You may be familiar with the term “Internet of Things.” This is a phrase coined by Kevin Ashton, a British visionary (per Wikipedia) in 1999, to describe the increasing proliferation of web-ready devices in our daily lives. It covers everything from our phones, watches, and computers to our thermostats, refrigerators, appliances, and even cutlery.
Naturally, somewhere in there are cars. This should come as no surprise, as our vehicles make up a substantial portion of our livelihoods in many regards. On the forfront of automotive connectivity for the common man is a small startup called Automatic, which makes a nifty gadget that can track your car’s health and performance using a dongle that plugs into the car’s OBDII port and communicates with your smartphone with Bluetooth.
The Automatic is a seriously cool little gadget. It will diagnose any engine fault codes, track your fuel economy, and help offer advice on how to improve your driving. It still does all these things, but now it does a whole lot more. With the latest generation (the second), the Automatic now supports two Bluetooth streams at once: One connection is required for the Automatic app, and the second supports any third-party app that uses a new Streaming API that would be used to access your car’s info in real-time, Engadget noted.
The new generation and new API is a part of a new, open-source platform that Automatic is hoping will spur the creation of more apps. “We founded Automatic because we feel that cars weren’t and still aren’t living up to their full potential,” Engadget quoted Automatic’s co-founder and CEO Thejo Kote as saying. “They’re basically computers on wheels. They could be doing so much more.”
The new App Gallery, as the company is calling it, will allow third parties to build a program that will seamlessly mesh with the OBD-based dongle. Though it just launched this past week, there are already over 20 compatible apps, like Harry’s LapTimer, which uses throttle, brake, engine, and other inputs with the phone’s onboard accelerometer, GPS, and camera to create an overlay of driving data, or Nest integration, which will heat or cool your house before you arrive when it notices that you’re heading home.
“What we realized was that the best way to solve all these problems is through a model that all of us are really familiar with already,” Kote said. “An app store, but for your car.”
Of course, this likely raises questions about security and data collection. But Lljuba Milijkovic, who is Automatic’s founding designer and head of marketing, told Engadget that “Automatic’s platform offers greater security because all of the data is encrypted and read-only.”
“With other adapters, the app sends the request, and it puts it into the car’s communication network,” Kote added. “It’s not secure. You don’t want a badly written app to mess with your car. That can never happen with our system.”
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