​Samsung's new dongle will connect your auto to the Web

The 4G LTE Samsung Connect Auto dongle for OBD II vehicles joins the crowded connected-car space.

Photo by Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

Samsung joins the connected-car accessory space today with the announcement of the Samsung Connect Auto dongle at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

No stranger to stiff opposition in the mobile-phone space, Samsung will be entering a very crowded market filled with smaller, more established competitors such as the Vinli and Automatic; big carrier-backed products such as AT&T's ZTE Mobley and Verizon Wireless' Delphi Connect; and automotive OEMs pushing connected vehicles off the assembly line with features like OnStar 4G LTE and Audi Connect.

Like the Vinli and other rival gadgets, the Samsung Connect Auto is a little plastic box, powered by the Tizen OS, that plugs directly into the host vehicle's OBD II port -- usually found under the steering wheel or in the driver's footwell. Once connected, the device can monitor the vehicle's operation, providing updates on eco driving efficiency through the use of proprietary algorithms that analyze miles traveled, time on the road and price per gallon.

Unlike, say, the Automatic driving monitor, Samsung Connect Auto does not appear to connect directly to the driver's smartphone via Bluetooth. Instead, it will make use of an onboard 4G LTE data connection to beam gathered data and location info to a cloud-based server, where it will be analyzed and used to provide functions such as a "Find My Car" real-time GPS app; travel logs and expense reports for professionals; usage-based insurance; and other safety services and features via smartphone apps for Android and iOS.

Keeping that data safe on its way up to and back down from the cloud is Samsung KNOX, a "defense-grade mobile security platform," which we've seen in use on Samsung's Galaxy-series of mobile phones.

Samsung's Connect Auto dongle enters a market crowded with similar products, such as the Vinli (pictured here).

Photo by Antuan Goodwin/CNET

That 4G LTE connection will also be used to provide Wi-Fi hotspot functions for passengers' mobile devices. Samsung's release states that AT&T will be the first provider of the wireless data connection when Connect Auto launches in the US in Q2 of this year, but the release is worded in a way that seems to suggest that it won't be the last. The dongle will find its way into vehicles globally by Q3 2016.

Other companies currently participating as part of Samsung's connected-car ecosystem include Amdocs, AXA, Blink by Agero, China Unicom, Cisco, Crawford & Company, Ericsson, Europcar, HERE, IBM, Jasper, Oberthur Technologies, Openbay, Orange, Tantalum and Willis Towers Watson.

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