Car Navigation Remote Lets Traveling Users Lock House Doors, Check Pets

Drivers in Japan can check on their pets, turn lights and air conditioning on and off and lock their front doors — all from inside their cars — with a new navigation system from Panasonic.

In addition to guiding drivers to destinations as regular global positioning system navigation gadgets do, the $3,400 Strada F-Class will link to the home through any Internet-capable mobile phone.

Users could use the phone itself to communicate with your Web-enabled home, but Panasonic says it's easier while driving to use the Strada F-Class.

Users just touch icons on the navigation system's screen that read "turn off the light" or "lock the door." They can make it look as though they're home — to ward off burglars — by turning lights off and then on, all while they're away, said Naohisa Morimoto, an official with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which puts out Panasonic brand products.

The catch is that they need a Web-enabled camera, front door and other devices. Only about 2,000 homes in Japan have such Net-linking systems, Morimoto said. But Panasonic offers home servers for about $1,900 in Japan, and cheaper ones are available.

Panasonic hopes to sell about 8,000 of the Strada F-Class monthly in Japan after they go on sale June 13. There are no overseas sales plans.