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Viper's new iPhone app replaces your keychain

The new Viper Smart Start iPhone app can lock and unlock your car with your iPhone. It can even turn it on in case you want to defrost it before getting in.

The Viper Smart Start app can control your car from wherever you are, as long as you have a data connection on your iPhone or iPod Touch. Directed Electronics

Car security company Directed Electronics is unveiling a new iPhone application Tuesday that lets customers control parts of their Viper SmartStart-enabled vehicle from their iPhone or iPod Touch.

The app, called Viper SmartStart, is quite similar toZipcar's recently released iPhone app, except it can work with your car, and not one you're renting for the weekend. It, too, creates a virtual keychain control module that can do things like lock and unlock your vehicle, open the trunk, and activate the alarm, getting rid of the need to carry around one of those keychain clickers as long as you've got your phone handy.

Coolest of all, though, there's a "Smart Start" button in the center of the screen that can turn on your vehicle. The company is promoting this as a simple way to defrost or cool off a car before you get in--that is, assuming you correctly set the climate controls the last time you were inside.

Since the app uses the iPhone's data connection to send the commands, you can control your car (or cars) from anywhere you have an EDGE or 3G signal. It also means you can use it on a non-cellular data device like the iPod Touch, as long as it's near Wi-Fi.

The app is completely free, but it requires you have Viper's SmartStart system installed in each car you want to take control of. This costs $499 for a new installation, or $299 for cars that already have a Viper alarm system, as well as an active subscription to Viper's Smart Start service. Buyers of the system get a year of the $29.99 service included when they get the service installed; then they have to pay after that.

I'm still waiting for a version that can give you live video and steering controls, like the ridiculous, yet awesome remote-controlled BMW in "Tomorrow Never Dies" Though something tells me that's not happening anytime soon.

You can watch the company's promo video after the break.

Correction 9:07 a.m. on October 13: This story initially misidentified the remote-controlled car and James Bond film it was featured in. It is a BMW, and it appeared in "Tomorrow Never Dies."