Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How the Hughes Telematics Device Works

Telematics Network Technology

Gathering information from the CAN-bus is a great way to stay informed, but the information is more or less useless unless the user can somehow access that data. Hughes accomplishes this by employing a number of methods, including using four concentric circles of communication. The first circle is Bluetooth connectivity, which allows someone inside the car to interface with the system by using a cell phone or other Bluetooth enabled device, such as a Blackberry. The second circle is a two-way cell link that allows the vehicle to send information to the Hughes network. This type of connection permits the network to send information to the vehicle. Hughes is working with several cell providers, but has not yet named their partners. Second-generation Hughes systems will incorporate true 3G broadband features. Cell data is transmitted with a high-gain antenna mounted on top of the vehicle, usually near the rear window. The third circle is actually a WiFi network connection. This means that the vehicle can act as a mini WiFi hot spot, and at certain times, it can link with a network at the user's home -- when it's parked in the garage, for example, allowing information to be uploaded into the vehicle. The user could load a series of street maps, favorite songs and even a few videos to watch on a long trip, for example, or configure automatic daily uploads of traffic and weather information.

The fourth circle is hypothetical at this point. In the future, Hughes plans to create a satellite network that will allow the telematics system to operate anywhere and at all times. Anyone who has ever gone camping or traveled in a city with lots of tall buildings with a cell phone knows that cell coverage is not 100 percent perfect. Satellite communication will help to increase that reliability. Hughes will not actually launch their own satellites -- they'll lease space on next-gen telecommunications satellites that offer higher power return feeds, so that satellite communication will be truly two-way.

In the next section, we'll look at the ways users will interface with the telematics system.