Are you happy with your present vehicle but harboring a little dashboard tech envy? AT&T and Harman are ready with a car plug-in solution that pairs with a smartphone app to digitally empower your ride with features such as a Wi-Fi hot spot, roadside assistance, geofencing, and more.
As of September 28, 2018, AT&T will offer the Harman Spark as a stand-alone mobile device or as an addition to existing AT&T Unlimited and Mobile Share plans.
The Spark will retail for $80. Required monthly rate plans will start at $5 without Wi-Fi. For an unspecified but limited time, people who buy a Samsung Galaxy S9, S9+, or Note 9 can also purchase a Spark for $30.
To use the Spark’s digital features, download the app from the App Store or Google Play and plug the device in your car or truck’s OBD II (onboard diagnostics) port under the steering wheel. According to AT&T, the Spark device and app work with most 1996 and newer vehicles.
Harman uses Tantalum’s connected car platform to access a menu of digital services.
“Consumers today are looking for simple devices that make their lives efficient and seamless. Harman Spark allows them to easily and affordably transform older vehicles into smart cars of the future with connected applications,” said Sanjay Dhawan, Harman CTO and president.
With a monthly rate plan that includes Wi-Fi, the Spark Wi-Fi hot spot lets you and your passengers connect up to eight digital devices to stream media, play games, search the web, catch up with email, or hang out on social networking sites. AT&T data rates will apply.
Vehicle security and maintenance features include emergency crash assistance and a virtual mechanic to let you know if the car needs attention. A Spark feature called WatchIt sends an alert if your vehicle is bumped, towed, or moved and tracks its location with an onboard GPS. You can also use the Spark app to call and pay for roadside assistance at your precise location.
The Spark app’s family of fleet management features includes vehicle location tracking and geofencing, with which you can set map boundaries and receive alerts when the vehicle enters or exits selected areas.
Other potentially helpful Spark app features include trip records that include expense tracking and driving habits, a place to store vehicle service records, and an overall driving score.
“With Harman Spark, just about any car can be transformed into an LTE connected car,” said Chris Penrose, president of Internet of Things Solutions within AT&T. “You get the most advanced connected services available on new cars plus some that you can’t get anywhere else.”