Do you want to track mileage for work, evaluate maintenance needs for your vehicle, or figure out how to get where you need to go when you’re behind the wheel? Well, as the saying goes, “There’s an app for that.”
A new company called Zubie is offering all of these services with their own app store, to help drivers who need a little assistance on the road. Zubie’s suite of services operates through something called the Zubie key — a physical device that plugs into the OBD engine diagnostic port on newer vehicles (most vehicles 1996 or newer).
By offering these kinds of services, Zubie is ahead of the curve, because if you go to RadioShack or Best Buy and ask for an OBD plug-in, you’ll more than likely to come up empty-handed. Moreover, most drivers don’t even know where their OBD port is, and they aren’t used to putting things into it. But Zubie and other companies are going to change all that.
How Does it Work?
With the Zubie key installed, as soon as the driver starts moving, Zubie starts sending car data into the cloud. Users can get this data through a smartphone or from the Zubie website.
Zubie will provide the vehicle’s real-time location, as well as fuel gauge data, battery voltage data, alerts on hard braking and rapid acceleration, and current engine codes.
Drivers can use this kind of information to get directions, find nearby gas stations, or figure out where their cars are parked. Parents or other vehicle owners can use it to keep an eye on teenagers or other secondary drivers. And, of course, this little device is going to be as good as LoJack, or better, if your car gets stolen (unless the thief is tech-savvy enough to remove it), which can save you hundreds of dollars at the impound lot.
On some cars, Zubie also offers more detailed maintenance information. For instance, if the vehicle should have a problem with an oxygen sensor or catalytic converter and throw an engine code, drivers will know right away what they’re dealing with. They won’t have to go to the shop to pull the engine code, which can lead to a much quicker diagnosis and mechanic service.
Other applications of Zubie have to do with the smart home systems that are now just starting to become available on the market.
Another thing that users can do with Zubie involves linking home systems to the car’s location. For instance, drivers can set lights in their homes to come on as they approach the property, or customize thermostat settings to save energy. Zubie marketing staff explain that this happens through coordination with other third party apps, like PEQ.
Another Zubie tool is Zinc, the company’s proprietary application programming interface, which can connect Zubie apps with third party apps and build a bigger market via the cloud. Through Zinc, Zubie can also provide enterprise solutions for fleet and business vehicles.
Despite all of the great services that Zubie provides, some security news, recently reported by Forbes, might make some drivers a little fearful. A third-party security firm, Argus Cyber Security, found that in some cases, hackers may have been able to access Zubie-connected vehicles and even control them to some extent. Detailed security investigation found that this was partly due to data streams sent in HTTP, an unencrypted format, rather than HTTPS.
“We have no evidence that any customer’s vehicles were compromised,” Zubie CEO, Tim Kelly, said in response. “We took swift action and made the appropriate changes to our development process in order to further strengthen our overall security practices…Zubie embraces the practice of responsible disclosure, as it helps us achieve our mission of making driving safer, easier, and less expensive for everyone.”
Hopefully, this means that data streams are now sent in an encrypted format, so drivers can get back to enjoying the wealth of features offered by this multi-functional new service.
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