In our geeky world there is nothing like that frisson of excitement when the latest gadget arrives. I am really excited about the one I got today -- Automatic, a $69.95 device that plugs into the on-board diagnostics (OBD) port of your car and sends information via Bluetooth 4.0 to a smartphone.
Automatic positions the product as “your smart driving assistant,” helping you understand your driving habits as it checks engine info and even crash data. To me, it’s definitely an Internet of Things device because it takes something that hasn’t traditionally been connected to the web (your car) and brings that data to you (or the world) via a smartphone.
To install the device, you simply download the app to your iPhone and plug the device into your car. I had to go through the install loop a couple of times before the car, the device and iPhone all got in sync.
Once installed, it worked well. I had to get used to the little trill it gives out when you brake or accelerate hard. At the end of a journey you can see data on your miles per gallon, your route and your engine health.
Automatic comes with straightforward instructions in attractive packaging.
I'm going to use it for a week or so and then consider a teardown, although I'm no Mr. iFixit. I'm guessing the device uses an ARM Cortex M based microcontroller from ST or NXP and Bluetooth from TI or CSR. If anyone has already done the teardown, please comment below.
This device lets you access the world of OBD through a neat smartphone interface. Unfortunately it also opens the door to car hacking, a hot topic Junko Yoshida explored recently. That raises the question of who might use your driving data against you.
Automatic is still in beta, with plans to ship in September. This device is made in Malaysia, not China, another interesting twist.
All in all, I am very excited about the possibilities for this device. As with all new technologies, however, there will be unintended consequences. What do you think?