iPhone App Starts Your Car Remotely

PHOTO Like something out of a James Bond movie, a new iPhone application promises to remotely unlock, start and warm your car.

Just when you thought developers had exhausted the iPhone's potential to impress, here comes another: An application that promises to remotely unlock, start and warm your car from almost anywhere in the world.

Called Viper SmartStart, the app was launched earlier this week by Directed Electronics, a vehicle security and remote start systems designer, and can be downloaded for free from Apple's App store.

Using an existing remote car starting system from Viper, with a tap of a few buttons on your iPhone, your car can be started, warmed up and humming, just waiting for you to hit the road.

Although remote starting systems for cars usually have a limited line-of-sight range, Viper says its system has "virtually unlimited range" since your iPhone, not the original remote, communicates over cell networks with your car.

"We think customers will find all sorts of unique and personal value in Viper SmartStart," Mike Simmons, EVP of Directed Electronics' parent company, DEI Holdings, said in a statement. "Whether helping out her husband, who's locked his keys in the car, or securely locking her keys and purse in the car while she takes a jog with some music on her iPhone, we expect to hear about some uses we never anticipated."

Once the Viper SmartStart hardware is professionally installed in the car, the iPhone can also be used to defrost windows, cool down the vehicle in warmer weather, unlock the trunk or activate a panic alarm.

But though the app is free, the hardware that will actually make it work with your car is quite pricey.

The system will only work if paired with one of two Viper SmartStart systems that go for $499 (for those who don't already have a remote start system) and $299 (for those who do have remote start). The first year of service is free but, subsequently, service is $29.99 a year.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of applications -- from the silly to the serious -- for wireless handheld devices.

Here is a sampling:

App Turns iPhone Into 'Sleaze Detector'

Sleaze ball or sweetheart? A new iPhone app claims it can help singles tell the difference.

Launched in September by information commerce firm Intelius, Date Check lets users perform instant background checks on potential dates from their mobile phones.

Once it's downloaded on an iPhone, the application only needs a name or cell phone number to search publicly available records.

If you activate the app's Sleaze Detector, it scans criminal records to determine if anyone with that name has been charged with drug possession, assault and battery, sex crimes, DUI and other offenses.

If you click Net Worth, it looks for information about home ownership and property value.

It can also check social networking sites, such as LinkedIn to provide employment and education information.

"Date Check is like having a private investigator in your purse," John Arnold, co-founder of Intelius and executive vice president of business development, said in a statement. "Letting a stranger into your life is a huge risk, and in the age of Internet anonymity, a simple online search isn't enough to tell you everything you need to know. "

This application, the company said, "gives singles a safer way to mingle."

But though the app itself is free, the services can cost up to $40, depending on the kind of searches that are selected.

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