Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Vodafone V-Auto App and OBDII GSM tracker

V-Auto GSM tracker and more from Vodafone

Vodafone quietly launched a series of V entitled services recently and its really worth a look for the casual technologist and maybe other people as well.

I say quietly launched, as I am a customer of Vodafone, have been for pretty much all my mobile life, having got my first personal phone, a Nokia 2110 on Vodafone metro digital pre GSM service I have colleagues who work in Vodafone, I have contracted into Vodafone myself, and had never heard of this V-service until I walked into, wait for it, a branch of Halfords... yes Halfords. For those of you not in the UK, let me explain: our retail chains are disappearing by the month it seems, nobody does retail anymore it seems... Anyway...

Right now before going any further I will caveat this service, as it seems not as many cars as you would think are supported, and I cannot work out quite why, but more on that later, please do properly check this V-Auto Vehicle checker  before purchasing if you are the type who is worried about this sort of thing, as to be honest I did not check it at all, having seen they advertise they "support most vehicles after 2003", and then before opening the seal I checked this list and saw the below:
When you see a short-list of cars (not the default list of all vehicles ever) you assume this short list is supported, not so lol!
Now, here is some free UX advice for Voda, yes, I have worked with you and know most employees have to google UX before shooting it down as unimportant, but UX is important, companies that are good at it have taught consumers to get savvy at lists; they know the standard long vehicle list that in the case of the Land Rover defender, with 70 years of production has possible the longest long list of any car out there... so when you see short list like this one in the above picture, consumers go, "ah, they have made a short list, these must be supported without me needing to click..." Well they are not lol. In hindsight I should have realised, as there is a 2003 defender, which has no relation to when Defenders changed in 1998 and 2007, but anyway, the devices works as much as I need it, sort of, and so am keeping it.
Setting up is easy, apparently; while this is a slick app for a mobile operator, it could do with some work
Anyhooo, despite this I know ODBII is a standard for diagnostics, providing power and I only really needed the latter, so I threw cation to the wind and said "how hard can it be for a mobile operator to stick to a standard (private joke for those who work in the mobile industry... the Answer for those who do not is "very hard" apparently) again, more on this later. So here goes with the "easy" 5 step process...

No Matter what you you enter you get the same list of cars... encouraging lol. moving on...

By now you realise you may have to ditch the product and ebay it cheaply... or try and fool its dumb UX

The options for support if you do not have the right car should really say.. either return or move on to use slimmed down features...

well why put it on the list??????????

I am sat in a car outside now for half an hour.... and this "help" is no help at all
Relief at last after deciding to go to 2018 models and work backwards I got a similar vehicle to be accepted. This kind of makes a mockery of the selection process, as i you are so choosey and needy of selected cars, then read the car and reject other cars... The only issue I see here is that if I am in an accident and the auto-SOS function (which works with an accelerometer, not ODB information, which does not have this capability) then the emergency services will be informed of the wrong vehicle. Luckily Land Rovers have such a strong identity that by saying land rover and the colour I will most likely be spotted anyway, which is the same for many brands. 
As usual you resort to fooling IT when it will not do what you want it to, but wonder if it's outsmarted you? It hadn't :)
If you do opt for fooling the device, at least chose the same manufacturer, to give you the best chance in the event of an accident.
Who knows what it is doing now... it took a good few days to find my correct location
Be patient if the status is still not showing the correct, or any for that matter, location for a few days. One of the few issues with a network provided devices is that it is single network, and coverage will also present issues in this scenario. Vodafone should ideally go multi IMSI or use their roaming hub IMSI in these devices to give a better service.

This page was rather disappointing for a few days with no location appearing here, despite it being in "my trips"...
Once everything is working you get realtime notifications on when the vehicle is moved, parked, and how the driving was - very useful for families, or even just when you leave the car for a service. "We have been working on it for 3 days now" will not wash if you can see its been on the parking lot for 3 days, or "we've had the car in the garage and seen it needs a new head gasket" in same scenario. or the "its low on fuel (when you put it in full) because we have had to have the engine running extensively..." yes, the joys of main dealer networks in the UK... more on that when I review the v-camera...
When it finally stopped logging me out, on the move and parked notifications are useful, especially when car is being serviced or if your type of car is a target for thieves. 
So one of the standards of ODBII allows you to cut fuel to the engine, something I would like to see added irrespective of other issues, and yes I do understand that for safety reasons this should only be done when the car is stationary and not moving, or when the vehicles is moving slower than a certain speed. I would like to see this added, and even be a feature that can be enabled at certain times when you know you will not be driving.
Err, no it isn't and had not been for days at this point! A bug that no doubt will be ironed out...

After a few days of being in the wrong place I think a fix / work around was issue to "zone to home" as while it does work for home, it really does not work when parked a few miles away and the location keeps reverting to home plus a place on the map a similar distance to the trip it actually made!
There seems to be some fix or shortcut for it sometimes getting stuck when at home, which messes up when the car is not!
Despite its short comings, the main reason consumers buy IoT is for security and safety, and I have been using this device alongside other trackers that the vehicle has fitted and seen that mostly it works. I cannot really blame myself for lying on the model for these short comings, as location is ultimately down to the network (GPRS / data transmission) of device based info (GPS and Accelerometer info) and not ODBII based info I cannot see why the device is being so fussy over anyway.

The trip safety score seems to work well, and in a way makes you drive a bit safer, except when transporting children, animals, family members, etc...