With your cellphone, you upgrade every year or two when your device becomes obsolete. With a car, that’s a little bit trickier. Older cars don’t get to enjoy the latest in connected tech that new ones do, and upgrading is incredibly expensive.
Thus, a variety of aftermarket solutions have come to market, with Verizon now joining the fray. It’s launching a new product called Hum, which promises to make connecting your dumb car painless.
Hum, which was announced at the North American International Auto Show in January, consists of two main components: a dongle that plugs into your car’s OBDII diagnostic port and a bluetooth device that clips to the sun visor. It provides users with diagnostics, a mechanic’s hotline, a bluetooth phone interface and roadside assistance.
Think of it as OnStar meets Automatic meets Bluetooth speaker.
The guiding principle behind Hum was simplicity, as Michael Maddux, director of product for Verizon Telematics, explained to Mashable at a hands on preview in Manhattan. This isn’t a product designed with obsessive car enthusiasts in mind, but rather normal people who want additional safety and diagnostic features for their older cars.
Since it works with OBDII, it’s theoretically possible to install in any car sold in the U.S. after 1996 and it connects with an app for iOS and Android. Verizon won’t charge you for the hardware, but you have to subscribe to the service for $14.99 per month and $12.99 for any additional vehicles you want connected. Hum will also be available to anyone, not just Verizon cell subscribers
With the app, drivers can get data about their fuel economy and their car’s health. For example, if you turn your car on and see the Check Engine Light, the app can actually tell you why it’s on. This is more or less the same as what’s offered by the Automatic dongle.
Where Hum goes beyond Automatic is with its help hotline. You can use the visor device to call a Mechanic’s Hotline where an ASE-certified mechanic can help you make sense of the problem, telling you if it’s safe to drive and how much the repair will cost. Hum also features a button that can dial emergency services, using the GPS in the dongle to pinpoint your exact location.
An accelerometer in the dongle can even sense if you were in a crash and call 911 for you. One of the most unique parts about the Hum is that it can contact Verizon’s hotline or emergency services without using your phone.
It can also use its GPS to help you find where you parked, or help if your car is stolen.
Aside from the Mechanic’s Hotline, there isn’t much that’s terribly new here, but its packaged with the average consumer in mind. It doesn’t seem quite as rich as Automatic, which integrates with IFTTT, Nest and a host of other apps, but that might not matter so much.
The Hum is designed for the average consumer in mind, and the fact that it’s made by a big-name company like Verizon will certainly broaden its appeal.
In a lot of ways, the hurdle will be convincing consumers they want this.