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New Radar Detector Taps Into Social Network

Sometime you need a little help from your "friends."

by on Feb.27, 2012

Escort's new SmartCord Live lets a motorist tap into a social network that tracks the location of police speed traps.

We thought we’d seen just about everything in radar detection when we heard the news about Escort’s new SmartCord Live system that links your Escort or Beltronics radar detector, your Apple iPhone, and other Escort users into a national network of radar, laser, police car, red light camera and speed camera detection.

The SmartCord Live adapter replaces the standard 12-volt power cord on an Escort radar detector with a power cable that also includes its own USB and computer/camera ports.  That’s the first part of the equation.  The second part of the equation is the free Escort Live iPhone app available from the Apple website.  Part three is the Bluetooth connection between the iPhone, the app, and the radar detector.

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When the Bluetooth circuit between the radar detector and the iPhone is active and the app is turned on, the screen of the iPhone turns into a GPS-based speedometer, radar detection indicator, and/or a GPS and traffic congestion map.  The display can be set to tell you visually and aurally every time you exceed the posted speed limit, show you what the current speed limit is, where you are, and what kinds of threats are operating in the area, including K, Ka, X, POP, and laser, as well as the new traffic monitoring systems, denoted on the unit by a “TSR” warning.

The SmartCord Live system works with a variety of Escort and Beltronics radar detectors.

Whenever a threat is detected, the system automatically reports it to the Escort database in Ohio, marking the highway on the phone’s screen map with an appropriate symbol so that other users on the same road are informed of the radar or laser location.  The symbol stays on the map for up to 90 minutes, until or unless it is reported by another user, which starts the clock again, the symbol changing color on the map from red to orange to yellow as time passes.  Speed cameras, red light cameras and speed traps remain in the database much longer.

In cities and towns, the driver can decide on the spot whether to keep a warning active, or lock it out so it’s not reported (supermarket door openers, etc.).  The display also shows your speed, direction of travel, traffic, and counts down the distance to the location of each threat.  In a separate panel, the title of the music playing on your phone is displayed.

We tried the SmartCord Live system with an Escort Passport 8500 X50 radar detector and our own iPhone 4S.  The app downloaded normally into the phone, and we activated Bluetooth and plugged the SmartCord into the 12-volt sockets of four different vehicles over a four-week trial period.

On one recent afternoon, we were warned well in advance of a local police Ka-band radar trap when the detector went off and the system said, in a female voice, “REPORTED!” and a red Ka symbol popped up on the map displayed on the phone’s screen as we approached the unmarked Crown Victoria.

Only a few minutes later, on an Interstate highway, we were warned of an active laser at least two miles away, and the nice lady said “REPORTED!” again and plopped a laser indicator on the highway exactly where the Dodge Charger police car was parked.

A few minutes later, on a branch of the Interstate, the system found yet another Ka  radar trap operating from an unmarked Dodge Durango and said “REPORTED!” loud and clear.

Along the way, we were reminded every time the vehicles went 5 mph over the posted speed limit with a voice warning and a display change from black on grey to white on red for the speed number, until we backed off and the speed display returned to normal (users can adjust the alarm for at the limit, 5, 7, 10 or 15 mph over).

Overall, we give the system an A-plus for performance and convenience, and now we’re looking around for a bracket and suction cup or a Velcro strip so we can place our iPhone permanently and prominently in our vehicle close to the detector (it works in either portrait or landscape display modes).

The SmartCord Live adapter is compatible with 16 different Escort and Beltronics radar detectors and sells for $99.95, including a one-year subscription to the national database, substantially less than most jurisdictions charge you for a simple speeding ticket.

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