Panasonic's Car Navi Reaches Home While Away From Home

With all the time spent on the road, most drivers consider their cars to be their second homes. Reaching their primary home, however, is now easier-than-ever with Panasonic's latest car navigation system, which allows drivers to lock house doors, switch on the home airconditioning and even see what the pets are doing all while stuck in traffic.

The Panasonic Strada F-class car navigation system gives drivers the power and the convenience to operate home-based devices from remote location as long as they have a cell phone signal. Commands from the navigation system are sent to the owner's mobile phone over a Bluetooth link and then back to the home via a cellular Internet connection.

Users input their instructions to the navigation system, whose interface is somewhat similar to that of an ATM machine -- turning on the lights at home, for example, only takes a few pushes on the touch-panel screen. The instructions travel via the mobile network to a router at home that sends the commands on to the devices being controlled, which need to do capable of network control.

The F-class models can also link up with Panasonic home network cameras. While it's only possible to get a still image and not streaming video, it is enough to give owners a clear picture of what's happening at home.

The navigation system can also be used to program a digital video recorder to catch TV shows, as long as the recorder is from Panasonic.

The company aims to create a niche in the already saturated car navigation systems market by integrating such lifestyle oriented functions.

"Products such as our the Strada F-model navigation systems shows how committed we are to improving consumer lifestyle," said Kazuhiro Tsuga, the president of Panasonic's Automotive Systems, who spoke at a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The navigation system also comes upgraded in terms of picture quality. Employing improvements present in its Viera line of TVs, images are now clearer than before. Glare is also not a problem either as the screen automatically adjusts the brightness and color contrast depending on ambient light.

It doesn't come short in the entertainment side as it features the requisite DVD player, SD card slot and iPod USB terminal. Panasonic also teamed up with a professional music group called Mixer's Lab to ensure the system produces high-quality audio, Panasonic said.

The Strada F-class HDD (hard-disk drive) car navigation systems come in two different styles -- an in-dash type and a 2DIN type, both of which contain exactly the same functions. These are set to go on sale in Japan this June at retail price of ¥354,900 (US$3,380). There are no plans to sell them overseas.

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