Auto Service World
Feature   March 1, 2013   by Tom Venetis, Editor

Scan Tool Market Taking a Lead from Consumer Electronics

Lighter, faster tools that bring Tablet-like flexibility to a technician's hands

The scan tool market is taking a page from consumer electronics with new technologies that look to bring Tablet-like interfaces and flexibility to the shop floor.

Paul Zarlengo, global product/category manager with Stanley IAR, which represents Mac Tools and the company’s diagnostic equipment, says “(scan tool) products are starting to follow very closely this consumer electronics trend. What we are staring to hear from customers is, ‘Can we have more iPad and Pad-like apps and products for the shop floor.’ They want to see (scan tool/diagnostic tool) products like the ubiquitous, smart devices they already have and use.”

A few years back, cellular phones were pretty standard-looking devices, a keyboard and a small screen to see the numbers you were dialing. With the introduction of Apple’s iPhone, the cellular phone market changed and now every phone is a smartphone, offering touch capabilities, continuous connection to the web and an ever growing number of apps designed to keep one connected to a dizzying array or social media sites and simplifying everyday tasks from banking to remotely operating a television set.

So it should not be a surprise that technicians are looking for similar Tablet- and smartphone-like features and flexibility in scan tool/diagnostic tool devices, according to John Mills, technical sales specialist with Bosch Automotive Service Solutions. Bosch has been moving in that direction for some time, adding wireless and touch capabilities to its line of Genisys and Pegisys tools.

“At Bosch Automotive Service Solutions we started online diagnostic information with Pegisys and we have expanded the possibilities with our new tablet-based Genisys Touch,” he adds. “With Genisys Touch, once the vehicle has been entered on the handset and Direct-Hit by Identifix is selected, there is no need to enter the vehicle’s information at Identifix. Additionally, there are web links to O.E.M. websites and other internet based repair sites such as IATN. Because the Genisys Touch is equipped a free standing MVVCI, customers may have the option to utilize it as an O.E.M. scan tool interface. The P.C. based scan tool / re-programmer M-VCI Trio Package with ESI [tronic] 2.0 Diagnostic Software combines scan tool diagnostics and J2534 reprogramming.”

Jeremy Hyde, account manager with Bosch Automotive Aftermarket, Automotive Service Solutions adds with the new touch capabilities of today’s scan tools, the problems once surrounding ease-of-use has been tackled more successfully.

“Scan tools in the past had menu after menu, and you had to dig very deep to get what you needed,” he says. “If you wanted to change something, you had to go back to the beginning and start digging again. We followed more of that Tablet-style platform with pop-up windows, and a more open interface that is easier to use and navigate. As well, we are building more things like maintenance test information in the tools so a technician can quickly see how to reset an oil light right on the tool.”

The MAC Tools new ET6500 is an example of the flexibility that comes from adopting a Tablet-style interface, as it can do both scan and reprogramming diagnostics, with wireless and Wi-Fi capable and connects to a range of repair databases, such as Code-Assist and Repair-Trac.

Delphi’s Chris Bahlam, director of service operations, says his company is also taking a lead from this consumer electronics trend and adding not just touch and wireless capabilities to its set of scan tools, but also making its tools link directly to a wide range of web-based service and repair databases. The goal is to make repair and maintenance faster for technicians.

With the ubiquity of smart devices and phones, it is only a matter of time before shop owners and technicians begin to see diagnostic and reprogramming technologies become platform agnostic, where any handheld device with web and Wi-Fi connectivity can become a powerful tool for vehicle repair and maintenance.

Bruce Ruhf, director of operations and marketing with Ross-Tech, says his company is already moving down that path with its VCDS product.

The VCDS Mobile, which technicians can see a preview of at, is a platform-independent solution that will let any mobile device become a diagnostic tool for VW and Audi vehicles.

“It is basically a device that will talk with any computer platform that has Wi-Fi and a web browser,” Ruhf says. “(Technicians) will be able to do such things as pull fault-code information and live measuring values … and it will have more advanced functions and higher-level diagnostic functions.”

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