How to hack your car

You don’t need to buy a shiny, new BMW to get the latest in-car tech. Jonathan Bray reveals how to geek your ride, installing smart-car features in his 2008 Citroen Berlingo XTR

Passengers, storage and streaming

Equipment used

Seagate Wireless Plus
Price: £125 (£150 inc VAT)
Supplier: www.johnlewis.co.uk

Car hacks aren’t only for drivers – they can also keep passengers entertained. We wanted a centralised server of content that lives in the car, so passengers don’t need to transfer copies of music and movies to their devices before a journey.

The ideal device would seem to be some kind of wireless hard disk, along the lines of the 1TB Seagate Wireless Plus. Originally, we hoped to use this both as our USB music source for the Parrot Asteroid Smart head unit and for movie streaming, but it turns out that the wireless connection is disabled when anything is plugged into the Wireless Plus’ USB port.

Storage

Also, in pure wireless mode, the Parrot can’t index the music on the drive for the voice-search facility. We decided to save our music to an inexpensive, 32GB USB thumbdrive and plug that into the head unit, then put the videos on the Seagate Wireless Plus and run it as a dedicated wireless video server.
With the Seagate Media app installed on all our Android and iOS devices, everyone in the car is able to browse and stream the content on the disk. It’s battery-powered, but a DC input can be plugged into the lighter power socket.

Alternatives

With an Android system onboard, we shouldn’t have to put up with a fudge such as this. In theory, if you install a media-server app on the head unit, you should be able to share from your attached USB hard disk at the same time as playing music through the speakers of your car.

Once again, this setup isn’t as simple to achieve as it sounds. The internet connection in our vehicle is delivered by the Personal Hotspot feature on an Apple iPhone 5s, so the passenger devices aren’t able to use it to reach the media server running on the head unit.

The answer here is to purchase a pocket router such as the TP-Link TL-WR702N, which costs around £15, and use it to bridge to the iPhone 5s’ Personal Hotspot connection. This gives all the devices in the car internet access, and allows them to communicate with the head unit to stream music and video from the attached hard disk.

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