Showing posts with label obd-ii apps. Show all posts
Showing posts with label obd-ii apps. Show all posts

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...

Friday, 28 December 2012

connected car m2m with Torque and Bluetooth dongle

One of the most interesting apps I have come across while researching emerging apps for a client is Torque. There is a light version, that serves more than anything to check if the hardware you bought of the internet works, however the true value is unlocked in the £2.99 pro version.
Torque main screen invites further delving
The first thing it buys I suppose, is not a product, but a service: piece of mind. I do not think its just me, but even with the modern cars of today, a trip to the dealer can be an expensive outing and when you hear a new noise or the engine reacts differently to usual for whatever reason, the mind begins to wonder if you are in for another unforeseen bill! This is particularly the case as your warranty is ending. This may also mean buying a car second hand is now a much more reliable exercise, assuming the present owner gives you permission, of course. If they do not, you probably have your purchase decision made for you!
You will be amazed at the level of detail OBD2 gives
Secondly, as anyone who has ever looked longingly at a classic Ferrari centre console and seen the three dials with oil temperature, water temperature, etc will appreciate being able to have these without recurring to some after market monstrosity. enable this HUD display mode for real man-child behaviour.

more practically, you can use it to monitor your driving style and become a little more eco, which in the real world means saving money. On a diesel a heavy foot may not make that much of a difference, but on a petrol automatic you can double the fuel economy around town at least, which at £80 to fill the tank of a small car, is £2.99 well spent!

Beyond there you can also record your trip with transparent overlay, if your morning commute involves sleepy people pulling out in front of you or road rage, you can capture it in detail with your careful and considerate speed overlaid as proof or your coffee induced wide-awakeness, as well as accurate fuel economy.

I am surprised this has not appeared in car magazines so far as a much more accurate tool, not just for comparing more details on laps and getting more data, like g-forces that a driver is subjected to, how much fuel a car used to get round a track, what revs and amount of fuel were needed to get the same performance, etc. In short; how hard a car has had to work to get the same result is a strong indicator of how good it is and moreover, how good a car is likely to be in a few years - fatigue and wear and tear are not friends of the motorist.

In order to get all this detail, you need a Bluetooth (as I have) OBD-2 or OBD-ii as it seems to be often referred to, device. I got mine off of ebay for only 3 to 4 times the price of the Torque app, search for "bluetooth obd-2" and you should see them. Mine is this one, I had a choice of getting it slowly from Hong Kong, or quickly for a premium locally... I chose to get it locally as I like supporting prospectors.
Bluetooth dongle clips into car's OBD port (where your mechanic plugs in to your car)
On my car this was under a small rubber cover under the steering column.

If you do not like the idea of cheap Bluetooth, there are more expensive wi-fi ones, which you could read from your laptop from comfort of your home, if that's what float's your boat (or if you are really geeky, the vpn to your on-board mi-fi from anywhere....) and Garmin also make an official Bluetooth one called the Garmin EcoRoute HD. When speaking to a contact in the EE (the merger of UK mobile operators Orange and T-mobile, previously called Everything Everywhere) m2m department, they also had one with a SIM in it that let's you read it from anywhere.

One interesting use, if you have, or should I say for when you have a deduct old android device, is to plug an old android permanently on power in the boot or somewhere and have tracking enabled, which may be useful in many scenarios:
  1. the event of an accident, and 
  2. For security: even more useful if your car is stolen - with not only the record of where it is, but also any speed or other related crimes committed as well. If you are lucky enough to have several houses and associated cars or a collection of cars you can also ensure that nobody misuses them.
  3. if you have a family member who is on your insurance and known for accidents, or very young, you can at least incentivise good driving (I cannot see a mode to remotely disable a car being abused!)
  4. if you run a small fleet of vehicles as a business, good driving by your employees is part of your brand and image, as well as the obvious locating ability, will be very useful.
  5. if you are a control freak or technologist in general. (I am glad to say I am the latter)
So by now many will be asking: why no apple app? Well Apple, rightly or wrongly (there is a case for both) only allows connectivity from Bluetooth devices with an apple security chip in it, and no of course your $10 device from Hong Kong does not have one. For apple devotees you will need the wi-fi devices, which for some reason are ten times the cost of the Bluetooth versions.

The best consumer use of this is to get a nexus 7, for example, or an android handset and enable wi-fi sharing and you have wi-fi in your car as well as diagnostics. And no that knocking noise is not about to become a £700 bill... or is it!