Last week I was a judge at the Consumer Electronics Association's i-Stage competition, where 8 innovative startups competed to win a spot in January's CES trade show. All of the products presented were forward-looking, none more so than the winner: AutoBot. Developed by Louisville, Kentucky company Mavizon Technologies, AutoBot is a car appliance that allows you to control aspects of your car with your smart phone. It also connects to the Web and offers integration with services like online mapping and instant messaging.

The AutoBot device (pictured below) plugs into the OBD-II connector in your car. It then syncs to a web service, accessible via a smart phone app or a web browser.

Features include locking and unlocking doors, controlling window settings, locating your car if you forget where you parked or it gets stolen, doing diagnostic checks on your car, and messaging friends and family when the driver has been in an accident.

Madison Hamman, Market Development Manager for Mavizon Technologies, explained to the i-Stage audience that installing AutoBot is similar to installing a new car stereo.

The appliance will cost around $300. Apps for iPhone and Android are expected to be made available in due course. There will be no service fees for using the web app, but advertising will be integrated - probably in the form of coupons sent to your mobile phone. There may be a premium service offered, without the ads.

Another interesting potential feature of AutoBot will be its ability to log and analyze data about your car. Similar to how an app like Mint tracks your finances, AutoBot could track your driving patterns and the health of your car.

AutoBot will be launched into closed beta at CES in January and is expected to be available in retail outlets in 2012.

This is clearly an app in development and so it's hard to tell what the final feature set will be. But it's encouraging to see advanced Web technology starting to be deployed in cars - an extension of recent mobile and Internet of Things trends. AutoBot was a deserving winner of i-Stage 2010, so keep an eye out for this product in 2011-2012.