12 Volt: Everything Including the SYNC!
It all sounds great, but we specifically questioned if any SYNC features are lost by swapping head units. Rutledge comments “Nothing is lost. In fact, the user experience is really upgraded. In vehicles without OEM navigation, the radio display is a simple one- or two-line character-based LCD. So to see your metadata, you need to press a button to cycle through the Artist, Song, Album and so on. With our solution, you can see all the text on a modern 4 line color display.”
Nice. Nothing more frustrating than seeing truncated song data on the typical 10-character Ford LCD display. After all, for the customer’s $12.95, they probably know ‘Maroon 5 fe’ has another famous pop star singing, but they want to see ‘Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera.’ The iDataLink Maestro even lets them see ‘Moves Like Jagger!’
Rutledge continued, “Browsing the phonebook and call logs are enhanced in a similar fashion, just as the metadata display in satellite radio. Additionally, several direct controls are added to do things like ‘turn on repeat’ or ‘random play modes.’”
The user even gets the benefit of directly accessing the available Bluetooth devices setup menu. “So, the user really gets not only to retain the use of the Microsoft SYNC system, but to interact with it in a safer and simpler manner. “
Now, the real acid test for any of these systems is if they will work in the trenches. After all, SYNC is a relatively sophisticated system that Ford never dreamed would be tapped into from the aftermarket. The computer itself is usually sourced from Continental AG (the tire people), the RAM is from Micron, the flash memory is from Samsung, all tied up with the Microsoft Auto software. It’s all controlled through the Ford CAN Bus and most of the time that means the steering wheel controls.
Since more functions will be available than usual with the aftermarket unit, you now get to offer your customers some choices. Rutledge walks us through a typical install: “All the installer has to do is flash the proper firmware into the Maestro RR module using the iDataLink website (www.idatalink.com). While programming, the installer will also be able to graphically assign one or two radio features to each of the existing OEM steering wheel buttons. Enabling two features on one steering-wheel button is a feature exclusive to the iDatalink Maestro module. In many cases, you have lots of radio features you want to control, but very few steering-wheel buttons. So you and your customer get to choose. With our solution, each button can do a primary function (just press it) and a secondary function (press and hold the button). This effectively doubles the number of features you can control and solves a big problem for the consumer. Then install the Maestro and Kenwood radio with the optional T-harness. Done!”
Automotive Data Solutions are not just looking to go after Ford products. Looking toward the future, Rutledge and Facciolo also hint at some of the upcoming General Motors solutions they have in store. “Imagine being able to swap out a GM radio and retain OnStar, Bluetooth, the OEM XM satellite tuner, warning and information chimes, premium amplified systems such as Bose with the assistance of only one black box?”
A Chrysler unit is in the works as well that will allow the user to keep UConnect hands free calling and any premium amplified sound systems without cutting into factory wiring. Anytime a customer is only interested in replacing the radio, these new systems sure sound like they are the way to fly. Especially for profits since it drastically reduces install times while giving the end user a better experience.