The UK's major carriers have mobile all sewn up, and after a bit of broadband here and TV there, they're turning to other things to get their kicks, grow their brands and pad their bank accounts. For O2, that meant moving into smart home gear, and for Vodafone, that means launching a range of internet of things (IoT) devices under the banner "V by Vodafone." Available to Vodafone customers in the UK and a handful of other European countries from today is a car telematics dongle, pet tracker, bag tracker and connected camera, with more products due to join this launch lineup next year.
V-Auto is a little dongle that plugs into the OBD-II port of your car, provided your vehicle was manufactured in 2002 or later, since the port itself wasn't a common feature until then. Like many similar products of its type, the dongle allows you to track your car remotely, and it can also give you a driver safety rating for each journey based on the data it collects. If you happen to get into an accident, the dongle will know and the "Auto SOS" feature will kick in, first giving you a call to check everything's fine before notifying the emergency services if you don't pick up. The V-Auto device itself is £80, and requires a £4 per month subscription to keep it connected to Vodafone's network. Incidentally, O2 has an OBD-II dongle of its own that assesses how safely you drive as part of its car insurance scheme, O2 Drive.
V-Camera is basically an Arlo Go camera with a Vodafone SIM in it, meaning it doesn't need a WiFi connection to function. It's weatherproof, records at 720p, has a rechargeable battery supposedly good for one month of cordless operation, as well as motion and sound detection features. It's available for £339 upfront and £4 per month thereafter.
V-Pet is an activity and location tracker, from brand Kippy, you clip onto your dog or cat's collar. The main draw of this is you can be alerted when your hairy beast wanders outside of defined zones, and see where they've run off to should they go for a wander. The device is £50 and demands a £4 per month subscription. V-Bag, aka the Alcatel MOVETRACK, has the same feature-set as V-Pet, just without the activity tracking element. Not that you need that functionality when you're simply sticking it a bag to keep tabs on its location. V-Bag is £59 upfront and £3 per month thereafter.
These are all the products available through V by Vodafone right now, but if you already have an IoT device that supports a cellular connection, you can also pick up just a SIM. This costs £5 outright, and will set you back £3 or £4 per month depending on the device you're sticking it into. This standalone SIM will also be offered to third-party retailers next year so they have the option of bundling them with new and existing products. The benefit of being on the V by Vodafone platform, though, is users can manage all their connected devices through the one, Vodafone-branded app.
Vodafone has actually been playing around with IoT devices for several years, but primarily behind the closed doors of its "xone" program. The carrier clearly thinks some ideas are ready for primetime, though. Toying around with hardware is one thing, but now Vodafone is ready to sell it to the masses.