Let's be honest: Bluetooth isn't the most beloved product on the market. As communications technologies go, it's a huge battery hog, it's notoriously buggy, any many folks would rather listen to radio static and miss calls than try to pair their phone with an in-dash system.
However, a new version of Bluetooth recently arrived on the scene, and it's hoping to change the way we think about wireless communications. It's called "Bluetooth Low Energy", and a company called FMC Smart is leveraging it to make finding your parked car a little easier.
In a nutshell, FMC Smart has developed an app for the iPhone 4S called "Find My Car Smart". Despite the clunky name, the app sounds pretty nifty: users can park their vehicles anywhere they like and simply walk away. When they're ready to head home, they crack open "Find My Car Smart", and the app guides them right to their vehicles.
If this sounds familiar, it should: there are dozens of similar apps available for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows phones, but all involve the extra step of users establishing a vehicle's location before they leave it behind. For folks in a rush, that's a real pain.
"Find My Car Smart" works a little differently. The app works in conjunction with a Bluetooth Smart Tag dongle. (It wouldn't be a Mac product without a dongle, right?) Since this is a Bluetooth app, users will need to pair their phone with the dongle -- but they only need to do that once. Afterward, the phone and the dongle will automatically pair, with the latter keeping track of the car's whereabouts.
The good, the bad
On the upside, "Find My Car Smart" clearly makes it easier for drivers to locate their vehicles in crowded parking lots, garages, and on the streets. After the initial setup, it works passively, and the app costs just 99 cents.
On the downside, the FMC Smart FAQ doesn't entirely inspire us with confidence. If the app stops running in the background, its unclear what effect that might have on finding a particular vehicle. And of course, even though this is the new "low-energy" version of Bluetooth, there are hints of major battery drain for folks who run more than just a couple of errands each day.
Also annoying? The cost of the dongle itself -- around $32. That's in addition to any USB adapters that might need to be purchased to make the dongle work.
If you're the sort of person who's in and out of the car all day long, "Find My Car Smart" could be the perfect app for you. (It might also come in handy in tracking down stolen vehicles -- provided the thieves don't disable the dongle.) However, we wouldn't be surprised to see similar apps hit the market down the road -- apps that rely on more consumer-friendly technology, like NFC.
Is this the sort of app you'd be willing to shell out for? Or can you keep tabs on your parking in other ways? Drop us a line, or leave a note in the comments below.