Hacking your drive time data with aftermarket hardware

Part of our role at spaceLab is to explore new and emerging technologies, understand how they will impact consumer behavior, and put them into context for our clients.

In November 2013 I installed Automatic on my car, which is a small white square that plugs into your car’s data port (you know, where your mechanic plugs in the check engine light machine that somehow costs $100 just for turning it on).

Automatic has helped liberate the data that I generate through my daily commute, including what time I leave and what time I arrive, how fast I’m driving, which route I’m taking, gas mileage, and if I have hard accelerations or rapid braking that decrease gas mileage. It also allows you to diagnose check engine light situations, which I see as a bonus.

automatic app screenshot

We all generate this data when we drive, but to-date it hasn’t been easy and accessible to get this data out of our vehicles.
And although next week Apple may announce ‘iOS in the Car’ installed in new models from Ferrari, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz, Automatic’s after market technology works in most vehicles newer than 1996.

I see the aftermarket smart auto products much like aftermarket smart TV products, like Roku and Apple TV. Sure, you can buy a “smart TV” with the functionality build into the hardware, but what about the millions of consumers who already own a perfectly good TV? So it goes with cars, too. Aftermarket capability is key for many new technologies to achieve mainstream adoption.

Last year Automatic was added to IFTTT (short for “if this than that”), which is a brilliant tool for hooking disparate social media networks and services together with each other and The Internet of Things. With the free IFTTT integration for Automatic, consumers can create “recipes” to automatically send emails and text messages or post to social networks when certain things happen in their vehicles.

So what can you do with this?
For utility’s sake, I used IFTTT to create a recipe to send my wife a notification whenever I started my car at the end of the day from my office’s coordinates. I customized the notification with a message, “I’m on my way home, honey! Love you!” so she would know I’m headed home from work (and it can’t hurt to remind her I love her, right? thanks technology!).

My Car Is Tweeting
For experimentation’s sake, I created a Twitter account for my car, @WhereIsGregsCar, and set up triggers for the car to automatically tweet whenever I turn on the ignition or complete a trip, including distance traveled, gas mileage and estimated fuel cost (I disabled the map feature, but that’s an option, too).

where is gregs car twitter automatic

I also had it sending this trip data to my Google Glass and Pebble Watch this time last year, for experimentation’s sake. Users can also log every trip in a Google document (great for those expense reports!), post to Facebook and Twitter (if you absolutely must overshare!), track their kids’ drive time data, or even turn on and off your lights when you leave and return home (through Philips Hue Lightbulbs!). And more now thanks to the updated Automatic hardware and app store.

This is just the beginning of auto manufacturers and after market providers finding ways to integrate our beloved social media into our vehicles, increase utility and add a gamification layer.
With these new technologies and shifts in consumer behaviors, we will have new benefits and challenges to overcome — namely the implications of privacy and security.

Our CTO Marc Jensen and I have been swapping weekly drive scores — with embarassing results, for me. And what if I don’t want my wife to know when I’m leaving? Or my employer? Lots of emerging implications here now that we have access to this data. And still lots of limitations, too.

Meanwhile, I’m excited to have been asked into the alpha program for Automatic, and as always, our team will continue experimenting and testing these new technologies to better understand and help put these new consumer behaviors into context for our clients.

See you on the road!

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