Speaking the Language
Automotive Data Solutions
Automotive Data Solutions Inc. (ADS), headquartered in Montreal, is an innovative manufacturer of after-market technology. Among other areas, the company specializes in remote start and audio integration products. Over the past fourteen years, ADS has grown from a small team of five to having one hundred employees across Canada and the United States. In 2018, it sold over one million devices.
Automotive Data Solutions Inc. (ADS) got started back in 2005 when a then veteran mobile electronics sales executive and a rookie hardware engineer who introduced the iDatalink ADS-ALCA, the first universal, web-programmable “immobilizer bypass” interface module – essentially a little black box – which made it possible to install aftermarket remote start systems, without needing to bury or hide a key somewhere in the vehicle.
“Car manufacturers started implementing security features in their vehicles which required that the vehicle only start if the key had a chip in it (called an immobilizer system) that the vehicle recognized,” says Automotive Data Solutions Inc. Marketing Director Dan Facciolo. “You couldn’t install a remote car starter system without literally having a key in the vehicle.”
The old method of getting around this was to hide a physical key somewhere in the car and wire it to the remote car starter for the remote starter to work. But now the interfaced module emulates the key that would typically be buried in the car with the car starter system, to trick the vehicle into thinking a key is in there. It is no longer necessary to use an actual key because the little black box acts as that key.
At one time, there were a lot of makers of vehicle specific modules – a different one for every car manufacturer. But then ADS’s CEO and engineer invented a universal module that could be programmed online for multiple makes and models. “That was our claim to fame in 2005 when the company was launched,” says Facciolo.
Eventually, ADS became a manufacturer of complete remote start systems, and in 2012, it branched out into the audio interface market, and that business took off. The company has partnered with all the major radio manufacturers including Alpine, JVC, Kenwood, Pioneer, and Sony. It also has partnerships with well-known amplifier manufacturers and radar detector manufacturers that actually include a port behind their product that only plugs into an ADS product.
Today, the company studies hundreds of new vehicles every year to make sure its products and third-party products seamlessly integrate with new vehicle models as they hit the market.
ADS specializes in reverse-engineering vehicles to figure out how they communicate commands. “Essentially, cars are a network of systems that communicate between each other via different protocols or languages,” says Facciolo. “A long time ago, you could just wire a remote car starter or car radio directly to the car. Today, you need interfaces to help those devices speak with the car; otherwise they won’t work. And that’s what we do.”
This gives Automotive Data Solutions a unique advantage. Few companies have that same capability to “speak the vehicles’ languages,” even if many companies produce aftermarket devices. So, many companies depend on ADS to make their products work. “Our expertise is really knowing the vehicle technologies inside out and enabling other companies to keep selling the products they’re making,” says Facciolo.
In today’s vehicles, installing those devices can be tricky. For example, volume buttons on most steering wheels speak to the original car radio, so they will not speak to an aftermarket radio without losing the ability to control the volume with those buttons. The ADS control module, however, restores all original features and makes them work on the new radio. “You can’t just install a car radio in any car today, if you do, you’re going to lose some functionality,” says Facciolo.
ADS was founded on the guiding principles of elevating the automotive aftermarket industry through innovation and collaboration and taking care of its people. “We’re firm believers in bringing our industry to the next level. Many well-known consumer brands in our space have been in business for a long time but don’t have the internal engineering expertise to keep on top of evolving vehicle technologies. We want to share our knowledge to enable these companies to keep innovating in their respective areas of expertise,” says Facciolo.
In recent years, automakers have been partnering with third-party technology and service providers to launch the “connected car” or “connected services” in telematics-equipped vehicles, such as vehicle tracking, turn-by-turn directions, preventative maintenance warnings, car sharing, remote fuelling, or in-car delivery. And while these innovative solutions are presently only available on select new vehicles, ADS’s connected technology will soon allow consumers to access – and fleet operators to offer – these same hi-tech features, on most vehicle makes and models, regardless of how old or new they are.
Now, fleet managers and car rental companies want to find a way to enable easier car sharing, where it would be app-based and where users do not need to exchange keys to rent a vehicle. “Essentially, the user would approach the vehicle with a smartphone, a digital handshake would happen, and the user would be able to unlock the doors and leave with the vehicle without exchanging keys,” says Facciolo. “Because when the key is physically in the vehicle (as it is today), there’s always the risk of theft.”
Luckily, through its expertise, ADS can develop systems that do not require keys for most vehicles.
ADS is proud of its many accomplishments and has received many industry awards for its iDatalink, iDatastart, and iDatalink Maestro lines. It also holds several industry-exclusive patents. Its iDatastart and iDatalink Maestro products are sold through a network of authorized distributors, car audio specialist shops and car dealerships across Canada and the U.S.
Authorized dealers of these products in Canada include Visions Electronics, Speedy Glass, Action Car & Truck Accessories, Apple, DPB, Lebeau, DURO, Vitroplus, and Ziebart, and not only can iDatastart products be found at most new car dealerships, but also nationally at Kia and Nissan dealerships Canada-wide, while authorized dealers in the United-States include Best Buy, Car Toys, Al & Ed’s and Tint World. ADS’s products are also available online through Crutchifeld.com.
There is a longstanding stigma associated with adding new technology to older vehicles, and some dealerships may inadvertently stoke those fears by warning against the installation of aftermarket systems to new vehicles for fear that it will affect the car’s features and functionality, but ADS wants to put those fears to rest.
If and when a consumer is in the market for remote start system, infotainment or sound system, ADS’s integration solutions allows them to add the features they want while seamlessly keeping the factory features they love. “There’s no need to be afraid to upgrade your car with a remote start or audio system; we actually make it quite seamless right now, both from an installation and functionality standpoint,” says Facciolo. “We offer high-quality systems that don’t change the way your car works.”
As expert automotive linguistic specialists, Automotive Data Solutions will continue finding innovative solutions and developing breakthrough systems which enable other companies also to continue to sell their products. ADS has every intention of being at the forefront of this new technology as it moves towards the “connected car” which will no doubt present many new and exciting opportunities.