 2 smartphone with IK Multimedia’s iRig Mic Cast and Sony’s Audio Recorder app for interviews. The iRig seems to cope with the background noise well and Audio Recorder records 44 kHz, 16 bit WAV files and I’m hoping that this will reduce the processing time for each interview. I bagged about 25 interviews and these will be pushed out over the coming weeks.

Watch this space!